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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 27, New Delhi, June 19, 2021

Evaluating Master Plan of Delhi 2041 from the point of view of differently abled | Jeevesh Gupta

Friday 18 June 2021

by Jeevesh Gupta*

Dwight D. Eisenhower, former U.S. President remarked “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” A city plan without planning remains a plan on paper which shall never add value to the lives of its citizenry.

An in depth analysis of The master plan of Delhi (MPD) 2041 draft brings out clearly that like MPD 2021, the DDA and the government has once again failed to develop a plan which promotes equality, inclusivity and social integration.

While MPD 2041 draft does make a lot of tall claims regarding the development of Delhi and a circular economy, it nowhere tells us what has been achieved vis-à-vis promises made in MPD 2021. MPD 2041 draft mentions the following key evaluation parameters but no evaluation has been carried out for MPD 2021 on these very same parameters:

· Reduction in Indigenous Air Pollution
· Water Pollution Control
· Green Cover Enhancement
· Rejuvenation of Water Bodies Chapter code PME157
· Flood Risk Reduction
· Wastewater Reuse
· Groundwater Augmentation
· Reducing Landfill Stress
· Converting Waste to Wealth
· Share of Renewable Energy in Total Usage
· Seismic Compliance
· Safety Against Fire Outbreaks
· Share of Small Format Housing in New Housing Stock
· Slum Rehabilitation
· Shift towards Public Transport
· Adoption of Electric Vehicle
· Human Development Index
· Heritage Conservations
· Vibrancy of Public Streets
· Female Participation in Workforce

The above list of parameters nowhere mention about evaluation on the basis of inclusivity especially with respect to differently-abled. Delhi’s differently-abled were never a focus in MPD 2021 and that still remains the case in MPD 2041. Dedicated spaces for LGBTQ community, after they having got some landmark judgements giving them their much-awaited rights, are also completely absent in MPD 2041.

Delhi’s 1.2% population is differently-abled (Census 2011) and the document just mentions about some special schools, residential care centres, community centres and a line which reads, “Schemes / designs should be compatible for differently-abled person”. This lines summarises the fact that the MPD 2041 draft has been vetted legally to ensure that it sails through the test of law and doesn’t matter even if it fails to improves the life of this 1.2% population.

Mobility And Differently Abled

Apart from talking about special parking for differently-abled, MPD 2041 draft does not talk about how many streets and buildings have been designed or redesigned and made inclusive for differently-abled since MPD 2021. Our differently-abled find it impossible to walk on streets with no tactile paths and unplanned obstructions everywhere in the city. While DMRC has done some commendable work in making public transport inclusive, other bodies have shown no initiative in this direction. Despite the announcement of the Accessible India Campaign, one finds the crucial areas mentioned in the campaign including accessible buildings, transport and communication not being talked about in the MPD 2041 draft. As Murad who is a visually impaired staying in Sarita Vihar (South East Delhi) says, “I don’t even know when I will fall in an open manhole, hit a pole, trample and fall while walking due to any form of obstruction and get hurt or even die in this city”. One wonders if issue of accessibility will be missing at the policy level itself, how will we be able to make Delhi buildings, road and transport system inclusive at the level of implementation?

Schools And Differently Abled

MPD 2021 in table 13.3 mentioned about setting up school for differently-abled and a school for mentally challenged but MPD 2041 nowhere mentions where these schools were established? Setting up of these schools again gets a mention in MPD 2041! Apart from shifting goal posts, no real work has happened for educating the differently-abled population in Delhi.

While NGOs and private organizations have set up many new schools, the DDA and the concerned departments have simply failed to create any such institutions for the differently-abled in Delhi. As Manjir Gupta, founder of PORDAC (a school for autistics in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi) says, “I started this school in 2009 after I saw the learning difficulties my son, who is suffering with autism, would face at home. We keep demanding that the government sets up schools for special children but seem it only falls on deaf ears.”

Inclusive Toilets, Water Vending Counters On Streets And In Public Buildings
The London 2017 plan mentions about toilets as follows, “There are policy requirements for a range of public toilets to be provide in certain development proposals. It ensures these facilities suit a range of users, including disabled persons toilets, family facilities, baby change facilities, gender-neutral toilets and Changing Places toilets.” While the London plan talks about making accessible toilets for all sections of the society, MPD 2041 simply ignores many sections and their requirement.

MPD 2041 mentions, “Provide Accessible Public Toilets at every 500-800 M distance — preferably located close to bus stops for easy access by pedestrians and public transport users.” This promise of DDA has been copy-pasted from MPD 2021. While the statement does talk about accessibility but it nowhere mentions how many such toilets were created between 2001 and 2021 and how many are planned across Delhi to be created between 2021 and 2041. It also does not mention, how in a city where most pedestrian ways have been illegally occupied by vendors, does the DDA intend to create space for such utilities.

Availability of drinking water is yet another repeated promise being made in MPD 2041 which remains a far-fetched dream as it was promised in MPD 2021 too. Once again DDA has nowhere mentioned the progress made in providing drinking water kiosks since 2001 in Delhi.

Disaster Management And Differently Abled

While a detailed disaster management plan has been created to protect the city from earthquakes and floods but the document remains silent on provision to be made in disaster management plan for differently-abled. The ministry for empowering people with disabilities under the aegis of the central government came up with Disability-Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction document in March 2020 which should set the agenda for disaster management for differently-abled in MPD 2041 draft and the upcoming final policy document. The document completely fails in developing an inclusive disaster management plan for Delhi.

Sports & Recreation Facility For Differently Abled

DDA has created 17 sports complexes across Delhi over the years along with stadiums for sportsman wanting to practice their choice of sport. MPD 2041 draft does endeavour to create more such facilities across Delhi but it once again goes silent on how the existing and the new upcoming facilities will be made inclusive with accessible infrastructure for differently-abled to be able to play a game of their choice freely and without any possible obstacles.

The MPD 2041 draft introduction reads “The Master Plan for Delhi is one of the key instruments that facilitates Delhi’s development by assessing the present condition and guiding how to achieve the desired development.” This plan shall shape the future of our city for next 20 years and if not made inclusive and practically implementable, the commitments made will remain a unlikely reality. Involvement of communities at the stage of drafting is essential to build their trust and take their inputs in understanding what problems various categories of citizens face every day related to social fabric, water, electricity, housing, health, education, employment, transport and all other factors which should add to the happiness coefficient of Delhi. The most important question to be asked to the people is, “ what are the problems faced and what will make your life happier in Delhi?”. If this question was answered by a certain % of Delhi’s population through a survey at the initial level before structuring the master plan, this draft would have looked very different.

3rd paragraph of First page of the draft, in “ABOUT MPD 2041” reads, “The MPD-2041 is a ‘strategic’ and ‘enabling’ framework to guide future growth of the city, built upon the lessons learnt from the implementation of the previous plans.” It would have been good if DDA would have shared those learnings and achievements of MPD 2021 in public domain. For now, the MPD 2041 draft document looks like a realigned MPD 2021 with repeated promises carried forward with no accountability towards the people of Delhi.

* (Author: Jeevesh Gupta, Founder, Campaign For Differently Abled, www.colorsofdarkness.com)

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