Male, Migrant, Muslim Identities and Entitlements of Afghans and Bengalis in a South Delhi Neighbourhood

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2. Apart from critical issues such as land, physical infrastructure, transport, the ecology and environment, housing and other socio cultural and other institutional facilities, the cornerstone for making Delhi a world- class city is the planning process itself and related aspects of governance and management.


3. The Vision-2021 is to make Delhi a global metropolis and a world-class city, where all the people are engaged in productive work with a decent standard of living and quality of life in a sustainable environment. This will inter alia, necessitate planning and action to meet the challenge of population growth and in migration into Delhi and even measures to restrict it to the extent possible; provision of adequate housing, particularly for the weaker sections of the society; addressing the problems of small enterprises, particularly in the unorganized informal sec tor; dealing with the issue of slums, both as an issue pertaining to the cityscape and of shelter; up-gradation of old and dilapidated areas of the city; provision of adequate infrastructure services; conservation of the environment; preservation of Delhi’s heritage and blending it with the new and complex modern patterns of development; and doing all this within a framework of sustainable development, public-private and community participation and a spirit of ownership and belonging among its citizens.


4. The process of planned development of the National Capital began with enactment of the Delhi Development Act 1957, followed by the promulgation of the Master Plan in 1962 (MPD-62).

5. The MPD-62 set out the broad vision for the development of Delhi and, with a view to realizing the development plan underlying this vision, a scheme of Large Scale Acquisition and Development of Land was also formulated. The aim of the latter was to ensure that the spatial pattern of development, and use of land, could conform to the development plan, and infrastructure and services could be laid out to match the same. At that early stage, the process of planned development was envisaged as a public sector led process with very little private partic ipation in terms of development of both shelter and infrastructure services. The philosophy of public sector/government led growth and development process continued in general till the process of economic reforms was initiated in the early Nineties. Therefore, the Master Plan 2001 (MPD-2001) also substantially reiterated the planning process, which had been outlined in MPD-62. These plans could be seen mainly as Land Use Plans with a three level hierarchy of the Master Plan, Zonal Plans and Layout Plans for specific development schemes within each zone

6. The Master Plan 2021 would be the first plan of the 21st Century and, considering the limited land area of Delhi, there would be limited scope thereafter for pure new urbanization and the related spatial development and land use planning. It is necessary, therefore, to briefly review and analyze some of the achievements, shortfalls and difficulties during the implementation of the MPD-62 and MPD-2001 at this juncture. Such an exercise should be seen as introspection, which could lead to the development of sound basic policies and strategies, which should inform both the Master Plan and the methodology of its implementation.

7. Some of the broad parameters in the light of which a review could be usefully done would relate to the extent and validity of population projections, quantum of land needed for development as per the Plans and the extent to which this actually became available, quantitative and qualitative targets for the development of shelter and the required infrastructure services and the actual achievements in this regard, and other important developments which were not anticipated, but impinge heavily on the entire process of the planned development of Delhi.

8. The population of Delhi in 2001 was 137.8 lakhs as against the MPD-2001 projection of 128 lakhs. This has had its inevitable implications and impact in terms of shelter, including squatter settlements, and other infrastructure facilities, etc.

9. As regards the actual acquisition and development of land, studies made for the preparation of MPD-2021 show that there have been large gaps between the area targeted for, and/or actually acquired, as also between the area acquired and that, which could be developed. This has had implications, at one level, in terms of shortfalls in the planned development of shelter and allied facilities and, at another, in terms of the growth of unauthorized colonies, particularly on lands which may have been notified for acquisition but could not actually be acquired. In turn, this position is indicative of limitations of resources- financial, physical and human, on the one hand, and of the procedural and other difficulties, bottlenecks and delays in the process of land assembly for the purposes of Planned Development, on the other.

9.1 Another vital aspect stemming from the whole scheme of declaration of large areas as Development Areas, under the Delhi Development Act, coupled with the scheme of large scale acquisition and development, is that no constructio n can be done by any person or organization without the approval of the DDA which, in turn, has not been possible largely because of non-submission of proper layout and development plans etc. This has also been substantially responsible for the growth of unplanned and unauthorized colonies. Some issues that arise for consideration in this backdrop are:-

i) A review of the scheme of large scale development and acquisition and its relevance in the present context;

ii) Development of alternatives options for develop ment of areas identified for urbanization in MPD-2021 without having to depend upon acquisition and development of land by the DDA or any other public sector authority:

iii) Evolving a system under which planning for, and provision of basic infrastructure could take place simultaneously with reference to (i) and (ii) above; and

iv) Generally involving the private sector in the assembly and development of land and provision of infrastructure services.

10. One of the most important aspects of planned development pertains to the provision of adequate, and well provisioned, shelter and housing for the different categories of inhabitants of the city. The studies carried out for the formulation of MPD-2021 have revealed quantitative and qualitative shortages and deficiencies in this regard. The provision of shelter has been predominantly in realm of the public sector. The limited participation of the private sector in the development of housing has been through the medium of co- operative group housing societies, who are being allotted land, mainly in the urban extension areas by the DDA. There are obvious limitations to the extent to which housing can actually be provided by public sector agencies alone, and there is an urgent need to see how the involvement of the private sector in this sphere can be significantly stepped up. In turn, this should also be seen in concert with the involvement of the private sector in land assembly and development.

11. Two major challenges which have emerged in the wake of the developments outlined above relate to the phenomenon of unauthorized colonies and squatter / jhuggi jhompari settlements. Both these will require planned measures, not only to deal with these phenomena in their present manifestation, but also in terms of future growth and proliferation.

12. The exercises done for the MPD-2021 also show that there is a need for redevelopment, and even densification of the existing urban areas, both in terms of improvement of the housing stock and increasing the capacity to host additional population, as also with reference to overall urban design and city improvement. This aspect would need to be a major component of the new Master Plan, and a comprehensive redevelopment strategy for accommodating a larger population, strengthening o f infrastructure facilities, creation of more open spaces, and generally with reference to urban design, would need to be developed and implemented. An important aspect which needs consideration in this context is the need for re-densification / intensific ation and redevelopment along the MRTS corridors, so that the synergy between work and residences and, generally, between transportation and urban development could be achieved.

13. Another important development observed during the period of the last Master Plan is the unanticipated phenomenal growth of automobiles in Delhi. This has resulted in a variety of serious problems pertaining to congestion, pollution, safety of travel, etc., which will need to be squarely addressed.

14. It also needs to be understood that the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi has a total area of only 1483 sq. kms. and is surrounded by the States of Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Keeping in view the fact that the NCT of Delhi would always act as a magnet for the people from all over the country, apart from the fact that there is a sizable requirement of land on account of its being the seat of the National Government, the need for a concept of the National Capital Region (NCR) was recognized even before MPD-2001 was promulgated and the National Capital Region Planning Board Act was enacted in 1985. The logic underlying this would be self evident i.e. to see that the development of Delhi should be seen in a spatial context going beyond its geographical boundaries in a seamless manner, inter alia, to ensure that the core of the NCT could be developed as a sustainable world-class city and, at the same time ensuring proper planning and development in the adjoining regional areas. Apart from assessing the physical aspects of what may have been achieved in the light of these goals, it would also be important to see whether the existing statutory provisions are adequate to realize the basic objectives underlying the concept of the National Capital Region.

15. The NCT of Delhi had been divided into 15 Zones from A to P, of which 8 Zones are in the urban area, one in River bed and remaining 6 in the rural area. So far, Zonal Plans in respect of 7 zones have been notified by the Government of India, whereas in the case of number of others, which also include Urban Extension areas like Dwarka, Rohini and Narela, the complete Zonal Plans remain to be notified and the process of planning and development has been carried out through change of land use etc., in terms of specific development plans that may be prepared for specific areas within these zones. There are reasons for this, but there is, nevertheless, a need for a methodology by which the Zonal Plans can be expeditiously prepared in the context of MPD-2021 in a manner which would be conducive to their actual and timely realization.

16. Another important development of which cognizance would need to be taken at this stage, pertains to the need for the involvement of the citizenry, through their representatives, in the process of planning. Therefore, at a procedural level, which would also necessarily have substantive implications, steps would have to be taken to involve the local representatives and institutions at the appropriate level in terms of the hierarchies of planning mentioned earlier.

17. The experience of the past two Master Plans also shows that while projections regarding various basic infrastructure services have been made with reference to the population growth projections and the related increased urbanization requirements, there has been very little practical convergence between the Master Plan and the actual development of infrastructure services. An important element would, therefore, have to be brought in to bring greater convergence between these two aspects, particularly in the areas, which would be taken up for fresh urbanization.

