Jagmohan will be remembered for NCT’s Master Plan, creating DDA and as Delhi’s best planner

‘Without writing in detail about situations involving Jagmohan and myself- I must say, not once did he allow his political considerations to outweigh administrative propriety’, writes Amod Kanth


Amod Kanth

In 1973 , I came to Delhi, almost an ignorant stranger, for the first time, to work and study with my old friends, some of them from JNU ( Jawaharlal Nehru University) campus at Sapru House Barakhamba road and some others coming from DU ( Delhi University) Campus. I lived in the hostel of IIPA (Indian Institute of Public Administration) which became the favourite joint of my friends for its inexpensive food; and we divided our time between Sapru house canteen and library.

Along with my friends who were getting indoctrinated in the JNU culture and budding scholarships alongside Civil Services preparations, I used to spend considerable time in the famous Sapru House library. The new JNU Campus was yet to come up.

While my friends from the School of International Studies were deep into their researches and highly romanticized lives, I was developing my own interest in Urban Planning and Governance. I met some scholars and the Librarian to find who was the most knowledgeable person to introduce me about the city of Delhi. Without exception everyone pointed at a bespectacled person, named Jagmohan, sitting alone in one corner of the library, deeply engrossed into some books, papers and graphics.

When I told Jagmohan my reason to meet him-just to learn about the past and contemporary Delhi from planning and public administration angle, as it operated, he put fingers across his lips telling not to talk in the library and got up asking me to accompany him. He took me to the modest Sapru House canteen where as if on cue, the waiter brought his tea set with two cups. While Jagmohan prepared the tea for two of us he asked a few searching questions about my academic background and experience. He liked my somewhat weird profile and my keenness to learn.

I was facing Jagmohan as a student and he was the teacher and task- master as we spent a highly focused 45 minutes in the cafeteria. That was my first learning about all aspects of Delhi including the brief story of Delhi's seven historical cities, which got built and destroyed- yet remained present as monuments across the 1485 sq. kilometers of the present NCT ( National Capital Territory) Delhi.

I remained associated with Jagmohan from that time until couple of years back when I used to meet him at IIC ( India International Centre) which became his second home and the main Study, whenever he had free time from his extremely tumultuous career.

When I met Jagmohan in early 1970's he was Commissioner in DDA ( Delhi Development Authority) and finally when I started meeting him at IIC recently, nearly 45 years later, he was deep into his reading and writing as a highly dignified retired bureaucrat- politician scholar. Amongst his numerous academic and policy documents the most important shall ever remain the Master Plans of the city which must adorn him as its best-known 'architect and planner Delhi'.

Jagmohan's extraordinary career, spanning over 60 years, saw extremely volatile ups and downs as the creator and Vice Chairman of DDA- the Chairman being the Lt. Governor of Delhi; himself becoming Delhi's best known Lt. Governor twice; twice the Governor of Jammu & Kashmir during its most violent and difficult times; joining active politics, between Congress and BJP - always remaining more of an Administrator than the Union Minister of Urban Affairs.

Since I joined IPS in 1974 and got allocated Union Territory ( now AGMUT) cadre working in Delhi as Dy. Commissioner, Addl. Commissioner and Jt. Police Commissioner I had numerous opportunities to face controversial and politically sensitive situations involving me on the job reaching out to Jagmohan-as a politician or as an administrator. Without writing in detail about those highly explosive situations about Jagmohan and myself- I must say, not once did he allow his political considerations to outweigh his administrative propriety.

( The writer is a retired IPS officer and social activist associated with the NGO Prayas)

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