Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Understanding UD !!

Cities have the capacity to provide something for everybody, only because & when they have been created by everybody”… Jane Jacobs.


When it’s planning of cities then the name Jane Jacobs is immortal as hundreds of such quotes are not mere words but have become back bone of city planning which unfortunately we have named as urban development, more popularly known as Urban Development in our State Govt, short formed as just UD! Well, the mere mention of the word UD makes the media enticed by the thought of gossip it holds, developers/ politicians/ beurocracy gets excited by the money it spins & common man gets nervous because of the outcome it generates! That way UD is always in lime light, (though mostly for wrong reasons) but when a powerful minister in Center of the ruling govt, makes accusations about its poor performance or working, then like “kahani me twist”, many eye brows got lifted up thinking what’s next? Before 90’s UD was never much in demand as whatever urban development this State has, it was restricted to Mumbai & Pune & this was the scene till late 80’s or early 90’s. Obviously then the UD ministry or the department was always considered as less important & its responsibility used to be given to some grade two or three level minister to look after. Ours was agriculture based State & most CM’s were from rural as well the policies & budget of the State used to move around departments like irrigation, agriculture, rural development & roads, that’s it. Very few even knew till late 80”s about existence of UD but come 90’s & first time the then CM i.e. Manhohar Joshi (needless to tell he himself was a builder) kept the charge of UD with him  as he very well understood the power of UD in reference to changing future of State & its towns as well larger cities. And since then UD has never looked back & has becomes such a star department that every CM has kept the charge of this dept with himself. Irony is most of them has to leave the CM’ship itself, because of not by poor management of the State but because of the scandals in UD!


Now let’s see what brings such glamour to UD that even the CM couldn’t resist to let it go to someone else; in one simple word the one who controls the life of the people he is God & with majority population (read voters) moving to the cities, it’s the UD which holds control over lives of these millions of people in cities. And then with conversion of villages to towns, towns to cities & cities to Metros, urbanization becomes the buzz word like famous “Gold Rush” in USA, as today the land itself has become gold. Naturally as its UD which controls every policy related to the land use, soon it became a big money churner in many ways, for the govt as well any of those who has been associated with this dept. For this we need to understand the structure of this entire land related matter in the cities as well towns of our State. The need of having urban development started way back as when we realized that no more we are a community living in villages which mostly depended on natural resources. Obviously the population was less so the resources like water, shelter (read homes), roads etc were sufficient for the then population. There was no question of industries or IT parks type developments & most of the transportation was on feet or by bullock carts, so parking wasn’t an issue at all, in short whatever we face our modern times infrastructure problems, all were unheard of.


But as the industrialization grew, that brought along large scale migration of people at one place & then there was dire need of managing infrastructural need of this population & for that there has to be an organization which would study the population, its needs & a plan of the land use for all such essential infrastructure. In a way every piece of land which comes under expand of any town, city or Metro (very large city like Mumbai) in this State, its use is decided by UD. Though these towns or cities are governed by local bodies, for e.g. there is PMC in Pune or we have Nagar Parishad in town like Baramati, depending up on the population of these towns/ cities. And all these local bodies have their own set of rules which are called as Development Control rules i.e. DC rules which they has to get clearance from UD. For this UD has town planning dept (call as arm of UD) which governs land use of the lands which doesn’t comes under in municipal corporation or civic body such as Nagar Parishad. The Director of Town Planning is like supreme authority or consultant to UD for any dispute regarding land use or DC rules for any civic body in State. The UD has two IAS officers as well a set up in Mantralay (Ministry), in Mumbai & head is Cabinet level minister which since last many years is Hon Cm himself. Now you can understand the importance of UD in today’s times as every sq inch of land’s use (read potential) is decided by the UD, which in a way means fate of every land along with its land owner is decided by UD! And at the same time every municipal corporation as well municipal council in the State comes under jurisdiction of UD, no wonder its huge vote bank for any political party & that’s tempting enough for every CM to keep hold of it. Thought nothing wrong as this very potential makes UD one of the most important ministry also as if you really want to develop the State then the UD holds the key for the development is a fact.


Now let’s see what was expected from UD regarding the land use or cities; as the name suggests UD was meant to control growth of the towns or cities in proper way. Here proper way has many dimensions which includes giving basic infrastructure like water, roads, electricity, drainage like physical infrastructure along with social developments of these cities, let’s call them as settlements. Social developments includes not just education & public health but employment generation too & on top of it to make the homes with all such facilities available to the needy ones in & around these settlements at affordable cost, is the prime job of UD. But with due respect to all the persons working in UD under we have been developing cities without understanding the development essence itself. For e.g. millions has to migrate from smaller towns to big cities like Mumbai & Pune as there is no jobs in smaller towns & neither basic above mentioned infrastructure as mentioned above. And even does those who have been migrated to the big cities are happy with what life style they are getting in these cities? Well, let’s see the scene in our Pune region itself; the execution of the controlling activities of development here has been divided in numbers of civic bodies & each having separate sets of their DC rules. And these DC rules differs even periphery of some 50 km also, take example of PMC, PCMC & PMRDA, the fire premium types charges differs here in multiple folds in all three civic bodies & so is the case for many policies related to urban development in these areas. Then there is no control on monitoring the infrastructure development as for us UD is just sanctioning new buildings & collecting premiums under various heads. The development plans of the cities/regions takes years just to get finalized & then its implementation happens at snail’s pace & then what about the development of the city during this period, this question nobody has answer. The city is growing hap-hazard with some people getting rich & millions getting poor due to land policies, such is the planning scene. We sanction buildings, built them & then with individual whims or say convenience rest of things like roads & water follows, is the common scene all around the State. Lastly there is issue of illegal constructions which is strait outcome of unavailability of affordable legal homes, defeating the very purpose of UD!


High time there has to be serious thinking about UD’s functioning itself, right from having same DC rules to all cities as well policies like premiums. And more importantly need is having a system in place which will ensure timely implementation of these DC rules as well policies from the local civic bodies which are acting like parallel UD in itself individually! At the same time we can think of appointing professionals in the field of Urban Planning in UD at key positions instead going through routine govt job appointment process, as this is something job of skill & not just seniority. As an IAS or administrative officer can be good in administration of the system but to understand the concept of planning & making proper policies suiting to need of not just present problems but for future too, you need a person who knows what urban planning is! And then give these professionals deadlines to achieve what has been planned, as sorry to say but right now UD is like a ship in the ocean travelling without any destination to reach. Many of my friends won’t like my statement but look at the scene around us,in the Smart city like Pune neither can we finalize airport location in time nor we can find alternate dumping place for city’s garbage & on other side we dream for Metro Rail & river front development type projects, year after year, what all this suggests? And in the mean time city keeps expanding with hundreds of projects mushrooming all around as people need homes is a fact. Even for that the so called town planning dept, how many of them has even planned one town ship & executed it till the possession? And if not so, how we can expect them to understand issues of common developer or end flat holder while building single building or buying their own homes in this city? As most of the politicians as well govt servants gets nice govt accommodations (exception like police line are there) in best part of the city so they never know what it takes to live in homes where you have spent your life times earning to buy it & yet you don’t have got even decent road if not public transport, to reach your home from your work place, leave apart water & other facilities!


Lastly there is issue of balancing environment as with rampant urbanization we are actually killing natural habitats of millions of species & we even haven’t spared our rivers, hills, lakes or forests & we are encroaching on them for our homes. With majority population migrating to the cities the job of UD is vital & if in time we don’t take proper steps then like a balloon exploding with the pressure of gas in it, our cities will burst under the pressure of residents in them & that day is not far long! 



Sanjay Deshpande 

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