Centre grants ownership rights to people in Delhi’s unauthorised colonies

An estimated 40 lakh people, or about 25 percent of Delhi’s population of 1.9 crore as per the Census 2011 data, were living in unauthorised colonies (UC) in 2013

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media

NH Web Desk

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a proposal to grant ownership rights to people living in unauthorised colonies in Delhi, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar announced at a press conference today. The proposal is based on the recommendations of a committee, he said.

The Centre’s move comes ahead of the Assembly polls in the national capital, scheduled for early next year.

An estimated 40 lakh people (or about 25-30 per cent of Delhi’s population of 1.9 crores as per the Census 2011 data) were living in unauthorised colonies (UC) in 2013, as per a Delhi government estimate.


Since 1977, not a single new colony has been approved by the government, despite promises made by various leaders, with the result that the number of so-called unauthorised Colonies stood at 700 in 1993, 1200 in 2008 and 2,200 as on date.

With the ever-rising population, such colonies have been mushrooming by the day, with dwelling units being built illegally, with or without collusion of concerned officials, since on paper land cannot be sold nor any construction activity undertaken. No safety standards are being followed and no civic facilities provided.

The issue of unauthorised colonies in Delhi has been simmering for a long time, largely due to the incompetence and administrative lassitude of the concerned government authorities.

Living in an unauthorised colony has two significant consequences for residents: they cannot legally transfer their land, and service provisioning is low and insufficient. They are simply not considered to be part of the ‘planned’ city. Often these colonies have low levels of basic service delivery, especially water and sewerage.

Unauthorised colonies’ residents are also forced to ensure rent-seeking by various state actors, including the police and DDA. Given the significant number of voters that live in these colonies, pre-election promises have often included regularisation for UCs.

Genesis of the problem

Post-Partition, Delhi witnessed a huge influx of refugees from Pakistan resulting in a rapid increase in Delhi’s population, from 0.9 million in 1941 to more than 1.8 million in 1951. The refugees settled temporarily at makeshift camps, which in due course became permanent, illegal and unauthorised urban settlements.

To handle the pressing needs of land and development, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) was constituted in 1957. However, since its inception, the DDA has repeatedly failed to keep pace with the rapidly growing population — the decadal growth rate of population in Delhi is almost 50 per cent.

Multiplicity of agencies

The building laws in Delhi are regulated by more than 15 urban authorities, with overlapping jurisdictions. Thus, unauthorised and illegal constructions continued, as citizens continued to flout rules in order to circumvent the complex procedures and red-tapism.

Multiple efforts over 50 years to address this problem have failed. Eventually, the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) Laws (The Special Provisions) Act, 2006 (extended up to 31.12.2017) was enacted by the Central Government for protection of unauthorised constructions.

However, in the absence of a comprehensive regularisation framework and fragmented areas of jurisdiction of different public agencies, no tangible progress has been made at the ground level.

Since 2007, the Government of Delhi has called for applications for regularisation at least four times and compiled a list of 1639 applicant unauthorised colonies. However, there have been no formal announcements to publicise this list

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