Shrinking Public Mandates of Social Infrastructure in the Delhi Master Plan: Planning Regulations in Changing Land Markets

Poonam Prakash, Sudeshna Mitra | 2022


Modern planning emerged as a professionalised state response to manage epidemics, regulate land speculation and plan infrastructure to cope with growth in cities. In India, Master Plans are statutory documents, associated with Eminent Domain powers and police powers. Master Plans, as statutory documents, draw their regulatory legitimacy from the concept of Public Purpose, to ensure a minimum and equitable quality of urban life. This paper examines how public mandates for social infrastructure facilities in Delhi have changed through subsequent rounds of Master Plans. As pressures on land in Delhi have deepened, along with urban inequalities, Master Plan norms for social facilities have also shifted. These reveal not only shifting goal- posts of what comprises acceptable minimum standards for social infrastructure, but also changes in the regulatory envelope, and changes in modes of delivery within the city’s land markets. The paper takes a three- part approach. The first part examines changes in health, education and recreational facilities’ standards across Master Plans, particularly those targeting the economically weaker sections (EWS) and low- income groups (LIG) . The second part analyses how implementation modalities for social infrastructure have changed, in terms of land allocations, intergovernmental roles and role for the private sector, with a focus on understanding how these relate to Delhi’s land markets and changing role of actors other than the DDA, in providing for the city’s social infrastructure needs. The third part reviews how these changes are affecting the profile of social infrastructure facilities and what they reveal about changes in the Master Plans’ approach towards social infrastructure provision, with implications for equity and access. The intent is to understand not only how the Master Plan, as a statutory planning instrument is implicated within these politics, but also how it emerges as an active terrain for structuring these politics.