O my rivals, let’s stop all this.
This nastiness and flattery.
Let’s think about our fate,
About the disease that afflicts us all.
By the very nature of the job I handled for about six and a half years as Vice Chairman, Delhi Development Authority, i came in clash with powerful vested interests land racketeers, speculators, and those who tried to build bases of political and financial power at the cost of the planned development of the city. It is these people who are now engineering all types of false, frivolous and motivated complaints. Some officers, affected by jealousy are playing their own part. For such persons, the current atmosphere of hostility has come as a God-sent opportunity.
I could never imagine that a hostile network would be woven around me merely on the suspicion that the alleged power structure operating in Delhi had drawn within its orbit the activities of the Delhi Development Authority, and that no one would care to ask the obvious questions: which are the programmes and policies implemented during the emergency that had not been implemented before the emergency? Were not the procedures and practices adopted exactly the same as in the earlier period?
Clearly, I had not taken into account the subtle and clever role which the vested interests could play. With top persons annoyed or kept in dark, thet manipulators, the racketeers, the rival bureaucrats and the personal enemies could not ask for better opportunity to wreak vengeance. For them, the time had come for the “kill.” Now or never seemed to be their motto.
Through the so-called labour leaders and other hostile interests whose land-racketeering and nefarious activities had been checked by me firmly and fearlessly, notwithstanding the siapas and demonstrations staged at my residence even at night, a number of cases were referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation which, however, could find nothing. In reply to a question in Parliament, the Minister of Works and Housing, Sikander Bakht, stated on 12 July 1977, that the allegations against me were found to be baseless.
The vested interests could hardly swallow this. For them, the defeat had come too early. They were at a loss to save their face. They, therefore, pulled the wires and forced the authorities to dish out something. A vicious propaganda was set in motion. Old cases—some as old as ten to fifteen years were dug out. The Minister who had spoken the plain truth was criticized. The ears of persons in authority were poisoned. “Cassius-like” conspiracies were hatched, and lack of charges against me was described as victory for the alleged power structure functioning in Delhi during the emergency.
When a local Member of Parliament, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, reportedly tried to vouchsafe for my integrity and haid work, a false story about my relationship with him was coined and circulated notwithstanding the public denials by Malhotra himself, and the statement of the Chief Executive Councillor Kedar Nath Sahani in the Metropolitan Council. The truth is that not only I am not related to Malhotra but also that I had not seen his face till he became the Chief Executive Councillor of Delhi. His opinion about me, I am sure, is based upon my conduct and performance during his tenure (1967-71) as Chief Executive Councillor.
On 25 May 1977, the Union Home Ministry issued a notification appointing a Fact Finding Committee to collect facts about “the programmes for slum clearance, removal of encroachments, demolition, beautification, etc.” It comprised two members—R.C. Jain and D.K. Aggarwal. The choice of R.C. Jain, who was to act as the senior member of the Committee, came as a rude shock to me. There could be no worse performance raised their eyebrows, but they preferred to keep quiet. Such skin-deep is our commitment to the concept of justice.
In my written statement to the Commission, this is what I stated:
Jain was known to Shri Baleshwar Prasad. Soon after the latter took over as Lt. Governor in early 1972, Jain was appointed as his Special Assistant. His appointment was beginning of all sorts of troubles for me. He started concentrating powers in his hands—not for the sake of delivering the goods, but for the sake of power itself.
Jain had a special eye on the Delhi Development Authority. Both he and Baleshwar Prasad had developed a weakness for residential plots. They did not show much respect for the superior claims of others. When I tried to explain the correct position, Jain poisoned the mind of Baleshwar Prasad. He was given the impression that 1 was a stumbling block. Since I could not be got rid of, my appointment being in the hands of Cabinet Comittee, Jain thought of a device to cut me off. He got appointed his close friend and batch-mate, V. Shankaran, as Commissioner in the Delhi Development Authority, and started dealing with him direct, eliminating me in the process.
