Yeh Hai Delhi Meri Jaan - Commemorating 100 Years of India's Capital

By Nirendra Dev

Nirendra Narayan Dev

Editor's Note: Nirendra Narayan Dev (nirendev1 [at] gmail [dot] com), an acclaimed political journalist, is a special correspondent of The Statesman, New Delhi and author of the books Ayodhya : Battle For Peace, The Talking Guns North East India and Godhra A Journey To Mayhem. Nirendra was born and brought up in India's northeast and his father served with paramilitary force Assam Rifles. His blog is at bestofindiarestofindia.blogspot.com.

We have previously had an opportunity of talking to the author and have posted the audio recording of the interview.

Nirendra is also a fiction writer; his short stories published on Washington Bangla Radio Online Magazine include The Pawns’, ‘Arms of Comfort’, ‘The Guiding Sun, Soothing Moon’ , Patrons of a Letter Box and An Anniversary Night’.

Delhi completed 100 years of designating itself as the capital city of India on December 12, 2011. It was on December 12, 1911 that Delhi was proclaimed as the new capital of the country.

The city has emerged as one of the megapolis with the second largest population in the country. It has a long history including a history as the capital of several ancient empires. According to historians, the earliest architectural relics date back to the Maurya Period in 300 BC.

In felicitating the citizens on the occasion of 101st (one hundred and first) birthday of Delhi, the Speaker of Indian Parliament’s lower house, Meira Kumar rightly said that the city today boasts of world class infrastructures and many heritage buildings.

Delhi's high population growth rate, coupled with high economic growth rate has resulted in an ever increasing demand for housing and transport creating excessive pressure on the city's existent infrastructure. The number of vehicles in the metropolitan region, was estimated as above 11.5 millions. In 2008, there were 85 cars in Delhi for every 1,000 of its residents.

Like all modern dwelling places, Delhi city too has its problems. But the government is sensitive to the issues. It is rightly in the spirit of this realization that the lower house of parliament on December 12, 2011 passed a Bill to streamline all development related activities in the city and adjoining areas.

The government also promised to put in place a "visionary" plan keeping in mind the requirements of next 25 years.

The Urban Development Minister Mr Kamal Nath informed members that the second phase of Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNURM) was also under preparation and it would take into consideration the "shortcomings" encountered in phase one. Replying to a debate on the bill during which members cutting across party lines had several complaints on lack of adequate attention being given to Delhi, Mr Nath admitted that coordination among multiple civic agencies like DDA, MCD and the Delhi government was still lacking. He announced that DDA has been directed to solely concentrate on making dwelling places for economically weaker sections and that about a lakh such houses will be soon set up. He also said that attention should be given to the demand for granting full statehood to Delhi and the members' views on the subject would be forwarded to the union Home Ministry. He, however, said the proposal of constructing one lakh housing units for Economically Weaker Sections would not be enough and these needed to be doubled.

He said the Master Plan 2021, which is under preparation, will have the "vision" for 25 years. Members from various parties including from RJD (Lalu Prasad), BSP (Vijay Bahadur Singh), Congress (Sandeep Dikshit), BJP (Shahnawaz Hussain) and BJD (B Mahtab) voiced concerns over deteriorating civic amenities and shortcomings in the functioning of agencies like Municipal Corporation of Delhi and Delhi Development Authority.

Opposition members also called for full statehood for Delhi. Shahnawaz Hussain (BJP), who initiated the discussion, said the Master Plan had “grave errors” and alleged that Delhi authorities had acquired land at throwaway prices from farmers and sold it at exorbitant rates to builders and the rich. He said for the common man, housing has already gone “out of reach” in the city. "In its 54 years of existence, DDA has built only about 11 lakh dwelling units. Is there pressure from private builders," the BJP member asked. Shailendra Kumar (Samajwadi) and A. Sampath (CPI-M) also supported the demand for full statehood to Delhi.

The East Delhi Congress MP, Mr Sandeep Dikshit wanted to know whether the Centre would convene a meeting to accord full statehood to Delhi, saying neither Congress nor BJP has tried to address the issue during the last decade. BSP's Vijay Bahadur Singh, wondered why there was a “permanent cold war” between the MCD and DDA. SP leader Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav suggested for introducing a proper sewage treatment system. Members also expressed anguish on what they alleged eviction of the poor and slum dwellers during the Commonwealth Games.