Friday, November 25, 2005

DCR58 - Part I - The evil that men do.

The evil that men do lives on and on - Iron Maiden

On that note from an Iron Maiden classic, your author begins his series on the Bombay Mill Land verdict by the Bombay High Court. The series will run through the case of the petitioners, the defence of the respondents and finally the verdict.

My own interest in the issue stems from the fact that I’ve stayed in this city all my life and will for the foreseeable future. That’s good enough reason for me to be concerned on my quality of life, or rather lack of it, and that of my future generation. Read further only if you have similar interests.

First, a brief backgrounder.

What’s all this? It’s a Bombay High Court verdict in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by The Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG) against various groups of people.

Who are these “various groups of people”? 32 groups which included among others, the State of Maharashtra, Bombay Municipality (MCGM), National Textile Corporation (NTC), Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), 2 Labour Unions, 9 mills and 4 builders.

What is the case about? On the interpretation and validity of DCR58 (as amended in 2001), the validity of constructions commenced by certain builders (without environmental clearance) and finally – how much land can NTC sell and the area it must surrender to MCGM and MHADA.

Duh?…use English please! Some people got pissed off that politicians are giving too much land to builders and too little to the city. These people (i.e. the BEAG) felt the city is in crying need of “open spaces” and “public housing” (the key phrases!) so they went to court to fight it out.

Then what’s all this “DCR58”? That’s the legal jargon. DCR58 stands for “Development Control Regulation 58” which controls everything on cotton mill land.

Why cotton mill land and not any other land ? Because it’s large (600 acres) and because the owners want to sell it.

Why do they want to sell it? Because these mills are almost defunct after the cotton textile industry got hit by various issues like labour strikes, etc. So the Government framed a law (DCR58) under which these mill owners could sell their land, but they had to share it with the Municipality (for open spaces) and the MHADA (for public housing).

Makes sense to me, then where’s the issue? The Government amended this DCR58 and issued a clarification.

So ? In this clarification, the Govt sought to increase the land available to sell for the builders and hence reduce that for the MCGM and MHADA.

Ok…so, who are the good guys and the bad guys? Dude, that’s for you to decide. Read on to make up your mind.