It has been more brickbats than praises for the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) which has grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons. Poor construction quality, deep-rooted corruption, fraud in the property allotment process – the list of allegations against this 60-year old government agency seems unending. This is all the more shocking when you consider, that the DDA was meant to be more reliable and trustworthy than private developers.
Is the DDA responsible for Delhi’s state of affairs?
Take the case of the housing schemes launched by the DDA in 1967. In the last 4 decades , it has only managed to build about 400,000 homes and among these, thousands of units remain unsold while thousands more were returned due to poor construction quality and the small sizes of these flats. Customers who had booked plots under the authority’s ‘Rohini Residential Scheme – 1981’, are still waiting for possession 34 years later. “We have made all payments, submitted all documents and there is still no sign of our plot. For the past several years, all that we have been doing is visiting the DDA office with new documents as per their demand in the hope that this visit will be our last visit and we will get the possession letter for our plots,” lamented Capt. Uppal (retd.), one among thousands who had registered for a plot in Rohini.
The DDA’s top officials have been prompt in refuting all charges of corruption and poor performance. “The talk about corruption in the DDA is totally baseless. Whatever corruption charges have been levelled against the DDA have not been proved. Over the past six months we are going through a rigorous process of transformation to make the authority more transparent and people friendly and we are putting in place technologies to bring in transparency”, claimed Jai Prakash Aggarwal, principal commissioner of the DDA in the agency’s defence.
Many blame the DDA for the 5000-odd slums in the city and say key policy initiatives like Transit Oriented Development and the Land Pooling Policy remain struck on the drawing board, with no clarity on when the DDA plans to execute it. The gross inefficiencies of this nodal agency have been recognised by past governments too, as is evident from the comments of former Housing Minister Ajay Maken. “DDA had full monopoly. It was regulator, planner, land dealer, everything. But it did very little. If you give me a bulldozer, I will first raze down DDA’s office”, he said in a candid chat.
Can the DDA be turned around?
This mismanagement may be the reason why housing and urban development minister – Venkaiah Naidu, set up a 14-member committee under Madhukar Gupta, the former vice chairman of the DDA to revamp the agency. The idea is to transform the DDA from being a typically ‘Sarkari’ organisation to a more performance-oriented corporate structure. Key reforms suggested include:
– Hiring young technocrats from B-schools and appointing them as planners, revenue officers and architects.
– Merging other organisations like DUSIB with the DDA.
– Focusing on enhanced cooperation and coordination within departments.
– Strengthening the core arms of the DDA like the housing, land, engineering and planning departments.
– Creating SPVs (Special Purpose Vehicles) to implement projects like Smart Cities and the Transit Oriented Development policy.
– Upgrading financial planning skills to multiply its current Rs 30,000 crore in its kitty to at least Rs 3-lakh crore over the next 10 years, instead of parking it in fixed deposits.
The panel has submitted its report to the urban development ministry and a decision is expected soon. While it has never been easy to reform a government entity, the DDA has been under fire for far too long. If the Narendra Modi government is able to take a few hard decisions and revamp the DDA, Delhites may finally feel like they are living in the capital city of India with access to world-class housing and infrastructure facilities.
Oineetom Ojah, Special Correspondent, NDTV