Today the Commission is looking into the allegations in respect of violation of ‘’well-established conventions, administrative procedures and practices.” Is it justified that the person chosen to collect—rather “obtain”—material against the alleged defaulters was himself guilty of flagrantly violated the “well- established conventions, administrative procedures and practices”?
My relationship with Jain was further embittered by what came to be known as the VIP Land Grab Scandal which came before the Supreme Court in Writ Petition No. 340-1972 (original jurisdiction).
The story of the VIP Land Grab Scandal, in brief, was that in collaboration with certain members of the nominated Managing Committee of the New Friends Co-operative Housing Society, the Lieutenant Governor and his Special Assistant, Jain, removed some old members/allottees of the plots in the society and got enrolled in their places what came to be known as VIP members. These included Baleshwar Prasad’s nephew, S.V. Purushottam, whose address was given
These included Baleshwar Prasad’s nephew, S.V. Purushottam, whose address was given Everything was done in what the Supreme Court described, in its order dated 4 April 1975, as “undue haste.” The Chief Justice observed: “Undue haste in rushing through the allotment procedure and the list of new allottees speak for themselves.”
A letter was obtained from the President of the Managing Committee of the Society on 26 January 1974 (Republic Day) and replied on the same day by the Lieutenant Governor, giving approval to the deletion of the old members and enrolment of the new ones (VIP) including his nephew and Mrs R.C. Jain.
Jain knew that I would never be a party to such an act. So he manoeuvred to keep me out. Apparently, he persuaded the Lieutenant Governor not to show the case or file to me. He also knew that it would be difficult for the Lieutenant Governor to over-rule me on the file.
To look into the manipulation and deletion of old members and enrolment of new ones, the Supreme Court appointed Justice Debabrata Mukerjee, a retired judge of the Calcutta High Court, as Chairman. Mukerjee held that the deletion of the old members and enrolment of new ones was illegal. The findings of
The findings of Mukerjee were confirmed by the Supreme Court. In its judgement (W.P. No. 340 of 1972, and No. 1526 of 1972 and No. 286 of 1974), the Supreme Court made, inter alia, the following observations:
The Chairman [Justice Debabrata Mukerjee] declared that of the 60 new members who had been described as very important persons 21 did not have applications for membership and 38 were not legally admitted members and could not be included in the list. The Chairman said that the allotment of plots in their favour could not be upheld.
In view of the importance of issue involved and the gravity of the situation where interest of ordinary citizens was sacrificed to meet the interest of persons of importance and influence this Court took the aforesaid steps in order to put an end to the litigation and the controversies. . ..
The Chairman noticed that “many of these 60 persons were high placed Government officials and friends and relations of persons prominent in public life.”
Thus, the fact of manipulation was clearly established. It is immaterial whether a particular person was technically held guilty or not. In fact, this was not the issue before the court.
Parliamentary proceedings for the period April-May 1974 are revealing. Chandra Shekhar, A.B. Vajpayee and other senior members of Parliament vehemently criticized the enrolment of the VIP members. Jyotirmoy Basu, MP, disclosed that R.C. Jain had met senior officers and VIPs and obtained their signatures on the application forms for membership of the society and allotment of land.
The extreme hostility and bias of R.C. Jain were evident from the manner in which he proceeded after the appointment of the Fact Finding Committee. An impression was created in a subtle way that the officers of the Central Bureau of Investigation had been put on the track of DDA officials. The attempt was to overawe the junior officers, create a fear psychosis and obtain incriminating statements against me. They were made to believe that slums and squatters clearance was some sort of a criminal action from which they could escape by blaming me for decision as well as for implementation. They could blame me not only for what I had ordered or approved but also for their own omissions and procedural lapses. To escape, or even to get rewarded, the only qualification prescribed was to point out an accusing finger against me.
