The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had put the Draft Master Plan of Delhi–2041 (DMPD-2041) in the public domain, inviting suggestions and objections. DMPD-2041 was anticipated to be a modern development plan for the capital as it has been informed by a far more participatory approach and consultations with various stakeholder groups.
Hence, an omission of the inclusive city notion in the DMPD-2041 vision, which is to "foster a sustainable, liveable and vibrant Delhi", comes as a shock. This is all the more baffling as there is a global consensus on the need for building more inclusive cities, defined as "having equal access, opportunities and voice in urban space for all".
It is also incorporated in the 2015 sustained development goals (SDGs)— "make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable")—endorsed by India. Therefore, it is imperative to rephrase the modified vision of the Master Plan as "foster a sustainable, inclusive, liveable and vibrant Delhi".
However, DMPD-2041 has not completely missed out on the idea of an inclusive city. After listing the three goals, it states, "The Plan also acknowledges diversity and works towards creating an inclusive city that facilitates accessibility and opportunity for all."
In view of the modified vision for Delhi, the main goals of MPD-2041 should be as follows:
Goal 1: Become an environmentally sustainable city that provides a healthy environment for its citizens and is adaptable towards addressing the impact of climate change.
Goal 2: Acknowledge diversity and work towards creating an inclusive city that facilitates accessibility and opportunity to all.
Goal 3: Develop a future-ready city that offers good quality, affordable and safe living environment with efficient mobility systems.
Goal 4: Emerge as a dynamic place for economic, creative and cultural development.
These changes will be justified to some extent as inclusion is taken into consideration in several sections of the plan. It has to be further integrated within the overall planning framework for Delhi wherever overlooked.
Some of these missing areas are highlighted here, particularly relating to employment, housing and access to basic services, which are the most critical needs of the urban poor.
First, a vibrant city is normally associated with highly productive economic activities employing skilled workforce and professionals.
While visualising a more inclusive Delhi, it is obvious to question: making a vibrant world class city for who? To attract international tourists and investment? To provide quality urban space and infrastructure for high-end businesses? Would it exclude the lowest rung of the informal sector (IFS) subsistence urban workers (SUBs) who are mostly unskilled and have low-wage earning with little savings and assets to fall back on in times of an economic crisis?
Images of the migrant workers trudging home from Indian cities that stared at us during the COVID-19 pandemic last summer and the proposed vision of a vibrant Delhi do not seem to fit in the same frame. It is good to note that DMPD-2041 has identified some measures to support IFS activities, employing about 70 percent workforce of Delhi.
However, many of these provisions pertain to vending, whereas IFS has a wide range of activities, places of work, working conditions and income levels. How can MPD-2041 address the diversity of IFS and needs of the SUBs requires serious rethinking and necessary planning?
Second, while strategising shelter for low-income families and migrant workers, the master plan aims to build affordable housing and rental housing. It also envisages regeneration of unplanned unauthorized colonies (UCs) as well as in-situ rehabilitation of slums and JJ clusters on tenable sites.
Many of these settlements fall under 1731 UCs identified by DDA for regularisation to benefit about 40 lakh people under the Pradhan Mantri Unauthorised Colonies in Delhi Awas Adhikar Yojana (PM-UDAY) launched in December 2019 with the enabling National Capital Territory of Delhi (Recognition of Property Rights of Residents in Unauthorized Colonies) Act, 2019.
The DMPD-2041 makes no mention of this initiative in its policy framework. It appears as if the proposed regeneration of unplanned areas in DMPD-2041 and regularisation of UCs under the ongoing government scheme are two parallel processes. Rather than working in silos, it would be better to combine the two into a comprehensive section titled:
Regeneration and regularisation of the existing unplanned and unauthorised residential areas would be a great leap forward in creating a truly inclusive Delhi.
Third, in the section on Making Delhi Water Secure, per capita norms for water supply is to be reduced from 227 litres per capita per day (LPCD) to 189 LPCD in the existing areas and in the new land pooling areas, it will be 151 LPCD.
It is not clear how increasing the supply to 24x7 will be achieved at the same time. Also, would the entire city be connected by the piped system to enable 24x7 supply across the city, including the resettlement colonies, UCs and slums and JJ clusters? This needs to be specified to make the plan transparent and accountable.
Fourth, with reference to the plan Monitoring and Coordination Framework, considering the revised goal of an inclusive city, it is advisable to add a few key performance indicators (KPI) that will help build an Inclusive City Index in addition to the Environmental Sustainability Index, Built Environment Index and City Vitality Index.
It would also be appropriate to set up a corresponding multi-agency coordination Committee for Inclusive City at par with the Environmental Sustainability Committee, Built Environment Committee and City Vitality Committee.
Taking these suggestions into consideration will go a long way in realising a more inclusive Delhi, a city projected to be a megapolis of about 30 million by 2041.(The author is Senior Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. Views expressed are personal.)