VOTE FOR HOUS­ING

From hous­ing for the ru­ral poor to hous­ing for all; from ba­sic city de­vel­op­ment to smart cities… poll man­i­festos have come of age

HT Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Van­dana Ram­nani

From the prom­ise of ‘roti, kapda and makaan’ way back in 1971 to pro­vid­ing hous­ing for all in less than a decade, round-the­clock power and wa­ter sup­ply, waste wa­ter man­age­ment, broader roads, CCTVs in pub­lic trans­port and so­lar and smart cities — po­lit­i­cal man­i­festos have evolved, even though skep­tics might ar­gue that the prom­ises made at times have been ‘tall’.

In their prepa­ra­tion for D-day, the Delhi As­sem­bly elec­tions, sev­eral po­lit­i­cal par­ties had hous­ing and ba­sic in­fra­struc­ture as an im­por­tant plank in their man­i­festos and, in one case, the vi­sion doc­u­ment. The is­sue has for long been a strong elec­tion plank in the Cap­i­tal be­cause of high land prices and the city hav­ing achieved one-third ur­banised sta­tus. Also, it ap­peals to both the ur­ban and the ru­ral vot­ers, say ur­ban­i­sa­tion ex­perts.

Poll cam­paigns for the 2015 elec­tions, too, saw a vi­sion doc­u­ment of a cer­tain party mak­ing prom­ises of an “en­vi­ron­ment­friendly and de­vel­oped Cap­i­tal”, get­ting the city a her­itage tag, ad­dress­ing the short­age of wa­ter, en­sur­ing round-the-clock power sup­ply, pro­vid­ing hous­ing to slum dwellers, scrap­ping the con­tro­ver­sial bus rapid cor­ri­dor in south Delhi, reg­u­lar­i­sa­tion and de­vel­op­ment of unau­tho­rised colonies, a new mas­ter park­ing plan, plas­tic speed break­ers in res­i­den­tial colonies and CCTVs in pub­lic trans­port.

An­other party’s man­i­festo fo­cused on reg­u­lar­i­sa­tion of unau­tho­rised colonies, ex­ten­sion of lal dora land, set­tle­ment of all pend­ing cases of pay­ment of com­pen­sa­tion for land ac­qui­si­tion in ac­cor­dance with the new land ac­qui­si­tion law; im­prove­ment of civic ser­vices; and aug­men­ta­tion of in­fra­struc­ture in all ur­ban vil­lages and ap­proved, unau­tho­rised and reg­u­lated colonies.

The third ma­jor party promised to make Delhi a so­lar city and en­sure that 20% of Delhi’s en­ergy needs were met through so­lar en­ergy by 2025 and that peo­ple would have the op­tion of selling ex­tra so­lar power to the grid. The party also said it aimed to pro­vide clean drink­ing wa­ter at af­ford­able prices to ci­ti­zens as a right, pro­vide reg­is­tra­tion rights, prop­erty and sales deeds to unatho­rised colonies and free Wi-Fi all over the Cap­i­tal in pub­lic zones.

As times change, prom­ises change, too. “The rea­son for this is the level of ur­ban­i­sa­tion. Delhi is now about onethird ur­banised, which is al­most 32% to Gu­jarat’s 42%. The per­cep­tion that In­dia lives in vil­lages and that elec­tions are won on ru­ral votes is now chang­ing be­cause the ur­ban pop­u­la­tion is now ac­tively par­tic­i­pat­ing in the elec­tions. Hence, the fo­cus on city at­tributes such as hous­ing, solid waste man­age­ment, drink­ing wa­ter, trans­port and en­ergy con­ser­va­tion. Po­lit­i­cal par­ties are recog­nis­ing this ur­ban phe­nom­e­non,” says Amit Bhatt, strat­egy head, EMBARQ In­dia.

What then should the com­mon man, the cit­i­zen of Delhi, make of these prom­ises? Ac­cord­ing to G Ramesh, chair­per­son, Cen­tre for Pub­lic Pol­icy, IIM Ban­ga­lore, ear­lier most man­i­festos would talk about ru­ral up­lift­ment and de­vel­op­ment of slums. To­day, the thrust is on look­ing beyond slums. To know why this evo­lu­tion has taken place, one must un­der­tand that these doc­u­ments are mostly as­pi­ra­tional and re­flect the next stage of de­vel­op­ment, the next level of as­pi­ra­tion. To cite an ex­am­ple, they prom­ise a slum dweller a pucca house and those with a pucca house bet­ter hous­ing and in­fra­struc­ture fa­cil­i­ties. While a smart city may ap­peal to the peo­ple of Delhi and Gu­jarat, the plank may not ap­peal to peo­ple from back­ward ar­eas.

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