The bias of R.C. Jain was also evident from the suppression or underplaying .of material facts, including the unanimous agreement of the leading political parties, the old cabinet decisions in respect of squatters and slum clearance and Land Acquisition Schemes, and well-established practice of deploying demolition squad and taking over of possession of land by the Land Acquisition Collector. There are a number of other instances to support my contention. A distorted picture was sought to be placed before the Commission.
As soon as Jain’s Committee was announced, I met Sikander Bakht, and apprised him briefly of Jain’s animus against me. The Minister told me that he had not been consulted, and he did not know who Jain was. He, however, promised to look into the matter. I left the matter at that. Then, suddenly a statement of Home Minister in the end of July 1977 appeared in the press, indicating that the government might take action on the report of the Fact Finding Committee. Knowing Jain’s hostility, this alarmed me. 1 put in a written protest to Secretary, Ministry of Works and Housing, on 2 August 1977, stating that I had reasonable grounds to apprehend that I would not get fair, impartial and objective treatment at the hands of Fact Finding Committee, the senior member of which was Jain. In this protest, which was immediately transmitted by the Ministry of Works and Housing to the Home Ministry, I had, inter alia, stated:
i put in a written protest to Secretary, Ministry of Works and Housing, on 2 August 1977, stating that I had reasonable grounds to apprehend that I would not get fair, impartial and objective treatment at the hands of Fact Finding Committee, the senior member of which was Jain. In this protest, which was immediately transmitted by the Ministry of Works and Housing to the Home Ministry, I had, inter alia, stated:
When Jain was working as Special Assistant to the Lt. Governor/Chairman, Delhi Development Authority, I was the Vice Chairman. Unfortunately, the relationship between myself and Jain became strained due to various reasons. This fact is known to the various officers of the Delhi Administration and the Delhi Development Authority.
Although the Committee has been named as Fact Finding Committee, yet it is clear that in the collection, selection and presentation of facts conscious or unconscious bias creeps in.
What reply did I get? On 5 August 1977, a press note was issued by the Central Bureau of Investigation, apparently at the instance of links which Jain had in the Home Ministry, stating that a case had been registered for investigation against me for allegedly approving in 1974 increased rate for engagement of trucks—ignoring, of course, the vital facts that recommendation to this effect had been made to me by the senior officers of the department, that the actual cost of the trucks had gone up manifold, that the repeated efforts by the officers of the department to engage trucks at the lower rate had failed, that clearance operations had to be postponed on a number of occasions, thereby causing inconvenience to public and loss to public exchequer, that tenders obtained twice through the press advertisements confirmed the justification of the increased rate, and that payment had been made over the years through the Finance and Accounts Branch of the DDA. The attempt to defame, browbeat and pressurize me was too crude to go unnoticed.
The procedure adopted in calling and examining of witnesses was equally astounding, and should shock the conscience of any respecter of law and justice. The junior officers were called in a closed room in which sat the two senior officers, Jain and Aggarwal, about whom it had been made known that any slight hint from them could throw the officers out of job and involve them in some trouble or the other. The impression was sufficient in most cases to obtain whatever statements were required and to fix evidence in support of pre-determined conclusions.
There were other aspects of the hostile network spread by Jain which need to be delineated. Evidence was sought to be noted in the most extraordinary manner. For instance, after the statement of R.M. Vats, the then Commissioner, DDA, had been formally recorded by the Fact Finding Committee, he was lured to make an off-the-cuff remark over a cup of tea. He is supposed to have said that at my instance he went to the Prime Minister’s house during the period of my visit to Vancouvre (Canada) to attend the United Nations Conference on HABITAT in May 1976.
Words were put in his mouth to say that he saw me, Tamta, Bhinder, Alawadi and others visiting the Prime Minister’s house regularly, and that I had instructed him to take the files and papers to discuss the cases in the Prime Minister’s house. Casual remarks, supposedly made, were reduced to writing subsequently by Jain and sent to Vats in the form of a letter for confirmation. Vats was in a fix. If he denied, he would incur the displeasure of Jain and his links or associates in the power structure; if he did not, he would feel the prick of conscience and would also have to explain which files and records he had taken to the Prime Minister’s house.
