Digitisation of land records can help in reclaiming illegally encroached footpaths in Delhi, but eminent citizens also need to speak up and cooperate with the government in awakening civic consciousness of citizens, Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri has said."Hawkers have encroached the footpaths. If not hawkers, then the residents and colonies have encroached on them," replied the Minister to a query on the fast disappearing footpaths across Indian cities and towns at a special lecture "2022: The India We Seek", organised jointly by the Society for Policy Studies and India Habitat Centre on Thursday evening. "Encroachment (squatting) is happening in the best of residential colonies. Everybody wants to come, everybody wants to encroach. To awaken the civic consciousness, I would like eminent citizens to come up, write about it and shame them," said the Minister, a former top diplomat, who has been India's Permanent Representative at the United Nations, on the concern that there is no place to walk in the city."The emphasis of current policy is non-motorised transport, footpaths, cycle tracks, etc. etc.," he said of the government's vision for Smart Cities that is in the pipeline.
Puri said the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has no clue about how much land they have as their land have been encroached and their land records are yet to be digitised. "They didn't want to be digitised because it suited a lot of people, but one of my most satisfying moments has been that I have got the DDA float a tender for its digitisation," he said.Once the land records are digitised, it will be difficult to encroach land. It would also help in identifying the land that has been encroached, and when was it encroached, as it will have satellite imagery from different time periods like 1970, 1980 and 1990. "You can prove it in two minutes that this is encroached land. We are getting there. But we need more citizens to speak up," he said.He said: "The Master Plan has been violated with impunity. The fault lies both with the people who are supposed to safeguard its provisions, as there has been widespread corruption, and the who people have encroached land including footpaths, building beyond the permissible limits, creating urban slums."Stating at the outset that India's cities have almost become "unlivable" with their pollution and civic chaos, Puri said the government will shortly come out with a comprehensive plan to address the urban mess that has happened in the last 10-15 years.