Dr Ranjit Patil, MoS, urban development, Maharashtra, talks sustainable development of the state
Geetanjali Minhas | June 4, 2018 | Mumbai
A practising orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Patil is a minister of state for home, urban development, law & judiciary, parliamentary affairs and skill development for the Maharashtra government. In an interview with Governance Now, he talks about sustainable development of the state.
Mumbai has the most expensive real estate. The city is also very dense and congested. How can we develop it holistically, in a way that is sustainable?
People from other states are coming to seek fortunes in the city. After taking over the reins of the city the first priority of our chief minister was to address the city’s mobility as it has a large floating population. Around 75 lakh people travel on local trains every day. The chief minister has approved the highest ever budget of '12,157 crore for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), which looks after metro projects. Work on many metro projects is going on.
South Mumbai is the hub of all government and corporate offices; it’s where a large part of the population comes to work from the suburbs. Due to traffic, it takes hours to commute even a short distance, and parking is a huge problem. A pilot study on parking is being conducted in one ward and if what it tries out proves successful, it will be soon launched across the city by the BMC. If the larger part of the population commutes by underground trains, like the London tube, it will reduce footprints on the ground. We are confident that work on underground metro will be completed before time. For people coming to work from Navi Mumbai, the trans-harbour link will directly bring them to this part of the city. The project is being funded by JICA. The coastal road is being done by the BMC.
For affordable housing, as against previous regimes, in the last 3.5 years Maharashtra has issued multiple GRs for people who come to work here. We came out with a policy for cluster development where everyone will come together to develop multi-storied buildings with good roads. Depending on the size of road width, the footfall that will come down on the road and assessing its social impact we have allowed up to 4 FSI.
By using FSI as a fiscal tool, as per the Mumbai DP, it may be detrimental to the city. High density buildings also require upgrading besides setting up new facilities. How do you plan to do that?
It is not that there will be 4 FSI everywhere. It is subject to the condition of the funnelling of the road size. The FSI to be loaded starts from at least nine metres of road width. The amenities and facilities will be provided only with wider road width and after studying its social impact to see those who live on high floors have schools, health facilities, markets, hospitals, etc. in the vicinity. At present, fire services at many places are not able to the reach the end of the road due to congestion. Cluster development is the only solution and our policy can re-house slum dwellers and provide them with amenities, wider roads, sunlight and even apartments. At present we have to provide slums with water, electricity and other facilities, but FSI provides them good standard of living and infrastructure. Moreover, open spaces are good to socialise and reduce crime. In the island city of Mumbai with limited land we can only go vertical by increasing FSI. The Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) which was opposed earlier is now being called ‘Maha Fayda’ in Maharashtra and is a win-win situation today.
Less than 20 percent of the previous DP (1994-2014) has been implemented. Your views?
This is true not only for Mumbai but for the entire state. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC’s) financial position is better compared to other cities. We came out with a policy for accommodation and reservation applicable to the entire state. For example, if there is a 10,000 sq ft plot to be developed by authorities, say the BMC, and it is still not in position to purchase that property, we have a policy whereby 60% of land will be developed by the BMC and 40% by the owner and he will get additional FSI of 60% which he had given to the BMC. This is a win-win situation.
We think that it should be mandatory for the BMC to implement DP, have a dedicated cell, take periodical review and give inputs to the government and have proper budgetary allocations. A policy is being prepared for this.
In the last 21 years of SRA, only 1 lakh homes have been built when the requirement was for 4.15 lakh homes. There are concerns that despite existing laws being amended several times, the government continues with the old ones. Your views?
Though SRA is a MHADA subject and not with me, I see there are issues of consent, agencies involved, and competitive bids that go on for 15-20 years. We have a bill that fixes the responsibility of redeveloping dilapidated buildings; both government and private. People will be protected as tenants and if the development does not take place within the deadline, the BMC will take over the redevelopment.
Mumbai has a huge number of vehicles and road space is occupied by cars for parking. London uses revenue from the congestion tax to strengthen its public transport. What plan does Mumbai have to strengthen its public transport?
Everything cannot be done by laws. If you want the future generations to inherit the city in a better way, it has to become your social responsibility. In south ward, each family has four-five cars when there is no place to park cars. In a democracy we cannot compel anybody; therefore we came out with a parking policy.
Public transport is not good. BEST buses have been continuously running in losses. Until it becomes competitive its work culture will not change. In Maharashtra we launched Shivshahi luxury bus coaches under the PPP model, which are doing well. People are ready to pay as long as they get better service. More competition brings better service. To avoid exploitation, regulation and execution has to be under the government control. Things will vastly improve after three-four years once the metro route opens up.
Multiple agencies that work in silos and their overlapping roles make decision-making a cumbersome process. How can the government remove these administrative and infrastructural hindrances?
This requires smart solutions like the single window concept, ease of doing business, etc. For example, we are of the view that eligible people paying tax must get the right to service (RTS). The first decision of the CM was for every department to declare their 10 services as RTS. With an appellate authority, pecuniary punishment is being decided now even on RTI or they must ask applicants to address the lacunae and come back. Having accepted the complied forms, accountability will be fixed. If work is performed efficiently, disposal will be fast. In the same manner, whether it is the government or the private sector, those working for more than eight hours a day must get an incentive. At the same time, there must also be review, or work audit, so that the staff is aware that their work is being audited. Execution is the issue.
Smart city also means a good transportation system, clean water and good drainage. The municipality must also have proper and transparent billing system with real-time pictures of meters and maps of houses. ICT will speed up the work, reduce manpower, bring in transparency and accountably of services. Citizens too must have sense of responsibility towards their cities and garbage disposal.
Political and bureaucratic will, far-sighted vision with rigorous planning and implementation have made cities liveable and sustainable across the world. Where are we missing?
A hung political system is compromised and does not allow dissemination of 100% programmes. The cities have so far been developed as if there was no regulatory authority. Our CM insists on a comprehensive development plan (CDP) before green-lighting any development. Until now, talukas with populations varying between 15,000 and 25,000 were governed by gram panchayats. In a single day, all these 125 talukas in the state were converted into urban local bodies and made transparent by the chief minister: direct benefit transfers (DBTs), student scholarships and pensions are now directly going into beneficiaries’ bank accounts. All individual beneficiary schemes are now directly linked with bank accounts. This has plugged leakages and removed human interface and reduced government expenses. Health, education, employability, and banking are directly related to human development. Merely spending money will not make a difference in the system if services are not improved.
There are many retired and young people who want to work for society. Only a sense of ownership will bring sustainability. We know the ground realities and need time to bring changes in the system.
(The interview appears in the June 15, 2018 issue)
This piece is based on a previous article by the authors published in Geoforum [Elsevier] in May 2019: available online: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/ S0016718519300764?via%3Dihub
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