Public Interest in Planning: A Case of Slum Clearance

Thesis Title: Public Interest in Planning: A Case of Slum Clearance

The main aim of the thesis is to highlight the nature of Public Interest in Planning through cases of slum evictions and study of post eviction activities.


  • to comprehend public interest in planning in general and specifically in India;
  • to develop framework and typologies on the type of land development for case study selection;
  • to examine and evaluate through detailed cases the nature of Public Interest;
  • to define and propose broad criteria for evaluating any proposal for public interest in planning.


Public Interest as a concept is used in various fields like planning, public administration and law. This study focuses on Public Interest in spatial planning through different approaches used to determine Public Interest in planning and developing criteria of Public Interest. Also, out of a number of activities done under the title of Public Interest, this study focuses on slum clearances and post clearance activities on land as a case to determine the nature of Public Interest.


  • Data on slum clearances in Delhi was available from 2000-2008, so the case study selected is in between this period.
  • This is purely an exploratory work hence data available was limited.
  • Due to time constraint, only few sites in Delhi were surveyed.

Need for Study

Public Interest although being an important concept, is a term which needs clarification in usage as it is often misinterpreted. In terms of operational definition, it is vaguely defined with no criteria to quantify and evaluate any policy for Public Interest.

In India, Public Interest gets defined through legal process and statutory plans. But the on ground reality shows that either such plans are violated or even if implemented tends to serve the interest of certain section if the society mainly the rich and the powerful rather than the public it claims to serve. This basically takes place due to a larger influence of the political decisions in planning rather than that made by the planners themselves.

One such provision stated by the statutory plans is the housing provisions especially for Urban Poor. Constitution of India (Article 21) declares right to shelter as a fundamental right. Master Plan Delhi makes it mandatory to provide 45% of housing in an area to EWS and LIG. But Census of India reveals that 96% of housing shortage pertains to EWS and LIG section. Contrary to providing housing we see a number of slum clearances also said to be in Public Interest due to implementation of land use plan. But many a times it tends to serve the interest of the Land Owning Agency or specific groups who use the land freed of slum for their own benefits. So, there is a need to study how decisions are made and what is the nature of this public interest and the manner in which it gets determined.

Public interest criteria specific to the case of Khyber Pass

Based on the above criteria Public Interest is one which considers the preferences of different interest groups being affected by a plan or a proposal, achieving a balance of those interests through a decision making process involving technical, dialogical, rights based and political approaches, formulating that balance of interest into legal entitlements through statutory plans and implementing and monitoring it on ground to obtain outcomes which enhances the general welfare of all the groups involved. (Author, 2016)

The planning process is based on the rational planning model which includes pre defined systematic steps. This planning process is supposed to determine public interest. But it is seen that the process has more influence of political decisions as the final plan has to be approved by the ministry and the public objection and suggestion stage is no more than a public consultation where there is no representation of poor and disadvantaged groups. A study done on the participatory nature of master plan by Shashikanth (2012) reveals that in any hearing the profile of the stakeholders include experts(38%), other government agencies(31%), NGOs(9%), RWA(5%), ward counselor (4%) and general public(13%) but no representation of slum dwellers. These flaws in the process make the plan a weak document for achieving a balance of interest. Still at some level sue to rational approach used by planners and the rights based approach incorporated in the document, Master Plan is said to serve the public purpose or a larger public interest.

There are a number of entitlements which the Master Plan provides. One such entitlement is that of housing provision especially for lower income groups and urban poor. As stated in article 21 of the constitution of India, right to shelter is one of the basic right of a citizen clearly linked with the right to livelihood. Master Plan clearly focuses on ‘Housing for All’ stating that a minimum of 45% of housing stock has to be provided for EWS and LIG.

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But the implementation shows that at a sub zonal level only 3-4% of EWS and LIG stock is present. This was well established in the landmark Arjun Camp Judgement in 2008. Even census 2011 reveals that 96 percent of housing shortage pertains to EWS and LIG. Thus this public interest was not met as the entitlements were violated. One of the reason out of many other reasons for the presence of slum is shortage of formal housing for EWS and LIG in the city. Contrary to housing provision we see a number of slum clearances which are also said to be in Public Interest due to statutory land use plan provisions. In these cases, Land Use Plan becomes as an entitlement becomes more important and dominating than the housing entitlement.

Slum clearance for above purposes basically free land for development works which are given importance, without assessing the socio economic context of the area and the legal entitlements of these people. Slum clearances usually ignore the history or the reasons for slum establishment at a place, failure of the state to provide housing to people entitled in Master Plan and it does not look at the consequences on the evictees or the impact on the context area. This questions the whole notion of PI and the manner in which it gets determined in planning decisions.

