Thursday, 29 October 2015

Building India

Building India

Survey shows that India needs approximately 100 million houses, mostly in urban area. Housing in rural area appears to be not considered in the survey. Demand for housing in rural area is for want of funds needed for housing. People do want better houses with sanitary facilities in rural area also. On account of poverty people in rural area don't think about a better housing and are forced to be satisfied with shacks they possess. The second difficulty is land for housing in urban area. Present practice is to add villages on periphery of a city or town to make available land for housing of urban needs. While doing these services are not considered. Once housing projects get completed people occupy those and then find many problems like water, transport, electricity, sewage disposal, marketing and so on. The present method is trying to place cart in front of a horse and expect the horse to pull the cart.
Even after 65 years of self governance India has not solved this problem. Politicians do not wish to solve this for simple reason, expectations of people may grow and then it would be difficult to even promise those things like quality education, employment for all and alike. To get over this basic need India has to work on many fronts.

First we should study whether present planning of cities and towns is planned to meet all needs and overcome obstacles. Take simple need of public sanitary blocks. When people are out for shopping, working etc. they need urinals and toilets. No city or town can claim that this need is fulfilled. This is in spite of several years’ experience of town planning. Indian architects and engineers could not solve simple problem like footpath. No city or town in India can claim that footpaths have been constructed for pedestrians for walking without any obstacle like steps, open gates, ramps, parking of vehicles, footpath dwellers, hawkers etc. on footpath. Readers can add more examples to this list. More advanced problems like transportation, water, electricity, sewage disposal, waste (All solid, liquid and gas) management probably are considered beyond the scope of town planning. There is another excuse mostly used by the town planners is citizens are given facilities but they don’t use those properly. Citizens break laws and no efforts can be adequate to provide needed facilities. This is because citizens shall never adhere to laws. Instead of blaming citizens why can’t the authority find solution such that no citizen can break laws? Simple example is use of lane on road which is specifically provided for certain traffic. The government can make a simple rule that in such conditions the law breaker shall not get any protection such as insurance and accident laws. This means guilt of accident shall be of the law breaker and the person/vehicle shall not get insurance cover for such a situation. There is a need to redefine scope of town planning. Town planners must be responsible for every problem faced by citizen(s). For a few years town planner should be made responsible for improving planning based on earlier mistakes. However, after adequate time (i.e. no mistake is made first time) townplanner shall be responsible for every short coming. This means repetition of mistakes in earlier planning by any one and any where in India shall be liable for severe punishment.

Major obstacle in town planning is availability of land for affordable price. Experience shows that land price rises moment word is heard that the area is going to be added in city/town. This price rise is due to availability of much less than requirement. One solution could be including many villages on the periphery of the city/town to meet the need of land. However, this may make the problem more dangerous on account of transportation, water needs etc. for which more money would be needed which can’t be afforded by the local civic body. City like Mumbai gives a better method of town planning. Mumbai was provided with 2 major roads (Eastern and Western express highways and local train routes) Suburbans were established within a short distance from these. During last 2-3 decades this concept was given up and now crores of rupees are being spent on joining the area using metro trains. Probably, this money could have been adequate to join Mumbai-Pune through a 300 to 500 meter wide corridor for various services needed by citizens established on both sides of the corridor. The added advantage would have been there would no dearth of land and land prices would have settled at lower value. One more advantage would be India would have been well spread to make enemy to bombard us nearly impossible. Wider the corridor longer shall be time period to be adequate for enhanced population. It would also be possible to improve on green area and join forests all over India. Satellite township model invented approximately before 100 years needs to be modified. This should be changed to self sufficient townships on unfertile land along the corridor joining present cities. This would raise problem for acquiring land for corridor. This can be solved by not acquiring 100% land from the holdings of land owners. Take only 5-10% of the land holding and that too on rent for 999 years with a provision to extend it more. These principles shall solve this problem. If the land is furtile then for the corridor 5% should be acquired and rest should be redistributed. This means 20 times the area of land along the centre of the corridor should be considered. 5% along and both sides of centreline used for corridor and rest should be redistributed after deducting 5% in the same order as it was with reference to centreline. For the purpose of payment of the rent the owners should constitute a cooperative society with share equal to land acquired. The government every year on a fixed calendar day should value the land for each of the society and pay rent equal to the amount estimated based on capital equal to valuation of the land and interest based on bank interest rate.  This amount should be distributed further to each of the member of society by the society.

