Lopsided governance?

People-friendly policies should be devised after scrapping housing authorities in NOIDA

Lopsided governance?

Every citizen, especially in the middle class, has a dream to own a home. According to Knight Frank, a real estate consulting company, on an average, though 86 per cent of the people in India have their own house, only 50 per cent live in their own houses while 30 per cent live on rent and 13 per cent live with their parents. The rest — around 25 lakhs people — are homeless. As urbanisation is increasing rapidly, so is the migration of people and, therefore, the pattern of house ownership in India has significant variance across rural and urban areas. As against 95 per cent in rural areas, around 69 per cent of the total households in India own houses. As the economy grew and job prospects in the private sector increased manifold compared to what it was in the early 1970s, there was a real estate boom in metro and other mid-size cities and towns, especially in Delhi and NCR. To promote housing and planned city life, special urban bodies were created in the form of development authorities by state governments.

In the NCR region, Noida and Greater NOIDA authorities were created, and with this started the mushrooming business of real estate builders who became rich overnight with the patronage of state politicians and corrupt officials. NOIDA being nearer to Delhi, and with an open-air ambience and clean Ganga water, people aspired to buy their sweet homes in NOIDA. Greater NOIDA was fast developing into a modern open city with all facilities. Previously, state governments used to provide land at concessional rates to cooperative group housing societies, and people used to get affordable houses and flats. However, due to involvement of many politicians and businessmen as builders, the nexus of politico-bureaucratic circles with these so-called authorities killed the idea of housing societies, and thus came up the idea of promoting professional builders under the garb of professionalising the real estate sector. This was followed up by putting residential plots to auction or allocating those at a very premium rate to builders. It also fattened the revenue of these authorities and allowed builders to mushroom rapidly.

During 2008-2014, any Tom, Dick and Harry could become a builder in NOIDA by paying Rs 10 lakh, and get a residential plot in connivance with NOIDA authority big wigs and political mentors. This is the way the Amrapali promoter fleeced more than 45,000 home buyers in NOIDA and NOIDA extension. The owner of Amrapali initially constructed good flats but, thanks to his avarice and ambition to become a politician in Bihar, he bribed politicians to become a Member of Parliament and squandered people's hard-earned money in a super lavish lifestyle. Ultimately the construction of flats stopped.

Seeing the precarious condition, one young professional flat buyer, Amit Gupta, with a few of his friends, filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court against Amrapali builders. The Supreme Court put Amrapali promoters in jail and appointed senior advocate R Venkatramani as a Receiver to oversee the completion of the projects with the help of a few banks and National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC). The Court has ordered auction of Amrapali properties, sale of unsold flats and the flats of ghost buyers but the system is so convoluted that the Receiver is not able to get sufficient funds from the Amrapali properties to complete the project.

The Receiver has lately put forth a proposal in the Supreme Court to identify vacant lands in each project and prepare a layout plan without obtaining NOCs from buyers and register them under RERA to garner funds. If implemented, this would be a grave injustice to home buyers and the environment. Already, NOIDA Extension is so crowded that breakdown in civil amenities is a routine affair. It is soon going to turn into a slum like Nalasupara in Mumbai. Such a situation has arisen because the state government has miserably failed to implement the policy of land allotment and enforcement of building by-laws, apart from constantly changing the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) — violating the Master Plan. Common facilities like green areas, markets, parks, community centres etc. are essential elements of city life. More than 150 flat buyers have strongly opposed the recommendation on the ground that it goes against the spirit of the Supreme Court intervention, is against the by-laws of the NOIDA authority and that the buyers have the first right over such land.

The UP government should devise a people-friendly housing policy, and the first step in this direction is to scrap all these authorities forthwith.

The writer is Chairman of Centre for Resource Management & Environment. Views expressed are personal

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