He chose the middle path. He denied the material portion but remained silent over my suggestion to visit the Prime Minister’s house, in my absence, to attend to the visitors who came there practically every morning in connection with representations and grievances concerning various departments, including the DDA.
The incident is significant not for what Vats said or did not say, but for the manner in which incriminating statements were sought to be obtained and witnesses later on confronted with such statements before the Commision.
S.C. Dixit, Deputy Commissioner (Implementation), had experience similar to Vats’. My successor advised Dixit to coordinate the correspondence of various branches of the DDA with the Fact Finding Committee. Dixit had nothing to do with the clearance of Turkman Gate area or any other clearance. One day he was asked by Jain to discuss the progress of the correspondence. After discussion, Jain vaguely spoke about the Turkman Gate incident.
Being not conversant with the background and facts of the case, Dixit gave a casual reply. To his great surprise, Dixit, after a day or so, received a letter from Jain, stating that during our discussions you informed the Committee that force was used in demolishing houses and that this information was being placed on record. A bewildered Dixit had no other option but to reply that he was not concerned with the Turkman Gate case and was, therefore, not in a position to say whether force was used or not. What happened .subsequently need not be discussed here. My purpose is only to indicate how certain statements were sought to be extracted and placed on record.
Jain reportedly returned the notes and letters, sent by some branches of the DDA, which explained the correct position. Instead, he confined himself to the oral statements, extracted from junior officers in a closed room. It did not matter to him if such oral statements were at variance with the written records or minutes of the meeting. For instance, a junior officer was made to say that there were elements of surprise in the organization of clearance operations, although the written records would show that survey of squatters was generally conducted beforehand and the squatters’ families given clearance/alltoment slips in advance.
Hardly anyone complained about the element of surprise. Moreover, after June 1976, all decisions in respect of clearance were taken by a Coordination Committee comprising senior officers of various departments and organizations specially set up for the purpose. How could there be any element of surprise when clearance operations were being carried out practically every day, and the operation in a particular area was usually spread over a number of days.
Jain also conveniently forgot that the procedures followed in regard to the clearance and resettlement of squatters were the same as in vogue during the period Jain himself had been working as Special Assistant to the Lieutenant Governor.
If there was anything legally or administratively wrong in the procedure, why did he not get it corrected? It is ironical that those officers, who had themselves been party to certain procedures and practices, are today, without any compunction of conscience, denouncing them as something illegal and irregular, deserving punishment. D.K. Aggarwal, the second member of the Fact Finding Committee, who was working as Superintendent of Police (Central) in 1968, himself took ten companies of the Police Force, including Delhi Armed Police, to remove the squatters from the Kela Godown, near Qutab Road, and New Delhi Railway Station.
If that was not considered intimidatory, why deployment of small additional force for the clearance work should now be condemned as intimidatory and illegal?
After obtaining statements from the officers to fit in their predetermined framework, the Committee asked me on phone in mid-August to appear before it. No precise indication was given about the cases in respect of which the Committee wished to examine me.
Taken by Surprise
I had asked the Fact Finding Committee to examine me in question and answer form. Knowing the disposition of Jain, 1 suspected that I would not be examined on material points, so that I could be taken by surprise before the Commission, and should not be able to refer to the official records to prove that whatever was done was in accordance with the government policy and programme.
But my request was not heeded. My statement was recorded on rather general issues and none of the specific cases, the so-called case studies (five cases) with which I was suddenly confronted before the Commission, was put to me. This was done in spite of my written request to the Committee that if it wanted to include any specific case relating to me or the DDA in its report it should examine me with regard to that case.
There is yet another aspect of the hostile network. There was implicit inducement as well as threat. If the witness stated that everything done during the emergency in the sphere of Delhi’s development was a “black” deed and was done under fear and coercion from above, he was not troubled. If, on the other hand, the witness stated that what was done was in accordance with past policy and practice, he wras mercilessly harassed.
