The Sheila Dixit Govt. in Delhi has at least one major institution building achievement to it’s credit. It introduced the concept of empowerment of Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) in a big way through the Bhagidari Scheme launched by it. The word Bhagidari meant partnership and the concept intended to provide opportunity for sharing of responsibilities and power between the RWAs and the Govt. The Scheme visualized Govt. support and guidance for growth and networking of these institutions to facilitate experience sharing and capacity building. At the initial stage the scheme seemed to have achieved success and earned several prestigious awards for the so called new concept in governance. However ironically a strange twist of events started which became a perpetual cause for conflict between the Govt. and RWAs.
Some of the RWAs were already enlightened to the civic rights of their members and a larger number with the newly acquired sense of power woke up to the need of raising their voices against the Govt’s negligence in enforcing the provisions of Delhi’s Master Plan. Over the years a large number of residential areas in various colonies of Delhi have acquired commercial character leading to progressive deterioration in quality of life for those who continue to live in their residential properties which are getting surrounded by unauthorized commercial structures. When the Govt. machinery was found to be unwilling to change the scenario , the RWAs were forced to take recourse to litigation.
The dispute went up to the Apex Court and the Govt. had to repeatedly cut a sorry figure for it’s knee jerk reaction to the grim scenario. The RWAs which were creatures encouraged and empowered by the Sheila Dixit Govt. found themselves involved in a running battle with the same Govt. The continuous monitoring by the Apex Court and the pressure to catch all the violators irrespective of their status became so intense that even the Chief Minister and certain other bigwigs in her party were running for cover against notices received against their personal properties for violation of Master Plan of Delhi or building bye laws.
The Govt., from the initial stage was cowering under pressure from the law breakers but found itself helpless against people’s power. The stage managed scenes of street violence and a legally unsustainable piece of legislation could not bail it out . The Govt. was forced to mobilize all power of state to seal thousands of Commercial establishments which were functioning in violation of law.
The battle is a rather ironical conflict between the law makers and the law supporters . The process of sealing of properties has taken a heavy toll on personal reputations of several major operators in the field besides the progressive Chief Minister of Delhi who is otherwise a progressive and professional politician. At one stage Delhi was agog with rumors that the whole business was masterminded by the daughter of ruling family who was promoting several new Malls in the city and needed buyers willing to pay high prices. Similar insinuations later popped up against relatives of a key figure connected with judicial activism. The issue is still wide open . A large number of commercial establishments have closed and shifted to conforming areas and to Noida and Gurgaon. However thousands crores of rupees invested in the sealed properties remain blocked and a source of continuous pressure on city govt. to find a way out.
A recent news item says that the Govt. is coming out with a legislative solution. But the outcome of legislation in favour of desealing of offending constructions remains to be seen. For Sheila Dixit Govt. caught in the crossfire , seal or to deseal is the question that keeps it’s intellect puzzled.