DEMOLITION- Destruction or Redemption?

Vijay K. Saluja

About a decade back, demolition on large scale was carried out by MCD / DDA, on a stretch of JNU road, near Vasant Kunj . Some of the buildings housing , departmental stores, sweet shops, clinics, chemist shops etc, were made in-operational, by punching their roofs, demolishing some walls of the same, or breaking their entrances in a very shoddy manner. Ultimately, after a week of the start of demolition operation , this stretch of the road, gave an appearance of a war-ravaged zone-part of the demolished roofs either hanging in air or balanced itself at a skewed angle, lot of employees working in various establishments, rendered jobless, neighbourhood which was using various facilities & services which this area provided, suddenly deprived of these, & the owners of the demolished buildings, suffering traumas of various kind.

At that time, I had done an article under the caption`No roads lead to Vasant Kunj` which was published in the Hindustan Times.In the same, it was stated, that MCD had done a good job by undertaking the demolition exercise as the buildings scarred were unauthorized and it would apart from sending right signals in the neighbourhood would also help in making land available for widening/ improvement of this road which was expected to be heavily used by the residents of Vasant Kunj, in the times to come.

It was also hoped then, that the authorities would fix responsibility of the concerned MCD/DDA officials, who allowed those constructions to come up, so that there could be check on further growth of unauthorized construction in Vasant Kunj in particular & the city in general.
Around that time, another demolition of four storeys of a high profile high rise building – White House, at Bhagwan Das road, near Supreme Court, & in NDMC area was also carried out by the officials of New Delhi Municipal Council.

The reason for the same was that the builder had constructed additional four storeys than what were sanctioned by the local body .Lot of resources-men , materials, machinery was used by NDMC, to execute the demolition operations.

About two years back large scale demolition exercise was done at M.G Road.
Well-appointed buildings housing various leading fashion-designers were made in-operational by demolishing/destroying part of the structural arrangements in the said buildings.
These affected buildings even after two years of the operation, remain a big urban landscape-eyesore. Though, the so- termed unauthorized construction- demolition rendered many jobless! What useful purpose it served, is beyond my comprehension!? Can MCD enlighten?
A few questions come to any rational mind-Why demolition, what is unauthorized construction, what is a sanctioned building plan, what should the sanctioned plan conform to, who is responsible for ensuring that constructions are being put up as per the sanctioned plan , what are building bye-laws & why these need to be enforced in a city etc etc.??
A simple answer to all these queries, is that the main purpose of building bye –laws, is to ensure that any building which is to be put up has proper ventilation, light, in the interest of good health of the residents, has adequate structural safety, should not obstruct the lighting, ventilation of adjoining buildings , does not intrude upon the privacy of the neighbours, has adequate provision of basic services, parking & is pleasing in the urban landscape. There are other stipulations like open spaces, social infrastructure etc etc. but light, ventilation, structural safety , non-inconvenience to neighbours, adequate basic services, open spaces & aesthetics are the basic requisites which need to be met in various buildings/colonies.The officials of `Unauthorized Construction Cell`, of the local body are supposed to ensure that buildings come up in their respective jurisdiction, as per the approved sanctioned plan, which is sanctioned by the building plan cell of the same local body.

Let us see, when these demolitions mentioned earlier took place, what purpose did it serve. In the case of Vasant Kunj demolition, no improvement of the stretch of JNU road has taken place even after fifteen years of demolition, the structures which were supposed to be demolished are very much there, on that very road & the cracked roof portions are either dangling in the landscape or are now giving eerie look, & a no of hapless persons are residing in these or are operating out of those—. About the aesthetics, less said the better!

About White House at Bhagwan Das road-an important artery in the central most –VIP part of Delhi, less said the better,too!? The broken portions remain unattended & it continues contributing its mite in uglying the urban landscape right in the heart of the capital! Aesthetics- local bodies, do not have this word, it appears, in their dictionary?! What are DUAC,SPA & other leading landscape architects of the city doing about it? Perhaps, they have adjusted to the new theory of urban landscape?!

Spate of demolitions after HC orders, ensuing hue & cry, debates on TV channels, edits & articles in the papers, I hoped, might bring accountability & sanity into the administration. But I have my strong doubts. There are reports that even these episodes, prove lucrative for some people in authority!?What will they do with all the accumulated money?! The urgent need, is to bring back values & ethics into our system, before it is too late!

Therein, lies the redemption of Delhi , our cities & the citizens

Writer is Ex-chief Engineer[civil], New Delhi Municipal Council
& Convenor, Social Outreach Programme Committee
IIT Delhi Alumni Association