When the Committee questioned me about the orders allegedly issued from the Prime Minister’s house, I told them whatever I had to say in this regard would be stated before the Shah Commission. At the same time, I made it clear that in regard to clearance and resettlement of squatters and slum-dwellers, policy decision of the government and competent authorities already existed and the question of obtaining orders from anyone did not arise.
This was obviously not to the liking of powers that be. Soon after I gave the above indications, orders suspending me from service were passed. The attempt to pressurize, harass and break me was revolting. About eight months have passed and no charge-sheet has been served on me. In an organization which has to deal with highly controversial and inconvenient matters and in which various interests operate behind the scene, all sorts of papers and files are being picked up and subjected to most unsympathetic scrutiny with a view to finding some fault or the other. Even the provision of the vigilance manual of the central government, advising that officer should not be suspended if the purpose can be served by leave or transfer, has been ignored. I was already on foreign service to the Institute of Urban Affairs, and had nothing to do with the DDA. B.R. Tamta, on the other hand, was not’ suspended, presumably because he toed the indicated line. There are, I understand, over hundred officers in Delhi against whom reports for investigation were launched, but none of them was suspended.
From a National Hero to a “National Villain”
What is still more painful is that no regard whatsoever was shown to my outstanding record of service and unquestioned integrity which had been forcefully certified by such eminent
senior civil servants as Bhagwan Sahay, Dharma Vira, A.D. Pandit, Dr J.N. Khosla, and late Dr A.N. Jha.
No consideration was given to the fact that as far back as 1971 I was awarded Padma Shri for, what my citation described, “pioneering work” in the field of urban development. Padma Bhushan was conferred on me in 1977. No significance was attached to the publication of my book and a number of articles in leading newspapers and magazines, and other contributions made by me to the literature on human settlement, urbanization, housing and slum clearance, etc.
Overnight from a National hero—winner of Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan—I was made a “national villain.” My fault was that I happened to occupy a particular post at a particular time, and was not prepared to step out of my island of truth and pose like a traitor and self-condemned criminal, throw mud on others, and hypocritically condemn a programme and policy which had been formulated with the concurrence of leading political parties and the implementation of which was totally in public interest. Subtle hints were given to me that I should become a sort of “approver” and pass on the “blame” to others. I marvelled at the lack of morality and the ignorance of the persons who gave such suggestions. Was clearance of some of the most inhuman slum or allotment of 1,000 hectares of developed land with market value of about Rs 200 crores, or disbursement of about Rs 9 crores of loan at only 4 per cent rate of interest, or creation of stable and development-oriented avenues of employment, preservation of historical legacy, or general environmental upgardation of the city, an “excess” for which one should feel ashamed?
Perversion of values and dominance of superficial thinking is, indeed, appalling.
Superficiality—worse than being blind You can see but not want to.
Are you ignorant, you?
Or may be it is from fear of ripping up roots Of sheltering trees, leaving not a trace,
Not so much as a stick planted in their place.
We hurry along with half an answer,
Bearing our shallowness like a treasure.
No, no, not in cold calculation
But in an instinct of self-preservation.
Then conies the snuffing out.
The inability to flee or flight And the feathers of our tamed wings Become nasty pillows for the night.
Half an Answer
Were we not hurrying along with half an answer? This question began to haunt me as soon as the proceedings of the Commission -^“assistance stage” as it was called—commenced. Witnesses after witnesses were produced to make all sorts of statements, mostly tutored and unsupported by any authentic document, to outline a pre-conceived pattern. The damage caused by the prejudicial approach of the Fact Finding Committee could be clearly perceived.
