Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu talks to Vijaita Singh about UPA ministers not vacating their official bungalows, the problem of illegal colonies and whether he has any plans to redevelop Lutyens’ Delhi.
What is the Urban Development Ministry’s plan for 100 smart cities, which is a priority area for Prime Minister Narendra Modi?
We are studying different models and many foreign countries have come forward to help. We have asked France, Australia, Singapore and Japan to submit ideas. We are trying to understand their models and how those can be implemented here. It is still at a conceptual stage and we will see whether they are capable of providing us funds or not.
What are your plans to maintain heritage/religious cities?
Heritage and religious cities like Varanasi, Ajmer Sharif, Amritsar and others are visited by thousands of people. The thrust should be on clean, green and hygienic cities with an excellent road transport. We want to see to it that basic facilities are improved in these places.
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Any plans to redevelop Lutyens’ Delhi?
Certain areas and bungalows will be demolished but we will have to provide alternate accommodation to those people. This was being considered by the previous government and we will see how to go about it.
While former UD minister Kamal Nath advocated it, the plan to make Lutyens’ Delhi grow vertically was opposed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Will you follow the same policy?
This is a different government but I do see a point in the objections in regard to raising these areas vertically.
Do you have any plans to shift the offices of political parties to the outskirts of Delhi?
Political parties are part of public life. It is people who elect the parties so they have to be given due respect. It is true that congestion around these offices has to be regulated. It has become a fashion for one party to demonstrate in front of another party’s office. We are working on a policy where protests could take place only at earmarked places like Jantar Mantar. We will involve all stakeholders, including the Delhi Police, and build a consensus so that no inconvenience is caused to public. It is for the police to effectively implement prohibitory orders.
Many UPA ministers have not vacated their bungalows even after the June 26 deadline given to them. What will be the next course of action?
It is an unpleasant job for a minister. It is uncivilised behaviour on part of people not to vacate the bungalows. They should understand that they have been defeated and were also given a reasonable time for this. I am ready to close my eyes for one more month but at least vacate the premises. I would not have hastened the process but my ministers are sitting in hotels and when they have visitors, they are facing a lot of problems.
Many regional parties like DMK, BSP and CPM were given prime land in Delhi during the tenure of the previous government. Will you cancel the allotments?
We do not want to discriminate between a regional or a national political party. I am told there are some cases where the land was allotted but the possession has not been handed over. I have asked the joint secretary to study the policy under which the ministry gave an order for the land. If a regional party has the necessary strength, we will study the entire procedure. I am going to review the entire thing. Whatever allotment will be done, it will be as per rules and there will be no question of discrimination.
Will you also regularise the 1,639 illegal colonies in Delhi?
Illegal colonies are a reality now. The idea is to prevent unauthorised colonies coming up in the future. We are working on a policy where any illegal construction has to be brought to notice by the building inspector or the town planner. At present, there is no accountability. Why was an unauthorised construction allowed in the first place? After it is done, a well meaning IAS officer or a political person comes and suddenly issues an order of demolition. The recent building collapses in Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai are a sad commentary on the urban affairs in the country. The building inspector will have to report each and every unauthorised construction in his ward and action will be initiated.