Nearly a decade ago, Anees Ahmed, 33, invested ₹ 6.75 lahks in a group housing company that bought land in a village designated as part of the Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA) Land Pool Policy (LPP). While Mr. Ahmed took out a loan to pay for his investment, development work under the LPP – in which the DDA plays the role of facilitator – never got off the ground. “If I had invested in a trusted bank, my money would have doubled. I paid my loan with great difficulty and did not recoup my investment. Even today, the DDA scheme has yet to be implemented,” said Mr. Ahmed, who works at a private company.
Twice signed up, in 2013 and 2018, the land pooling policy aims to provide 17 lakh housing units – including five lakh units for economically weaker sections – for a population of about 80 lakh people. Despite multiple policy changes, the policy has not yet been implemented. Like Mr. Ahmed, many who have invested their hard-earned money into the scheme through group housing companies continue to pay their dues to no avail. Many who supported when the policy was first rolled out in 2013, hoping to own a home one day, told The Hindu that the agency’s failure to implement the plan had taken its toll. Currently, 104 villages – divided into six zones and further subdivided into 129 sectors – have been identified for land pooling.
Under current policy, the owners or developer entity can use 60% of the land to develop residential and commercial facilities. The remaining 40% of the land must be ceded to service agencies, such as the DDA, for infrastructure such as road networks, sewers, and building parks. Ram Krishna, 47, a government official, had invested ₹20 lahks in the LPP, using his savings and a bank loan. “When I invested in 2013, I hoped, like many others, to have a house in 2015 or 2016. Instead, many like me pay off the interest on their loans without any returns. It’s stressful to have to wait all this time while the plan remains at a dead end,” said Mr. Krishna.
The DDA has struggled to implement the LPP on-site due to an eligibility requirement requiring 70% of the pooled country to be contiguous and the minimum participation rate to be 70%. Although the urban agency has reached the minimum participation rate in several sectors, the minimum adjacent land condition has yet to be met in each industry. To break this deadlock, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs proposed some changes in March this year. These include mandating land pooling and empowering the Center to lift the eligibility condition requiring a 70% participation rate.
However, many early investors believe the scheme will not be implemented soon. Former DDA Commissioner (Planning), AK Jain, echoed the respondents’ concerns. He said neither the proposed changes nor the DDA’s recent move to issue conditional notices to form consortia of landowners to help meet eligibility criteria would revitalize the scheme. “The role of the DDA should be planning and creating infrastructure and not that of facilitator. The agency must be directly involved in the implementation of the policy. The authorities have misled the whole policy. It needs to be reworked from the ground up. In so many cases, the lifelong savings of people who invested in the scheme have drowned,” said Mr. Jain.
He added that authorities have to admit that the policy is a failure. However, a senior DDA official said the city agency has always warned home buyers and investors about fraudulent practices by certain developers, adding that no developer has been authorized to start development work under the LPP. “The policy has always been clear. How can home buyers form a housing association without meeting the scheme’s eligibility criteria? They blame the DDA for putting the failure on someone. The investment was based on their choice and interest,” said the senior DDA official.
Since the DDA opened its land pooling window in February 2019, a total area of 7,275.45 hectares has been registered out of 6,922 applications. At the end of May, the urban agency opened the application window to rekindle interest in the LPP among potential investors. However, only 19 applications and 12.6 additional hectares were registered in the scheme during the last extended per-application period from January 24 to February 28 this year.