The chairman of DLF , India’s largest real estate co, says the city needs an autonomous development authority.
You started working on new Gurgaon in early 1980s. Are you happy with the city or do you think there should have been a better development strategy?
Gurgaon was planned as a knowledge city. I started with the belief that once you urbanise this wasteland into a knowledge city and not an industrial city, with state-of-the-art facilities, good entertainment and office spaces, this will become a major source of revenue for the state and will change the fortunes of Haryana. Has it turned into the type of township I had envisaged? I’m afraid not.
I chose Gurgaon to build because only this side of Delhi had free land and the second reason was that there was no urban land ceiling in Haryana at that time. Fortunately, there was Rajiv Gandhi who came on the scene. I would say the greatest contribution to Gurgaon was the initiative of Mr Gandhi who was then not the prime minister but the person behind Indira Gandhi’s think tank. Arun Singh was the other person. They were not biased toward the public sector, they had an open mind. The idea was to do something which would be called a model city.
We started with 3,500 acres. After all discussions and meetings, it was agreed to let DLF do the planning. We were supposed to do the entire internal and external planning. (But) the government changed this. All the roads which you call sector roads are 60 metres now and at that time (in the original plan), they were 180 metres–wide roads. External development meant drainage, entire traffic control. All these things we were supposed to do ourselves because we put the whole thing together and then only put up the building. After Rajiv Gandhi died (in 1991), the state government insisted that external development will be done by HUDA (Haryana Urban Development Authority) but payment would be done by the private sector.
So the roads are narrower than what you had envisaged?
Oh yes, horribly–that’s why the traffic (is in a) mess these days. In Gurgaon, the public sector is woefully behind in providing services, (leading to) drainage issues, sewage issues, traffic blocks. Because roads are narrow, now you need an elevated highway. Is the government responsible for this? Hundred percent—it’s all government.
Are the people of Gurgaon doomed to live in a choked city?
This is the tragedy of government planning… archaic norms. You see, as time passes, every family will have three-four-five cars, because India is a democracy, it’s not dictatorship. Here you will find people will be prosperous, they will want to live the way they want to live.
Why does Noida have wider roads than Gurgaon?
Noida is blessed with one thing–there was never political interference with the working of Noida. The Noida authority, which is an autonomous and independent authority (had) competent, visionary people. Greater Noida was the vision of Mayawati… Visionary bureaucrats were selected and they performed their job properly. In Haryana, even today this is not the case. Even for a small building’s completion approval, you have to go to Chandigarh for seeking approvals. Why should you go to Chandigarh? Gurgaon needs a development authority–an autonomous, independent authority, which should have been done frankly in 1985 itself like Noida.
Given that experience, do you think building new townships under the new land acquisition act is difficult?
This acquisition law does not permit government to acquire land for private sector or for a city. Yes, you can do it for roads but here we are talking about development of townships. I would say it is extremely difficult but I would not call it impossible because law permits you but in a very complicated manner.
In my view, the government should have unfettered right to acquire land for public purpose and in that development of a city is a public purpose–immaterial if it is public or private. Judicial review on compensation is a different matter. But you can’t give judgment over matters like whether acquisition was wrong. In 15 years, you can’t unwind it.
What is your view on demonetisation?
It’s a great step. Ever since independence, we have been cutting corners, leading to bribes and black money. By the way, the cash system is not going on with primary basic developers because they are all computerised. Black business was always in resale. There is need to bring a law to control the brokers like all over in the world.