RTI activist procures, publishes Pune’s revised development plan which the municipal corporation was sharing selectively
The revised Development Plan for the old city limits of Pune which has been finalized in 2011 is being circulated allegedly amongst builders and others with vested interest but the citizens of Pune were not being given access to it by the PMC. A RTI activist procured a copy and put it up on his blog
Despite the Right to Information (RTI) Act and the Public Disclosures Act in place which mandates any municipal corporation to put that information in the public domain which affects the public at large, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has kept the revised draft of the Development Plan (DP) for the old city limits of Pune, under wraps. RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar has snubbed this secrecy by procuring the copy and uploading it on his blog vijaykumbhar.blogspot.in for all to see. While the PMC is fuming at his audacity, its act of secrecy of this important public document has raised eyebrows over its motive.
A DP in any urban area, which is revised every 20 years, lays out specific development and land use depending on which way the city has grown and will grow. The Development Control rules play a crucial role as they serve as a guide for giving development permissions be it of public utilities or private constructions. Since, the entire city’s plan is at stake, it definitely accounts to large public interest and hence it calls for suo motu disclosure by the PMC under Section 4 of the RTI Act. It also calls for this information to be made public under the Public Disclosures Act as well, as this Act is applicable to any city that uses JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) funds and Pune does.
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Pune’s new DP, the work of which began in 2007 has been completed in 2011. Early this year, the PMC administration handed it over to the City Improvement Committee (CIC) for its clearance after which it would be sent to the General Body (GB) as is the normal procedure. However, the DP cannot be finalized without public consultation and hence it is the right of the people to get to study it before they give in their suggestions and objections at a latter stage.
Curiously, a copy of the entire DP was given only to the head of the CIC while a power point presentation on its summary was given by the PMC administration to the other members. Citizens and NGOs have been trying to procure the copy of this document under the RTI. Some of them have also made a complaint to the State Information Commission. They argue that it is the citizens’ prerogative to know the changes in his or her city’s land use. However, the PMC has rejected all requests. What’s ridiculous is the corporators who are asking for the copy are not being given, despite being the elected representatives. States RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar, “what’s surprising is the copies of the document are in the possession of some members of the builder lobby and only a handful of corporators. Despite my consistent correspondence and meeting with the PMC officials, they refused to provide me a copy. They gave the excuse that this information cannot be parted under some section of the MR&TP Act which is an irrelevant answer. One of them actually said that if citizens get to see it, they will put pressure on the administration and politicians to make changes. This is absolutely ridiculous as public consultations at a later stage are mandatory so I decided to procure a copy and put it up on my blog.”
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Through his good offices, Mr Kumbhar has put up the entire text of the DP Plan on his blog vijaykumbar.blogspot.in. For those interested, these are the two links for the documents in the blog: https://www.box.com/s/aajmlj4emgamy243bs5e
Says Mr Kumbhar, “I have not been able to upload the maps as it is an expensive affair. However, I shall soon make colour Xerox copies and keep an entire copy of the DP Plan in the RTI library for citizens to study and refer.” Kudos to Mr Kumbhar for working against all odds to bring in transparency when the PMC was trying to hide it from public eye.
The Pune DP for old city limits was last done in 1987 after which the revised DP Plan was made in 2011 and is in the draft stage presently.
A DP lays out policies and proposals for the development and use of land in the city. It is meant to guide decisions on whether development permission should be granted under the development control rules. Since suggestions and objections by the public is mandatory it cannot be kept as an official secret document.
Why DP Plan is public document:
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(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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