India lives in its villages, but modern India resides in its cities. Cities are the centers of growth to which the populace from all regions gets attracted to, whether to look for new career opportunities, or in hope of finding a better life and escaping the drudgery and poverty of stagnating rural areas. All across the world, any country that has experienced the transformation to an economically developed nation has experienced sharply increased urbanization also, with cities emerging as centers of trade manufacturing and sophisticated service providers. India is no different. With an ever-expanding economy and sharp rise in the share of services in the national income, India is experiencing urbanization as never before. In total, some 108 million Indians, or 10.5 per cent of the national population, live in the country’s 35 largest cities. According to the 2001 census in all about 27% of the population lives in urban areas with an urban to rural ratio of 39. Today Mumbai is the largest Indian city and the third largest urban area in the world with a population of 18.84 million. The National Capital Region of Delhi is the 6th largest urban area in the world with a population of about 16 million people1. Cities of such huge magnitude, having a population of over 10 million, are in fact now classified as ‘Mega Cities’. But with the growth of such large urban areas also comes the problem of managing them well to ensure good quality of life for the residents. The existence of such large numbers of people densely packed into compact regions leads to ever-increasing burdens on the resources available in the cities. Housing, waste management, slums, transportation, have emerged as some of the most pressing problems in urban areas along with the overall issue of effective utilization of land. It is in dealing with such problems that urban planning comes to the fore, in order to provide a comprehensive development strategy for the city with a forward-looking approach.
The city may thus get divided into administrative and uses based zones with separate plans for the same along with an all encompassing master plan for the city as a whole. The question is how relevant and effective are such plans, both in their objectives and in their implementation. Do they pragmatically take into consideration the actual ground realities or are they too utopian in nature? Is due consideration given to the financial viability of such plans? And most importantly to what extent does this planning process curtail the rights of individual citizens to use their properties as they see fit, and to pursue any means of self-improvement that the city has to offer.
This paper attempts to analyze these issues focusing on the draft document of the Master Plan for Delhi till the year 2021 (MPD 2021). There has been a lack of comprehensive analysis on this major policy document till now and at present there is no research work available on the Master Plan. This work becomes all the more relevant in light of the widespread protests and controversies that these plans seem to generate.
There is a huge urban planning quandary here. On one hand denizens are protesting against the demolition drive launched by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi against unauthorized constructions whereas on the other hand the implementing agencies and judicial bodies are helpless who are saddled with the task of ensuring the implementation of the existing provisions of the master plan. Yet the new Master Plan is not without its own shortcomings. The paper aims to provide a critical analysis of the existing draft plan in this context and to collate examples of successful urban planning the world over. Finally the paper looks into the issue of zoning and strictly ordained and planned land use and its relevance in a free market based economy based with the inviolable right to private property.
According to the authorities, this master plan is envisioned to make Delhi a future-ready city having a sustainable environment. Its people will be engaged in productive work and will move towards a better quality of life.