Last but the most important issue is finance for corridor and services. Generally when the government has no funds it is expected that a private party would do partnership with the government execute the work and charge certain amount to users for recovering investment and expected profit. This is popularly known as PPP i.e. Public Private Partnership. Roads joining Metros in India have been constructed using this concept. However, the citizens have been overcharged by the private participant and hence PP has been failed. It is observed that the private participant takes loan from bank for the work. Banks had to write off huge loans like this meaning finally the private participant enjoys money from banks and recovery from citizens both. Hence, this arrangement should be discarded. The government should take the loan from banks and pay to contractors in the way followed in most of the cases. If users have to pay for the same the money should be transferred using credit/debit card and the amount collected from day 1 should be displayed at appropriate location (for roads toll plazas are constructed and this amount can be displayed on both sides along with amount to be collected. When both amounts are equal contribution from the citizens should be stopped w/o any further action/delay (approval of government etc.). This way the contractor would get regular payment on time and work would be completed and services provided in the best manner.

Accommodation needed for residence, commercial purpose or industry shall get adequate infertile land on the side of the corridor. The availability being very large (probably many times the requirement) land prices shall remain frozen. Even if village population migrates it shall be as near to the rural area as possible. This would avoid JJ colonies in cities and towns. With responsibility on the town planning staff inconvenience faced by citizens shall keep reducing and one day the development shall be adequate to provide flawless service to citizens. Important aspects to be kept in mind and implemented are:-

1.      Town planners shall be held responsible for inconvenienced faced by the citizens.

2.      Town planner shall be held responsible for unauthorised construction.

3.      If town planner repeats mistake made at any place in India he/she shall be severely punished.

4.      All cities and towns shall be joined with adequately wide corridors.(Probably corridor joining towns in thickly populated areas need to be as wide as possible, to take load of high urban area growth)

5.      Land acquisition law should be modified to take care of land owners and labour dependent on agricultural land. Instead of acquiring land it should be on rent, and justifiable rent should be paid every year to the land owners.

6.      Labour in the area must be given adequate training to take up skilled job likely to be created after development.

7.      PPP being not in the interest of citizens must be replaced with bank loans.

8.      Before planning towns along corridor a study should be undertaken of existing cities and towns to evaluate need of citizens. For example municipalities don’t allow hawkers on footpath. There should not be difference of opinion that hawkers obstruct pedestrians’ path. However, it can’t be denied that hawkers exist because citizens want them. If people stop buying from hawkers there shall not be hawkers. Point is all needs of citizens either legal or extra ordinary shall be considered. Where possible alternatives could be found. In case such requirements should be ignored. Road crossings, bus stops, railway stations and similar places should be intelligently used for hawkers so that footpaths are clear of hawkers. These places also should be used for other facilities like public urinals, change rooms, repair shops for domestic appliances, service providers and alike. In a virgin place it can be planned in details and would be practical.

9.      There is an argument that common man is forced by his/her financial position to construct accommodation over authorisation. There is demand that FSI for such construction be increased and excess construction be regularised with nominal penalty. Political leaders try to project their image as supporters of common man. They forget that excess construction leads to extra population and excess consumption of facilities like communication, water, electricity etc. In order to take proper care of services local body has to incur extra expenditure. Many times adequate infrastructure can’t be provided for want of land. Politicians should first answer these questions, provide solutions without any extra cost to citizens/exchequer and then express their love to people who have not followed laws of this country.

10.  Every one in the country dislikes people living in shacks (Jhopadi). Every one wants to destroy all such unauthorised shacks. No one wishes to apply same rules to unauthorised construction. Some do make rehabilitation schemes. Initially such schemes are priced low (later price increases many folds). Such schemes are invariably planned outside the periphery of cities and towns like it used to be a practice in old India (construction shelters for certain group of people outside security wall of a village/town). It is possible to accommodate such people in regular buildings spread all over city/town and at much lower cost. There is similar need of  “Old Age Homes” senior citizens always love to stay with their children. However, due to scarcity of accommodation may have to stay in old age homes. This is a mental torture for senior citizens. This can be avoided by constructing flats on the same floor as peope from shacks are accommodated. This will give independence to both senior citizens and their children and at the same time visiting would be much more frequent. Even some rooms may be made available for preliminary medical facilities under supervision of good hospitals.

11.  There is a need to change our architecture to provide security to residents in a building. In earlier days waada/chawl system was followed in residential construction. The advantage of such system had been every one in the locality could see people going and coming out from neighbour houses. There had been disadvantage that there had been no privacy. If western system of flats is modified we can achieve both privacy and security. This would need some modifications in town planning rules. Such modification shall have no unwanted effect though.

12.  I have great belief that if town planning is modified to take in to consideration needs and aspiration of a common man, no citizen will go against nation’s laws. One more point. This is not connected with town planning but with transport. Bus Rapid Transport (BRT in short) can solve transport needs in most of the towns and in some cities too. What is needed is an independent lane for all buses and bus stop under a fly over. All other vehicles would use flyover wherever bus stop is located. People under the flyover can easily get in the bus or come out securely. There shall not be any danger from private vehicles on road.

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