Months ahead of the Delhi assembly polls, the Centre on Wednesday approved a proposal to grant ownership rights to the residents of nearly 1,800 unauthorised colonies in the national capital, in a decision that will benefit around 50 lakh people.
Addressing the media after the Union Cabinet's decision, Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri termed the move as a "Diwali gift" that will enable the residents of these colonies to register their properties, avail loans against it, and also pave the way for infrastructure development and civic amenities.
Puri said the Centre would move swiftly to execute the decision and bring in a legislation in the Winter Session of Parliament beginning November 18.
The decision "is applicable to 1,797 identified unauthorised colonies" inhabited by people from lower income groups, he said.
The decision does not apply to 69 affluent colonies identified by the Delhi Development Authority, including Sainik Farms, Mahendru Enclave and Anant Ram Dairy, he said.
Puri said residents will have the option to pay regularisation charge in three equal installments to be paid in a year.
"Any person paying full amount in one installment will get the ownership rights immediately. Provisional rights will be given on payment of two installments, which will be converted to permanent rights after full and final payment," he said.
He also accused the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party government of trying to "delay" the process. He alleged that the process to fix boundaries of these colonies was not completed early.
Puri said the AAP dispensation had sought time till 2021 to fix the boundaries of these colonies.
On his part, Kejriwal welcomed the decision but said the road map for it was based on a proposal sent by the Delhi government, first in November 2015 and then in July this year.
Addressing the media, Kejriwal said the Centre has taken an important decision on the long-pending demand of Delhiites. He said it should now speed up the process to provide relief to inhabitants of these colonies.
"The Union Cabinet has prepared the road map based on our proposal sent in November 2015. We want the central government to start the process immediately. There should be no further delay," he said.
The chief minister also asserted that in the last five years, the AAP government has invested Rs 6,000 crore in unauthorised colonies without waiting for their regularisation.
"In our suggestion sent in July, we had said mapping should be conducted by Geospatial Delhi Limited to speed up the process, but the DDA will do this work, resulting in delay in registry of houses in unauthorised colonies," he said.
GSDL, a public sector undertaking under the Delhi government, has the satellites images of these unauthorised colonies.
According to a Delhi government official, the Centre's decision to allow the DDA to delineate boundaries of unauthorised colonies will further delay the process as the land-owning agency does not have expertise in it.
"It will be a lengthy process. It is not going to be completed in one or two months. As per our rough estimate, it can take the DDA eight to ten months to delineate the boundaries of unauthorised colonies," said the official, who did not wish to be named.
A senior DDA official said the urban body will soon begin work on the marking of the boundaries of these unauthorised colonies.
"The mapping will be based on 2015 satellite imagery, and the boundaries will be mapped on to that imagery. In three months, we will complete the marking of the boundaries. We will launch a portal for people to apply by furnishing relevant details," the official said.
The decision is politically significant as the move comes ahead of the Delhi Assembly polls, scheduled for early next year, and it is likely to benefit nearly 50 lakh people.
The issue of unauthorised colonies has been figuring in the past several polls of the national capital.
Union minister and BJP's Delhi election in-charge Prakash Javadekar termed the move as a "historic decision" by the Modi government. Attacking the Congress and the ruling AAP, he said the two parties took no concretes steps to give any relief to the residents of these colonies.
"Now the DDA will complete all the formalities. This Diwali, (we) will give ownership rights to lakhs of people. The truth is, this is possible only because of Modi (Modi hain toh Mumkin hain)," Javadekar said at the Delhi BJP office.
Hitting back, AAP spokesperson and party's Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said the decision was delayed by the Centre. The Delhi government, he said, had sent the required files to regularise the colonies to the Centre in November 2015 and the BJP government sat on it for four years.
"The BJP should stop the drama and complete the rest of the process," he said, adding that if the Centre was serious about regularising the colonies, it should have brought an ordinance instead.
Residents of various unauthorised colonies also welcomed the Centre's move, but said the decision should be implemented soon and not be reduced to a "token" promise ahead of the Assembly polls.
Manoj Bisht, a resident of Kunwar Singh Nagar in Najafgarh, said every time representatives of political parties visit the colonies before elections and give the same assurance.
"Finally they have listened to the demand. But since it has been so long, this promise is hard to believe unless it is actually done," he said.