In what manner, I began to wonder, the Commistion wanted my assistance? Doubts began to disturb me. I began to nurse the uncomfortable feeling that the procedure adopted virtually amounted to securing my assistance to clip my own wings. Out of the thousands of cases with which I had to deal with, I was suddenly confronted with the details of the five or six cases which were more than two or three years old and in respect of which I had no forewarning. I helplessly watched the witnesses who appeared to have been reared on promises, or whose instinct of self- preservation had been successfully exploited. Nor was it clear to me why it was necessary to mount a hostile publicity campaign. Was the intention to demoralize or frighten? And what about my right to cross-examination? Had it not been rendered ineffective? Some of these doubts, I thought, I should bring to the notice of the Commission. This is what I pleaded:
When the witnesses appeared before the Commission at the “assistance stage” of Inquiry, they had already been pinned down by the Fact Finding Committee and committed to a particular statement. I did not have the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses at the earliest opportunity. On the other hand, I was asked to make a statement on oath, and subjected to cross-examination in respect of the cases and matters about which no previous detailed intimation had been given to me.
Consequently, my defence has already become known, and the right to cross-examination, which is now being given to me, has been rendered ineffective. The witnesses would now reply in the light of information they have gained from my statement and my replies to the cross-examination. This amounts to virtual denial of right to cross-examination, and is against the rules of natural justice. This aspect of the enquiry proceedings is particularly relevant in my case because the very nature of my duties was such that I happended to annoy a number of powerful vested interests and they are now making every efforts to settle old scores. .. .Circulation of rumours, biased press reports and publication of carelessly written books have vitiated the general atmosphere.
Terms of Reference
In the heat of the moment, the terms of reference of the Commission also seemed to have been relegated. In my statement, 1 invited the attention of the Commission to this aspect. I stated:
The terms of reference of the Commission include inquiry into the allegations of “indiscriminate and high-handed demolition of houses, huts, shops, buildings, structures and destructions of property in the name of slum clearance or enforcement of town planning or land use schemes in the cities and towns resulting, inter alia, in a large number of people becoming homeless or having to move far away from the places of their vocation.”
I submit that nothing has been done in the name of slum clearance. All the actions taken are covered by the approved schemes, policies and programme of the central government and the Delhi Development Authority. I merely got implemented these approved schemes and policies. Neither the central government nor the DDA expressed any doubt that any of my action was not covered by the approved and well-established pattern and policies
The policies and programmes as well as the manner of their implementation were the same as in vogue before the promulgation of emergency. In respect of buildings to be cleared under the Slum Clearance Act and in respect of the
Land Acquisition Schemes, the policy decisions had been taken by the central government and the competent authorities much before the promulgation of emergency. No fresh policy decision was taken.
The speed of work, however, increased, primarily because the pressure of vested interests abated, the government and the DDA remained firm, and the squatters and slum-dwellers cooperated with the authorities as they got convinced that everybody was being treated alike and the resettlement at regular sites would be in the their overall interest. Nothing has been done under any guise or in the name of slum clearance scheme. Terms of reference imply consideration of only those cases by the Commission in which action has been taken under guise or in the name of slum clearance scheme, and not in accordance with the prevailing schemes and procedures.
As a sequel to the implementation of approved schemes no one was rendered homeless. Everybody was provided with alternative accommodation which was invariably better, both in terms of space and environment, than the previous site which had been unauthorizedly occupied or illegally constructed. Nor were employment avenues, as demonstrated in earlier chapter, adversely affected. In this context, do the terms of reference of the Commission really permit consideration of the so-called “demoli- tion cases” of the DDA?
Misgivings about Procedures
In respect of some vital procedural aspects, too, I had serious misgivings. I thought that rules of natural justice had not been respected. I stated:
Immediately after the appointment of the Commission, vide Ministry of Home Affairs’ notification No. S.O. 374 (E), dated the 28th May, 1977, the Commission issued a notifica- tion in pursuance of clause (b) of sub-rule (2) of rule 5 of the Commission of Inquiry (Central) Rules, 2972. In this notification, it was stipulated: “Members of the public are requested to
file the complaints or statements regarding the matters specified above either individually or collectively within a period of one month from the date of publication of this notification.”
