[Reader-list] The Akshardham files: Interview with AK JAIN (DDA)

Sabir Haque sabirhaque at yahoo.co.in
Mon Jun 27 14:16:01 IST 2005

Research Topic: "Developments on the Eastern Banks of Yamuna - its future implications"
We found ourselves very honoured when the Commissioner Planning DDA, agreed to give us an interview. The first day, he met us only for a minute, he had an elaborate office to say, with more than a barrier to get across to him. A middle ages lady introduced herself as his secretary and there other scary looking people doting his front office, such a change from immaculate feminine presence in front office of other corporate houses. He kept looking down while he was working ,and said  " I can give you only fiveteen minutes tomorrow, but don't be late", we introduced ourselves as college students making a film on role of DDA on Delhi's development. And I guess, we were pretty convincing.
We reached ten minutes earlier the next day, and went up to  the front office, It was good to see that they were awaiting us,  but with an unwelcome message that today is a holiday and Mr. AK Jain might come only for some urgent work only, so, we should not really expect an interview with him. So, we instantly rolled the camera and gave a Aaj Tak types P2C. It felt like we will unearthen some breaking news with just the camera on, and Mr AK Jain not present. 

Soon half an hour passed, and a tall guard escorted us after lots of security checks to 5th Floor, Mr AK Jain's office. We could sense that the people out there were generally excited with the camera around, what they didn't knew was that I was rolling with the tally light off. 

He seemed to be busy at the onset, but with the friendly camera around, he came out of his mould, and gave us an interview. His body language was confident, and he answered with pregnant pauses. This was because, we asked him all the comfortable questions like - why so much congestion at Delhi roads and etc  etc. 
Excerpts from the interview: 
Question: What do think, what went wrong with Yamuna? Your observations. 
Answer: Yamuna river is the life life of the city, in terms of it supplies to the whole city and is centrally situated...

But unfortunately, what happenned after the planning started in Delhi, 1957, river has been treated like a drain. Most of the power stations, flyash dumping, sanitary landfill sites etc have come up along the banks of Yamuna. Another mistake is the high intensity traffic ring road that has been constructed along Yamuna. That has cut off the population from the river which was very much connected to the river.

so, what we are doing now is that we are trying to connect the population to the river Yamuna. But Yamuna is a very  ecosensitive zone. We are not doing any building on River Yamuna. We are very careful that the quality of the river is improved. Sanitary landfill sites are removed and there are developed into parks and green and we have plan to develop river Yamuna in a big way, but basically in terms of greenery. 

Question: Have you chalked out any plans for cleaning the River Yamuna. 
Answer: We have identified four areas for river yamuna, which need very focused attention, one is the pollution control, second is the water supply augmentation, third is the flood control and drainage and fourth is of couse linking the population to the river Yamuna. 

This four areas we are working out a comprehensive plan, the implementation depends on the concerned body. 
Question: With the commonwealth Games coming up in Delhi, what are your future plans?
Answer: Commonwealth games is an opportunity to take a turn around to the city of Delhi. When we say commonwealth games, we are not restricting our vision to that, we are also aspiring to have asian games and also Olympic games. And that kind of thing. 
Question: There was this controversy regarding the commonwealth games site, do you have any contingency plan, if you are not given the go ahead at the same site. 
Answer: So far, it is happenning at the same place. But at the same time, we also  have a contingency plan. But if we have any unexpected trouble about the site. What we are going to do? This contingency plan is very internal to DDA, otherwise, if we say, the courts and the NGO will say ( that we should change the site) drop the site and go to other site. 
Which has its own problem because this site we have been working since one and a  half years. The olympic, commonwealth association have also approved based on the avalability of this site. So this will put the clock back, not only the matter of the prestige for DDA but for the whole country, if the commonwealth games are withdrawn. It will very embrassing for the whole country. 

After this initial heist of easy questions, Nidhi started treading not quite comfortable territory of Akshardham temple. And this reflected on Mr AK Jain's body language, he sat back, and his hand movement became more vigorous, he started rolling his eyes towards the ceiling and avoided directed contact with the camera lens. The trouble began as we moved on to the controversial questions of concrete construction on Yamuna bank, and the ownership conflict of Eastern Banks of Yamuna. 
The questions were : 
Question:  Don't you think, with the construction of Akshardham temple, you are channelising the river Yamuna. 
Answer: No one is channelising the river. I don't think, I don't know, where did you get the idea of channelisation. No one is channelising the river and we are totally against this, channelisation business. It is not a canal that can be channelised. It has to have its own flood plane area. 
Question: Your focus has been more on the jhuggi clusters on the Yamuna Banks rather than big players like Akshardham sect. Your comments. 
Answer: We have too much Democracy, so lots of unauthorised colonies have come up in the river Yamuna, all this Zakir Nagar, all this area are full of such colonies. And sometimes, DDA had gone for Demolition or removal of such places, there are pressures, why this poor people and this should be regularize, So we are living in democracy, we don't get 100% sucess, we cannot be dictators. But as per as we are concerned we don't allow any department either do any construction within the flood plane area. 
And it is a very complex systems, it is not only DDA, it is the body which can allow or disallow, there is a Yamuna Commitee comprising the Central water commission, Ministry of Water Resources comprising of all the state Govt. having river Yamuna flowing them. Thay have also to get approval from Urban Earth Commission. So approval are not given so easily, so every construction coming up in a unauthorised manner it is done after evaluation, government analysis etc. But many times we can't help it. Unauthorised colonies come up without any approval. 
Question: Any observation on Yamuna Pushta. 
Answer : Ya, it is all Jhuggi clusters, they were removed. They also had political patronage. But it was removed because of the order from the Supreme court for clearing the area from the slums. 
Question: Because of Akshardham temple, new bunds were erected which is a violation. This is a clear case of channelising the river. According to your Master plan, there is no mention of this new bunds. 
Answer: It is like this that the flood plane has never been defined. Masterplan has defined the 'O' Zone, Zone 'O' is a very broad area, which is not between the bunds. But as far as bunds are concerned, it is the matter of Irrigation and flood department. After a lot of analysis and studies. So, broadly whatever is between the bunds is taken up as flood plane, by the DDA. But these bunds are creation of the irrigation dept not the DDA. 
Question: What about Akshardham? Does its constructon come under your preview. How can be such a huge structure was allowed to come up on the flood plane. 
Answer: If fact, Akshardham is also under the supreme court, this thing. But as far as I can tell us, Akshardham is one organisation that has taken all the approval. