The “essential” aspects of Indian urban planning are always the subject of public debate whenever our city is faced with a major crisis, such as the urban flooding we experienced recently in Chennai. As urban planning and its modern applications are painted as India’s culprit for “dysfunctional” cities, it is important to examine the roots that affect India’s current urban plan. We need to ask ourselves some important questions about the foundations of urban planning in India. Who has the right to plan the city? Why are India’s planning laws and procedures designed around them? Here is how Colonial Masterplans are still followed to develop Indian cities.
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Under Indian law, town planning is a function of the elected municipal government, but relocation plans in Indian cities are usually developed by non-representative bureaucratic agencies of the state government.
Instead of the local government, the state controlled Development Authorities oversee the development of urban planning in India without any accountability, reported The Print.
Here we try to present the reasons for this uncommon occurrence. We trace the historical background of Indian town planning organizations, explaining how the concept of “improvement” separated from town planning and urban policy continues to affect planning in India today.
Most importantly we dwell what it implies for the future if we keep following such an outdated planning system for Indian cities.
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The Authority to Plan
The governing body of Indian society underwent significant changes in 1992 with legislative reforms (the 73rd and 74th Amendments) which enabled local and regional governments to become “autonomous participants”.
The 74th Amendment authorizes voters to design and implement policies and plans for economic and social development, as well as the subjects set out in Chapter 12. Urban planning, regulation of land use, as well as planning and commercial relations are the first three topics of the 12th itinerary.
The 74th Amendment also mandated the creation of the Town Planning Commission (MPC), which selects at least two-thirds of its members to be regional representatives, to draw up development plans for large cities of over one million inhabitants.
The city area describes the plans planned by the city government. The legislative reform thus leaves the task of town planning for the municipal constituencies to the MPC responsible for planning the larger plans.
However, in many large Indian cities, it is the state-run Development Authorities rather than towns or MPCs that typically undertake urban planning in towns. The Development Department is primarily responsible for housing and infrastructure development, as well as urban planning for cities.
They are bureaucratic organizations with no local representatives or any sort of accountability to city government. These agencies, such as the Delhi Development Authority or the Bangalore Development Authority, formulate “strategic plans” to manage land use and development throughout the city every 10 to 20 years.
The Colonial Origins of Planning Institutions
Urban planning in India now has a long history in the planning and legal process developed by the British colonial government in response to the plague that struck Bombay in 1896. The British developed Indian city functions as two cities, with a “fortified” area inhabited by English and “ethnic” villages in India.
Until the outbreak of the Black Death, the British were generally concerned with the management of their colonies and the surrounding population. But as the epidemic killed around 6% of Mumbai’s population and brought the city to a standstill, government officials felt the need to disrupt and control the entire city.
The Bombay Improvement Trust was established in 1898 and has become the leader of many denominations established throughout British India. The Trust is responsible for physical planning, construction of new roads, infrastructure and congestion services in congested areas to prevent disease.
The colonial government saw overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in “indigenous” areas as a major cause of the epidemic, thus giving confidence to the power of “key areas” to destroy and repair slums.
Since then, urban development has taken place in several cities under British administration such as Calcutta, Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad, Delhi and Bangalore. The trust operated autonomously alongside the towns, which became part of the body of representatives after British Viceroy Lord Sir Rippon announced the resolution of the crisis.
The work of these trustees was made to ensure that the representative bodies could control and regulate urban development without any interference from the authorities of the chosen city. The widely scorned practice of alienating urban planning and development from local politics ultimately led to the formation of Development Authorities.
With the ascendance of the Development Authorities in recent years, legislative intervention to delegate power to the city government has failed to break down the existing bureaucratic power structure in the state. Almost 30 years after the 74th Amendment, laws governing town planning and development have not undergone major changes to reform the planning process.
Most state urban planning laws continue to comply with the Federal Urban and National Planning Act 1960, which was enacted by the UK Urban and National Planning Act 1947. This act provides for the process of middle and upper planning. It is cut by the city government and has minimal public participation.
The Limits of the Master Planning Regime
Indian cities continue to follow old British inspired standards which have in fact been reformed in the UK. Although much of the world has moved to a more robust planning process, the Indian planning administration has given the “master plan” at least in the sense that this fountain determines and manages all urban development.
However, under state law, strategic planning is often a tool for land and property management, and plans do not necessarily include sizeable activities such as transportation or the environment.
Although these zones are included in the planning document, these rules are not legally binding, just like some of the new policies. Therefore, the aim of the plan is also to subdivide the city into various functional areas such as residential, commercial, and industrial.
This difficult control-based zoning and planning process has little impact on the urban reality of India, which is characterized by strong and diverse urban areas with a mixed history. Therefore, it is not surprising that in Indian cities there is a great contradiction between the paper plans and the materials on the ground.
The “failure” objections of plans included in the planning process also identify the various “standardized” plans that allow a variety of exceptions to the planning process of rights and permits for violations of the law. Thus, the modern rationalist master plan that seeks to punish Indian cities is cut with a thousand cuts by a non-default design.
Trained IAS Officers to Loot India
The Indian Administrative, Civil and Judicial Services were created by the East India Company to administer loot of the colonies of British Empire. The East India Company College was specifically setup to train these officers. The college was founded by Charles Grant who made his fortune taking over local businesses in the aftermath of the Bengal Famine of 1770.
Interestingly, it was Lord Curzon who gave away the entire scheme. He suggested that reforms should be geared towards increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire. The Cabinet approved the statement with Curzon’s amendment incorporated in place of Montagu’s original statement.
After independence we inherited the entire British structure designed for exploitation of colonies like India. The Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms of 1919, were introduced by the British to trick Indians into believing these were the structures of self-rule or Swarajya.
McKinsey ‘s Vision 2020
In the late 90s secret meetings took place in London where the blueprint for the ‘development’ of an entire Indian state was envisioned. Called Vision 2020, the scheme was the brainchild of an American consultancy firm born out of US military – McKinsey.
It was supposed to be a role model and was to be exported to other states of India and later to the entire developing world. Although amidst widespread opposition the people of Andhra Pradesh destroyed this ‘world’s most dangerous economic experiment’ dubbed at the time as ‘the return of the East India Company’.
Ernst & Young’s Vision 2029
The partition of Andhra Pradesh provided another opportunity to revive this abandoned plan. The same project was now rebranded as Vision 2029 under the flagship of one of the Big Four consultancy firm Ernst & Young.
As fate would have it, again the masterplan ran into stiff resistance from the unflinching people of Andhra Pradesh and the government was voted out of power. World Bank was forced out of the crown jewel of this utopia, the Amaravati Capital City Project – which was later junked altogether.
The Vision for Kashmir
The significant move as we have noted earlier would have repercussions at multiple dimensions of global power. Mired in controversy in every high-profile corruption scandal in India and around the globe, we are witnessing the re-emergence of the Big Four in another Indian state. Kicked out of Andhra Pradesh, now Kashmir seem to have been their new hunting ground or if you prefer – Special Economic Zone.
At least two of the Big Four are reported to have been directly involved in the big-ticket Kashmir Development Plan – Ernst & Young (E&Y) as knowledge partner and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as media management partner. E&Y will be responsible to do the documentation of various policies, sectoral policies and other incentives available in the State.
Consultancy firm Ernst & Young has helped the officials identify areas of potential investment as well as key challenges such as land laws, poor transport, and delay in clearances that might affect the business environment. Apart from tourism and hospitality, which are the major focus, Ernst & Young has identified pharmaceuticals, food processing, healthcare, education and manufacturing as likely focus areas for Jammu, and healthcare, dairy, renewable energy, handicrafts and horticulture for Kashmir, as per sources.
Empire 2.0 – Return of East India Company
According to Australian taxation expert George Rozvany, the Big Four are “the masterminds of multinational tax avoidance and the architects of tax schemes which cost governments and their taxpayers an estimated $US1 trillion a year”. At the same time they are advising governments (including India) on tax reforms, they are advising their multinational clients how to avoid taxes.
It was reported in 2012 that at least 21 trillion dollars of worldwide ill-gotten money of their elite clients was hidden away by the Big Four in tax havens. The impact of this swindling on Indian economy and the subsequent Indian response can be read in our report – the Global War on Cash: Target India.
We would urge the keen readers of GreatGameIndia to study the corruption scandals the Big Four are involved in in India and its cumulative exposure to the Indian economy through the decades.
In a nutshell, the Big Four accounting firms are responsible for the creation of the Tax Haven ecosystem in the former British colonies from where corruption money from around the world is laundered and funnelled into Inner London – the elaborate setup widely known as Empire 2.0.