Even if we consider this slum clearance to be in Public Interest, there is a need to study and analyse the nature of this public interest, the way it got determined and whether it was in Public Interest or not.

A list on year wise slum demolition from DUSIB indicates the quantum of demolition which took place in Delhi from 1990 to 2008. Around 4 lakh people were evicted from 227 JJ cluster sites and put in resettlement colonies on the outskirts of Delhi. Out of the 227 sites of JJ clusters that were demolished during 1990-2008 , sites with number of families more than 500 were selected (25 sites) and analysed for land use from Zonal Plan 2001 and 2021 and their location on ground use was identified from Google Earth.

Location of JJ Clusters

The location shows the concentration of sites in Central Delhi ( planning zone O and D) which had more planned areas as compared to other parts of Delhi, thus saw high land price and considered fit for development projects.

Land use in 2001 & 2021 in Delhi

Out of the total 94.8 ha of land freed ( of 25 sites), 14.2 ha of land use was changed(15%) to high end commercial and residential areas. Fig 9 shows the land use change from 2001 to 2021. In 2001, Residential was 6% which was increased to 13% due to the change in land use to residential for high income groups. Commercial was also increased from 2001 to 2021 from 1% to 8% due to change of land use to shopping mall and warehouse and depot. All these changes are at a city level, which involves additional infrastructure like parking, physical infrastructure apart from what is envisaged in Master Plan. Recreational and PSP land use was decreased.

Based on the type of land use on the ground, the following typology was devised: Sites those were developed as per the land use of Zonal Plan 2001, Sites which saw a change in Land Use from 2001 and 2021, Sites which were non conforming with the Master Plan 2021 and Sites which were vacant.

The sites chosen for detailed analysis includes:

  1. Durga Basti, Khyber Pass: Case of Change in Land use presently Under Construction
  2. Raghubir Nagar: Vacant site
  3. Nagla Machi: Case of site developed as per ZP but bordering depot not in conformity with the Master Plan 2021.

Case Study: Case of Change in Land Use at Khyber Pass, Planning Zone C, Delhi.

Site is located near civil lines area (planning zone C) adjacent to Civil lines metro station. The total area of the site is 11.80 ha. The initial purpose of the land as per Master Plan 1962 and 2001 was for socio-cultural institute at city level. This land was then transferred for metro depot without any change of land use done. Instead of the depot, we now see the change of land use in which high end residential area( 6.8 ha) and shopping mall (commercial at community level, 5 ha) has been constructed. Currently the site is under construction for residential area.

Durga Basti, Slum Cleared in 2002

Khyber Pass, Civil Lines, Zone C

In 1999, 37.8 ha of land in this area was transferred by L&DO to DMRC for construction of Metro Depot for which in 2002, JJ Cluster named Durga Basti which was present at the site was demolished. But, only 26 ha of land was used for depot and the remaining land of 11.8 ha was kept for property development by DMRC according to which in 2003, there was a Land Use Change done from Socio-Cultural Institute( ZDP 2001) to commercial(Shopping mall, 5 ha) and high end residential apartments(6.8 ha).

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In 2008, MCD approved Parsvanath’s layout plan for residential area which was again revised in 2009 to provide a min of 15% of FAR over and above the proposed FAR for EWS flats. But on ground, no EWS flats have been constructed and the slum dwellers have not been entitled to these flats.

As per the special provision given by Government, 7% of the project cost can be generated through property development on lands transferred to DMRC for the project. Long term lease (50-90) yrs on land pockets, in depots etc not immediately needed for operational structures is allowed under this provision. This site is a part of such property development. Also according to the distribution of revenue generation of DMRC, 25% share is through property development and rest from traffic operations and others. But as per the statistics given in a study conducted by RITES, it clearly shows that the revenue generation is more than 40% by DMRC.

Since DMRC operates metro which is for larger public benefit and it needs revenue for metro operations, property development is needed and in Public Interest. But this doesn’t give DMRC the priority in all the cases. There are other options also available which needs to be looked at. Metro development has to be in synergy with the overall development. Since DMRC is already exceeding the permissible revenue generation limit, there was a possibility of negotiation between DDA and DMRC.

This project was not in PI as it served the interest of only a certain group rather than the interest of all the groups involved when there was a possibility of using the land for some other purpose benefiting all the stakeholders.  No need assessment was done to realize the actual requirement on the land. In this case housing for EWS/LIG was needed in the area. This would serve the interest of small group. But many a times interest of small groups also need to be looked at which might look small but at a city level may add up to a big issue.

Significance/usefulness of the project

Public Interest as a concept is a yardstick to measure and undertake all the decisions concerning citizens of an area. In planning it is an important term accountable for any planning policy or proposal made by the public authority. Although it is a contested term for its operational definition and usage, the concept has gain lot of importance in term of its conceptual significance.

