New Delhi: At least eight property companies have shown interest in redeveloping New Delhi’s slums, responding to a Mumbai-style rehabilitation plan outlined by the Capital’s biggest landlord, seen by political opponents as an attempt by the ruling Congress party to sway votes in state polls due by year-end.
The Delhi Development Authority, or DDA, which on 27 August called for initial bids from developers, wants to resettle slum dwellers in multi-storeyed apartment blocks built on the same land they occupied.
DDA officials declined to name the bidders who had shown interest in the plan. The authority will finish evaluating the proposals in the next four-five days and would put up bid documents shortly, said the officials, who declined to be named.
The plan envisages the construction of between nine-storeyed and 11-storeyed apartment blocks, with individual apartments of 25 square metres (269 sq. ft) each. The authority has identified some 21 slum clusters where apartment blocks will be built for squatters with the private developer allowed to use leftover land for commercial purposes or free sale housing, depending on the zoning of the land.
“The financial model will vary from cluster to cluster,” said a DDA official who did not want to be identified. “Where there is enough land, we will allow the developer to recoup costs either through a commercial component or through free sale of residential flats.”
In places where there is not enough land for the property firm to recoup costs, it will be paid by DDA, formed in the 1950s to acquire, develop and dispose of land for residential and commercial use.
The move, in line with a proposal outlined in the city’s master plan in February 2007, marks a departure from the past when DDA would take over land from slum dwellers and resettle them in the distant outskirts of the city. Mint had reported in its 22 March 2007 edition of one such resettlement area two hours from the city where people lost jobs because they had been unable to find work. DDA now is switching to the Mumbai model of resettling slum dwellers on the lands they occupied.
What to do with the city’s estimated 600,000 households, living in 1,100 settlements across the city, has been a question that has long plagued planners. A majority of the squatter settlements, referred to in government language as jhuggi jhopri, or JJ, clusters, are occupied by people who work in low-wage jobs in the immediate neighbourhood. Moving them would result in lost jobs; letting them stay would mean prime land being locked up.
Some Congress party opponents such as Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, or BSP, see political motives in the new resettlement plan, linking it to the coming state assembly elections in Delhi where the Congress has ruled for 10 years. Slum dwellers and migrants make up one-fifth of the voting population in Delhi.
The BSP, which claims to be a platform for the socially and economically disadvantaged, has largely derived its electoral strength from these sections. The Delhi unit of the party said the resettlement plan wouldn’t have any adverse impact on the BSP’s electoral prospects.
“It is a purely political move and the Congress government in Delhi is betraying the poor. This government has not been able to give even ration cards to the poor in Delhi, how will they give them houses? They have done whatever they wanted to. Now it is our turn to do something,” said Brahm Singh Bidhuri, head of the BSP’s Delhi unit.
Congress party officials say the timing of the announcement ahead of elections is entirely coincidental while one political analyst said the move is unlikely to benefit it.
”This is not a scheme that has come up suddenly,” said Kapil Sibal, a Congress member of the Lok Sabha from Delhi and Union science and technology minister. “We have been supporting this for a long time. It just so happened that it is come about right before the elections but it would be wrong to view it as a political move. They (slum dwellers) might or might not be BSP’s bastions, it does not matter.”
The BSP has always targeted so-called resettlement and rehabilitation, or R&R, neighbourhoods to win votes, said psephologist and political analyst G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, who is also a Mint columnist.
The Congress isn’t likely to derive political mileage from the plan, he said, calling it “a case of too little too late.”
“The question that would arise is why the government didn’t do something like this in the last 10 years when it was in power and why they are doing so on the eve of elections. So, it is unlikely to benefit the Congress,” Rao added.
Property consultants said the plan could help increase land supply in the city while improving the living conditions of slum dwellers.
“It’s a fantastic thing, while it will not be easy to implement,” said Anshuman Magazine, managing director of property consultant CB Richard Ellis. “Since it is time consuming, it will not have an immediate impact on the market. It will bring in more supply and also all that non-performing land will get some infrastructure.”
Sanjey Roy, a spokesman for DLF Ltd, India’s largest listed developer, said the firm is waiting for the terms and conditions of the project to be spelled out. Kabul Chawla, managing director of real estate firm BPTP Ltd, said in an earlier interview that the firm would look at slum redevelopment if the opportunity arose in Delhi because mass housing was its “core focus”.
Shabana Hussain contributed to this story.