It is clear from the above that the statements/complaints about matters specified in the said notification had to be submitted to the Commission within one month. A number of complaints have been received after the stipulated date. Some of the complaints were entertained on the date of hear- ring itself or a few days before it. In view of the stipulation quoted above, these complaints may be excluded from the purview of consideration of the Commission.
Under Section 5(A) of the Commission of Inquiry Act, the Commission is empowered to utilize the services of certain officers and investigating agencies for conducting investigation pertaining to inquiry. Such officers and investigation agencies have to be officers of the Commission or appointed under its directions. In the demolition cases, the statements were recorded and investigations carried out, not by the officers of the Commission or under its directions, but by a Committee, known as Fact Finding Committee, which was appointed by the Ministry of Home Affairs vide its notification No. U-ll- 11/5/77. dated 25 May 1977. Use by the Commission of any material collected by the committee is, therefore, not covered by the provisions of Commissions of Inquiry Act. All the case summaries were prepared on the basis of the material collected by the Committee. This is not legally permissible.
The Fact Finding Committee was appointed without any authority of law. The Committee “pinned down” the witnesses. It even got statement signed from them. Even when some statements were re- recorded by the Commission, the witnesses, particularly government officials, could not but repeat what the Committee had extracted or obtained from them in a closed room. They had been “committed” to a particular Statement, and could not deviate from it for fear of unfavourable consequences. This. I believe, is against the rules of natural justice, and has seriously prejudiced my defence.
What happened after the emergency? New “heroes” came on the scene. These heroes were committed, not to the planned development, but to the planned destruction of the city. Under the cloak of endless talk of “emergency excesses” they hid their own excesses against the poor and helpless cities. They confused the public and the authorities. The landscape was ravaged. Posterity was burdened with an albatross around its neck. This is what Hindustan Times wrote on 12 November 1977:
Hundreds of people have put up shanties in West Delhi with impunity. The manner in which unauthorised shops have re-appeared in Tilak Nagar is totally shocking. Similarly, large-scale unauthorised encroachment on public land in the trans-Yamuna colonies during the past six months has gone unchecked but not unnoticed.. . . One can see unauthorised bazars coming up in areas like Karol Bagh, Sadar Bazar, Chandni Chowk and Kashmere Gate ….
Apart from unauthorised encroachments on pavements and on public land, hundreds and thousands of people have started building houses in different parts of the city without bothering to get the construction plans sanctioned from either the Corporation or the DDA. The stock reply from the police, the DMC or the DDA is “We don’t want to repeat emergency excesses.”
The Statesman (28 September 1977) contained the following comments on the subject:
Never before has “unauthorised construction”, an euphemism for encroachment on public land, enjoyed such a boom as at present. Word has spread that the janta stealing the janta’s land will be immune..’. .
The same newspaper quoted S.N. Bansal, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Corporation:
People start construction on a Saturday morning, mostly on
a second Saturday, which is a Government holiday and com- lete nearly 75% of the construction by Monday morning….
By the time our demolition squad reaches the spot, the party greets us with a stay order from the courts. Some times a hostile crowd is also there, ready to attack the demolition squad. …
The above press comments clearly show that what was done during the emergency was in public interest; otherwise why should re-emergence of encroachments and illegal construction be condemned so earnestly. Incidently, these comments also show how the vested interests manipulate, and it was this manipulation that was intended to be curbed firmly during the emergency.
New demolitions are again being carried out. Appendix I gives particulars of these demolitions. It will be noticed that from the end of September 1977 to March 1978 6,269 demolitions have been carried out by the DDA alone. The old policy and procedures which are sought to be condemned before the Commission are being followed, except that alternative accomodation is not being provided even to the jhuggi-dwellers. This approach, unfortunately, ignores the considerations elaborated in Chapter II and does not take into account the normal inflow of the poor migrants to a metropolitan city. The current approach needs to be modified. The new migrants, as argued earlier, must be diverted to the “resettlement/migrant” colonies, where the sites could be allotted to them on rent. Planned and purposive settlement of the urban poor is the crying need of the current times. It was answered during the period of emergency, and the backlogs were also cleared.