18. Finally, there are two important aspects pertaining to the actual implementation of the Master Plan, note of which would need to be taken. Enforcement of the Master Plan provisions is an area which will require much more focussed attention at all levels. One aspect of this pertains to the legal framework and actual implementation and enforcement of the legal provisions. The other aspect relates to the practicality and current relevance of some of the provisions in the Building Byelaws, etc., and the need for flexibility so that the provisions of the Master Plan do not themselves become a stumbling block or otherwise leave scope for their violation.


19. Democratic procedure and statutory obligations require that the Master Plan be prepared after obtaining the views, suggestions and objections of the public. Keeping this in view, extensive consultations were done at the pre-planning stage with the people, local bodies, government and public sector agencies, professional groups, resident welfare associations and elected representatives, etc. over a period of nearly five years, through a number of seminars, conferences, etc.

20. The Ministry of Urban Development & Poverty Alleviation also issued the Guidelines in July 2003, for the Master Plan for Delhi 2021.The Guidelines were widely disseminated through the Media, Resident Welfare Associations, Traders Associations, Experts, Professional Bodies and individuals with a view to get suggestions from public. Nearly 2000 responses were received, which have duly been considered.

The indicative Perspective plans of infrastructure services prepared by the concerned agencies are annexed with MPD- 2021, which are subject to finalisation and approval of competent authority.

21. The Master Plan can be seen as an elaborate set of do’s and don’ts, and its success depends on conversion of the policies and strategies outlined in it into time bound development and action plans, periodic reviews and close monitoring, and on the people’s will and willingness to adhere to discipline in the use of land, roads, public space and infrastructure.

1 Many researchers have held up the Act as ineffective. E.g. Goswami, (2009)

2 The Bangladeshi/Bengali Muslims are the most prominently labelled as such, particularly in the context of Delhi. E.g. Ramachandran, 1999; 2003

3 Among these the Afghans are the most numerous (UNHCR Global Appeal -India 2011) but this is the second wave of Afghans seeking refuge in Delhi the first wave being around the 1980s during and after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. There are also asylum seekers from other West Asian countries like Iran and Iraq, African countries like Somalia and Asian countries like Myanmar (personal interviews, UNHCR).

4 Researchers (Dupont, 2004; Dutta, 2011) have long commented on the variegated socio-spatial organisation of Delhi describing it variously as a ‘mongrel city’ (Dutta, 2011:752), ‘a city without spatial continuity’ (Dupont, 2004: 158) and so on. The south has been primarily envisioned as a middle class area with government colonies and resettlement colonies constructed since the early fifties through and in the Master Plans of the Delhi Development Authority(Ibid.).

5 Auto drivers See for instance: Bhan, 2012.

6 Dialects of Bengali, my mother tongue, vary regionally but also, are marked by one’s class. See also section 4.1.i, particularly footnote 24.

7 Lajpat Nagar is home to one of the most popular markets in South Delhi—a mix of street vendors and established shops.

8 Identifying voluntarily as a Muslim is of course possible, but in a social context where a Muslim-sounding name disqualifies you as a legitimate candidate in jobs (Thorat and Attewell, 2007) or as a property renter (Hashmi, 2009; Bawa, 2009), it implies certain ramifications of ‘being Muslim’ that cannot be explained away only through identities of affinity.

9 Although one respondent did say that people who come to work here are from, among other places, Bangladesh (‘odik’ which would translate as ‘other side’), no one admitted to being from Bangladesh and this was not explored any further because it did not elaborate on the research question. Ethnographic research on Bengali migrants in Delhi reveals discrimination based on the alleged ‘illegal Bangladeshi’ label (Ramachandran, 1999, 2003). Thus, directing queries about identity along those lines would be reinforcing an unimportant distinction used to extort from and harass Bengali speakers engaged in the informal economy in Delhi.

10 ‘Didi’ in Bengali denotes elder sister. The term when used by (adult) strangers denotes the double bind of closeness and respect. Even though I was probably younger than most of the men I interviewed they would use the term didi (as opposed to ‘bon’ meaning younger sister): probably as an acknowledgement of my position of authority over them as someone belonging to a higher class and often, also, a paying customer of their service.

