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DDA flouted rules to help private builders profit from housing for poor

Jun 11, 2017
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The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) used fraudulent means to tweak building norms, allowing private realtors to construct more flats in housing projects meant for the poor and sell them at a higher price, an HT investigation has found.

The DDA, which regulates building rules in the city, fabricated public feedback to increase the floor area ratio (FAR), or the built-up area, of these projects from 2 to 2.30. This allowed at least four private companies to build flats on 15% more FAR in their housing schemes.

The rules were changed in 2009 and again four years later. The first time, the agency cited “suggestions and objections” from 1,374 people from city slums and colonies to alter FAR norms. The second time it changed rules to allow builders to sell 50% of the flats at market rate under the changed FAR norms.

An HT investigation based on a Right to Information (RTI) reply found that many of the so-called respondents cited neither gave any feedback to the DDA nor demanded any change to FAR norms.

Forty five-year-old Kamla, a resident of RK Puram’s Parvatiya camp, is a respondent cited by the DDA. “I don’t have any idea about any policy for which I had ever given any suggestion,” said Kamla, who uses only one name and makes a living as a domestic help.

Veera Swami, another so-called respondent, runs a food shop in Saraswati Camp. He too denied making any suggestion to the DDA.

HT met with dozens of other people cited by the DDA in the slums of Shiv Vihar and Jhandewali Basti in north Delhi and Parvatiya Camp and Saraswati Camp in the city’s south. All of them denied they made representations to the DDA.

Emails and phone calls to DDA vice chairman Udai Pratap Singh went unanswered. When HT contacted then vice chairman Ashok Kumar about the change of rules to the city’s “master plan” in 2009, he said: “I don’t remember as it’s an eight year old issue.”

A senior DDA official sought to explain the fabrication, saying the feedback had to be made up to meet requirements under the law.

“It’s a futile exercise as we hardly get any response from people,” said the official who didn’t wish to be named.

Given that the size of the flats and market rates vary significantly across projects, it wasn’t possible to put a value on the extra 15% FAR allowed to private builders.

The tweaked policy proved helpful for at least four developers, including DLF and Parsvnath.

“The amendment was made by the government and we have to abide by that,” said Rajeev Talwar, CEO of DLF.

Sunit Sachar, a senior vice president of Parsvnath, said: “If government amends a norm we have to go by that, irrespective of whether it’s in our favour or against us.”

The trail of events goes back to 2008 when a business lobby urged the central urban development ministry to allow 15% extra FAR in subsidised housing projects they build for the poor. The ministry forwarded the request to the DDA, which sought suggestions and objections from the people on January 20, 2009.

In May the same year, the DDA approved the amendment and increased the buildable area from 2 to 2.30.

“DDA officials fabricated a list showing that 1,374 objections and suggestions were received by them and out of these, approximately 670 people personally appeared before the board of inquiry set up by the authority for this purpose,” said an official of Delhi-based NGO Sabke Liye Aawas Sangthan, which filed the RTI query about the so-called respondents. The official didn’t want to be identified for fear of persecution.

“When I asked the authority to provide a list of 670 people who attended the board of inquiry it didn’t find the record.”

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