In view of what was done before the emergency and what is being done after, it will be unfair to allege that something wrong was done during the emergency or any excess was committed.
As regards the speed of work, it undoubtedly increased. There were valid reasons for it. Even otherwise, was it wrong to shake off lethargy, eliminate “gossip cafes” from our offices, relieve the tyranny of Kafkasque world of papers, full of sound and furry, signifying nothing? Is it not correct that the speed attained
during the emergency should be normal if we have to extricate ourselves from the vicious grip of poverty and underdevelopment? Was it not courageous to keep the obstructionists and obscurantists at bay and thus serve the cause of real truth, real justice and real humanism? Can we be really free if the gap between our productivity and that of developed world goes on widening?
There are two courses open for dealing with the slum and squatters population. One is to assert the lawful authority, that is to issue notices, say of twenty-four hours, and throw the families out, there being no legal obligation to provide alternative accomodation. The other course is to talk to the slum-dwellers and squatters, and persuade them to shift by making available alternative accommodation on regular basis—taking care, of course, to ensure that political and financial vested interests do not intervene. Which of the two courses is just, human and workable? Will the cause of real justice, real humanism be served by asserting the lawful authority in a technical manner? “Notices” have relevance only for those who are in a position to make alternative arrangements on their own and whose level of social and educational development does not permit exploitation by vested interests.
Do we want semblance or reality of justice. No law can answer the needs of absolute justice. In a country like ours, where social sense is not developed and where the administration is beset with routine, the gap between law and justice tends to become too wide and the community is held to ransom by those who know how to exploit the technicality of law. This is particularly true in the sphere of metropolitan planning where social and environmental costs of delays are extremely high.
In this connection, I am reminded of a case in which an unauthorized stone-crusher and about half a dozen squatters of magazine road held up the completion of an important road designed to provide a direct link from the Wazirabad Barrage to the ring road The main objective of this link was to remove a traffic hazard by preventing heavy vehicles to enter the residential colony of Timarpur. The link should have been completed immediately after the completion of Wazirabad Barrage. But the “stay order” from the court and the propensity of the operator to
exploit the technicalities of law held up the project. In the mean while, two young sons of a police officer going on a motorcycle were knocked down by a truck from the Wazirabad Barrage. Both of them died. Justice was done to them! How many such “justices” were done during the four long years for which the project was delayed. How much the community suffered in social and environmental cost? Neither those who sit in their ivory tower and use their intellect in the service of technicalities nor those who seek political advantage even at heavy social costs ponder over their actions.
In this context, it is pertinent to ask: who has really committed excesses? Is it really not those who drew fat salaries and spent their time in playing “game of words,” who kept important development schemes pending for 30 or 40 years, who administered technical rather than real justice, and who allowed poor people to languish in extremely unhealthy localities?
Routine and casual character of our administrative set-up is notorious. As far back as 1905, Lord Curzon, in his famous farewell speech at the Byculla Club, Bombay, described the Indian bureaucracy as “the most mechanised and lifeless of all form of administration.” Notwithstanding the fact that more than 70 years have elapsed when the above remarks were made, the “lifeless” character of our administration has not basically changed; in fact, it has taken a sharper turn towards ineffectiveness. Explanation for this is to be found in our national ethos, in our values, in our tendency to keep a wide gap between what we preach and what we practise.
Every day, we hear journalists, intellectuals, politicians and senior civil servants denouncing the old-fashioned methods and stressing the needs for result-oriented administration. But what happens in actual practice? Whenever anyone tries to break the shackles of routine and impart dynamism, he finds himself in trouble. His firmness is described as ruthlessness, his commitment as personal ambition, and his speed as rashness. And he is soon shown the way out. On the other hand, those who spend their life-time in tying red tapes over the blue flaps of bludgeoning files have smooth sailing. Let me give an example.