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Friday, July 30, 2021

Amid push for night-time economy in Delhi Master Plan, experts say first need to make city safe for women

Main Bhi Dilli — a collective of over 40 civil society groups, activists and researchers engaging with the Master Plan for the last three years — has also demanded an extension of the objections period to allow more public consultation.

Written by Sukrita Baruah | New Delhi |
July 15, 2021 8:33:42 pm
At a metro station in Delhi (Express File)

Greater scope for public participation in the Delhi Master Plan; centering of residents’ concerns over informal settlements; involving informal workers and women in the planning process — these are among the concerns and demands raised by a network of civil society organisations and activists pushing for a more inclusive development plan for the city.

The draft Delhi Master Plan (2021-2041) was given preliminary approval by the Delhi Development Authority last month and has been in the public domain since June 9 for suggestions and objections from citizens, following which it will be enforced.

However, Main Bhi Dilli — a collective of over 40 civil society groups, activists and researchers engaging with the Master Plan for the last three years — is demanding an extension of the objections period to allow more public consultation.

“It took three years for the DDA to draft this plan, but the public consultation has been given only 45 days, which is an injustice, especially during a pandemic… The deadline used to be 90 days before it was amended in 2016, so we already have a precedent for 90 days. However, this should be extended to at least 3-6 months, given the exceptional circumstances,” said Gautam Bhan, researcher and faculty member at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, while also pointing out that baseline data used to prepare the plan has not been made available to the public yet and the clock for public consultation should only begin once this information is made available.

Bhan also emphasised that planning, especially on social infrastructure, should move away from population-based norms. “For example, it is stated that for every 10,000 people, there should be one anganwadi centre. But are these centres required as much in Lutyen’s Delhi as they are in East Delhi, industrial areas, Northwest Delhi’s resettlement colonies, or in Badarpur? Every area has different needs. Which is why there should be area-based norms on requirements instead of population-based norms,” he said.

Among the criticisms by the collective is the lack of a gendered perspective. Referring to the plan as “gender blind”, Kalpana Viswanathan, who works on gender safety in public spaces, stated, “There should be a separate chapter on gender in the master plan, wherein there will be data on crime rate, the number of schools for girls, reservation for single women in housing… The plan has a push for night-time economy, which is a great idea, but this city is considered unsafe for women after 6 pm. If we want to have a night-time economy, we have to plan on how to make it gender-friendly… there has to be public transport at night, the streets have to be safe… It also has to recognise the care economy by planning for daycare centres,” she said.

The collective is also pushing for greater recognition of the diversity of workspaces of the informal sector and for more provisions on affordable housing. The master plan has calculated a housing demand of 34.5 lakh. However, urban planner Mukta Naik pointed out that this calculation is based on figures from the 2011 census without any projections on population growth.

“Even then, the plan does not tell us who these 34.5 lakh houses will be for. We need the break-up of these into EWS, LIG and MIG categories to know how many of these are for the poor… We also demand that government land be committed for EWS housing to ensure that the 15% FAR reserved for it can be seen through,” she said, also raising the demand for regularisation schemes for JJ colonies and slum clusters along the lines of that for unauthorised colonies.

Among the comments was also a demand to plan with a lower target of daily trips on personal cars and two wheelers with a ‘sustainable urban mobility plan’, and that 90% residents should have access to frequent bus transport within a five minutes’ walk from their residence, including those in all new affordable housing facilities.

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