  • The report shall be useful in highlighting the issues and dilemmas faced by any planning authority in deciding any proposal on a given piece of land.
  • It shall help the decision makers to understand the need of involving different interest groups in decision making.
  • The output can be a fair and just one and will help in the synergy of any development work with the planning norms and hence Master Plan.


Public Interest is related to promoting common well-being and is accountable for implementing any public policy. In planning, public interest is defined as one which equally increases the opportunity of all the people affected by a policy or proposal towards a better quality of life. Different planning theories have different views on Public Interest. In rational planning model, it is regarded as a decision resulting from a planning process. This planning process is used to prepare development plans, evaluate any proposal on the basis of the norms in these plans and coordinate between different agencies. Collaborative planning focus on discovering Public Interest through stakeholders negotiate and their interactions. Advocacy planning, on the other hand does not compel a planner to look into public interest as a general interest of all. Rather it portrays the role of a planner as an advocate seeking the interests of a group especially the disadvantaged group. Hence Public Interest in planning is open for different interpretations and usage. Although being an important term, it is also the most contested term. It is often argued whether public interest is the interest of the public( as in the interest of the state or the community) or is it the interest which is public in nature ( common to all) or is it an outcome of the public engagement in a decision making? These questions make public interest as a myth since there are a number of interest groups which are affected by any policy and reaching a balance of interest to determine common area of interest is the most difficult part. This thesis tries to define Public Interest in planning , evaluate its nature in Indian Context and evolves a framework to determine Public Interest under circumstances when competing interest groups prevail. The main argument of the study is that Public Interest is not a simplistic concept which can be just decided on the basis of number of supporter or through a purely rational model. Rather, it needs a detailed assessment of the area to consider the requirements along with a dialogical approach between stakeholders to determine Public Interest.

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Literature review of different approaches to public interest in planning helped in evolving a criteria on Public Interest. This includes balance of interests, processes and approaches involved in determining balance of interests , legal plan entitlements and outcomes and consequences. These parameters are further analyzed using indicators which if followed can lead to public interest. In India, Public Interest is determined through statutory plan making process which predominantly follows rational planning model and hence at large, Master Plan can be considered taking into account the needs and interests of different section of the society through defining different mandatory entitlements. One of the provisions of master plan is that of providing housing to urban poor. But as seen through census, 95 percent of the housing shortage pertains to EWS and LIG which has contributed in formation of slums in all cities including Delhi. Irrespective of housing provision in the plans, there are a number of slum evictions happening especially in Delhi which are said to be Public Interest on account of the land use plan. There were a number of slum evictions in Delhi between 1990-2008 on account of the land use plan where almost 4 lakh people were evicted from slums to give priority to other development projects. Out of the total 94.8 ha of land freed from 1990-2008(DUSIB list of slums cleared in Delhi from 2000-2008), 15percent of the land( 14.2 ha) saw land use change after the slums were cleared. This slum clearance has been given more importance over solving the issue of housing shortage in the city.

Survey of three different case studies demonstrated that the decision making process is not entirely following the rational planning approach. Example in case of Khyber Pass where the land was given for property development for DMRC without assessing the need in the area. Although DMRC is an organization for larger benefit and requires fund, other options were also available like housing for EWS as per the Master Plan which was required in the area (only 20 percent present against 45percent) but overlooked and not even considered once. As a recommendation, the author proposes some mandatory technical examination and criteria in the statutory framework for making amendments in Master Plan especially for Land Use Change. This proposal is then applied to the case study area to check the alternative results that would have been generated if these criteria to evaluate for public interest existed.

Main Outcomes/ final analysis/ proposals

As a recommendation, the author proposes a criteria which if made as a statutory provision can lead to results in public Interest. Delhi Master Planning process needs to be looked at under these criteria. Since the scope of this study is limited to small cases which are less complex, the statutory framework for making amendments in Master Plan especially for Land Use Change is being looked into. The criteria under this process are applied in the form of mandatory technical examination and dialogical approach is made stronger in Hearing of objections and suggestion stage. The technical examination should look into the legal entitlements and try to consider the interest of different stakeholders thus achieving a balance of interest. Also, there is a need of implementing and monitoring mechanism which can check if the proposal has been well implemented on ground and if it is in conformity with Master Plan. Finally, this proposal is applied to the case study areas to check the alternative results that would have been taken if these criteria to evaluate for public interest existed.

Keywords: Public Interest in Planning, Balance of Interest, Development Plans, Slums, Land Use Change, Slum Clearance

Author – Shreya Mangla
Guide  – Prof. Dr. Poonam Prakash
College – School of Planning & Architecture, Delhi
Undergraduate – B.Planning
Year of thesis completion – 2016

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