Govt moves to end sealing crisis at key Delhi markets
NEW DELHI : The Central government is initiating an effort involving several agencies to defuse the political and commercial crisis caused by the sealing of several shops and restaurants in Delhi.
On Tuesday evening, a highlevel meeting chaired by Union housing and urban affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri and attended by Delhi lieutenant governor Anil Baijal, housing secretary DS Mishra, three municipal commissioners, NDMC chief Naresh Kumar and DDA vice chairman Udai Pratap Singh deliberated over various options, including amending Delhi’s Master Plan, increasing the amount of construction allowed on a plot, and accelerating the conversion of land-use to end the crisis.
Puri said the government could announce measures to end the crisis in a few days but did not elaborate further.
Earlier on Tuesday, as he took a round of markets to reaffirm his solidarity with store- and restaurant owners and traders, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal blamed the BJP-led central government for the crisis.
He said his government would move the Supreme Court this week to get a temporary stay on the sealing drive.
The union government’s move could obviate the need for that
“One of the options that we are considering is whether the Master Plan can be amended to include more road stretches where commercial and mixed land use can be permitted,” said a senior government official who did not want to be identified.
Under Delhi’s Master Plan 2021, there are 2183 road stretches where commercial and mixedland use is permitted.
The sealing is currently happening in areas where this is not permitted or where there have been other violations (such as building an extra floor or the use of a balcony)
A second government official who did not want to be named said that as of now, no decision has been taken on increasing the number of road stretches where commercial and mixed land use can be permitted. Delhi’s three municipal corporations are pushing for including 351 more road stretches under this category.
The union government is also exploring reducing the penalty for commercial establishments in residential areas.
As of now the penalty imposed on such properties is quite steep. DDA levies ten times the annual conversion charge for allowing mixed use in residential areas. This process usually takes 30 days. “The question is, considering the urgency, can we waive that 30-day notice period for inviting objections and suggestions before such a conversion is allowed?” asked a third government official who asked not to be named.
The third option that the Union housing and urban affairs ministry – under which DDA comes – is mulling is allowing a higher Floor Area Ratio (FAR) for properties in commercial areas that have lower FAR. Depending on the size of the plot, the maximum FAR allowed in commercial areas as of now is 150%. One can construct a maximum of three floors with this FAR.
Still, this is easier said than done, said an expert.
“It’s a complicated process. FAR can be increased only when the entire shopping complex comes together, submits a redevelopment plan and gets it approved. It will also require individual properties whose FAR will be increased to pay a high amount as congestion and development charge,” said AK Jain, former DDA planning commissioner.
The options being considered by the Centre may not find favour with the Supreme Court which is presently hearing the matter. The Union Housing and Urban Affairs ministry will have to make its stand clear before the apex court on February 7.
On January 15, authorities came under flak from the apex court for allowing illegal constructions to mushroom in the Capital. “…. Unfortunately for some reasons which does not appear to be bona fide, the statutory authorities have not performed their statutory obligations resulting in complete breakdown of the rule of law in Delhi in respect of encroachments, unauthorized constructions, misuse of residential premises, etc. etc,” the apex court observed.
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal (right) at a gathering of AAP and BJP leaders, to discuss sealing, that ended in acrimony.