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
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.