11 In a judgement reversing the Municipal Corporation of Delhi’s (MCD) upper ceiling to the number of rickshaws, the Supreme Court of India characterized the rickshaw-pullers as ‘weak and meek’ advising the MCD to ‘take on someone its own size’ (Times Of India, 2012).

12 Anindita Ghosh (2006) writes that Bengali became an arena for contestations of power from the eighteenth century onwards. The standardized Bengali written and spoken language emerged along with the new class of Hindu, western educated, middleclass which attempted to rid the language of its colloquial forms came to be seen as a mark of the lower classes. Even today Bengali is fragmented by regional dialects as well as class, and my respondents did not speak the same language as me.

13 Refugee card holding individuals can study in both schools and universities. However, private institutions often refuse to recognize these cards, issued by the UNHCR. Furthermore, as refugees they have limited mobility, often being confined within Delhi. Hotel owners and government officials, particularly outside Delhi, often do not accept the refugee status card as a proof of identity (personal interviews with Anwar and Asif).

14 Much has been written about the ethnic divisions fuelling conflict in Afghanistan, especially in the context of US invasion of Afghanistan. However, Brasher’s (2011) analysis reveals how the fixity of such ethnic categories in Afghanistan, is fairly recent and the result of historical events. ‘The localized, ambiguous and fluid state of identity formation was significantly altered by the communist revolution, Soviet invasion, and resultant widespread mujahideen resistance’ (Ibid. 112). Whereas the ‘Soviet-backed Communist regime officially recognized eight nationalities’ a more recent survey has identified fifty five (Ibid).

15 My respondents were mostly silent and reluctant to respond directly my questions about discrimination on the basis of being Muslim and whether that led to stereotypes about Bangaladeshi immigrants. However, in course of my interaction with Bengali Muslim waste pickers through my work in an NGO, I was repeatedly told about police harassment based on such stereotypes (see also: Dalmia, 2009).

16 The message (in Hindi) also exhorts the residents to report ‘suspicious persons’ and ends with the salutary ‘Jai Hind!’ or ‘hail to India’ in a scary association with the Hindutva rhetoric. These messages are particularly noticeable because of their complete absence from the nearby, busier Lajpat Nagar market where the cautionary messages pertain to warnings about pickpocketing and other similar messages for the consumers.

17 A casual chat with one of my Hindu neighbours revealed this to be true. In course of a conversation I mentioned Afghan restaurants and he commented on the rising number of ‘these people’ and expressed his fears for security.

18 Exception to this silence came during an informal conversation during a rickshaw ride, where the rickshaw-puller, on being asked if it was difficult to drive rickshaws during the fasts of the Ramzan, vehemently exclaimed that he was Hindu.

19 The Article 3(1) of the Section 481 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act (1958) stipulates that a rickshaw puller must be the rickshaw owner and a person can own only one rickshaw (with exceptions in case of physically challenged persons and widows, in which case they are allowed to own upto five rickshaws) (See: Kishwar, 2001). However, from the primary research it emerged that most owners, from whom the respondents rented, possessed dozens of rickshaws.

20 Cycle vans are a rural form of transportation, absent from cities

21 Hartal literally translates as ‘strike’ in English. However, hartal in contemporary politics of India (and West Bengal) can connote more than just peaceful civil disobedience and assume the form of forceful shutdowns and violence in a show of power.

22 As a masters student myself, I felt awkward at this wide gap in our economic status in spite of the same educational qualifications.

23 ‘Apni’ and ‘tumi’ both translate as ‘you’ but differ in degrees of respect indicated, much like the French ‘vous’ and ‘tu’

24 He asked me whether I would be able to teach at primary level schools when I rejected his proposition to work in a factory

25 This, in practical terms, problematizes Connell’s separation of ‘subordinate’ and ‘marginalised’ masculinities within the Indian context. (Section 2.4)

26 He used the Bengali word ‘poribar’ which might indicate ‘wife’ as well as ‘family’

27 To make the mind lighter.

28 Literally: ‘ancestral piece of land’

29 However, there are other dimensions to this picture. Stillwagon’s (2011c) research shows there are Afghan girls ‘studying to be doctors’ while also earning for their families, for instance

30 Feminist researchers such as Diane Elson (1999) have long demonstrated how women’s reproductive and care work in the domestic sphere have been relegated to the realm of unproductive and not considered labour.

31 India is not a signatory to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951).

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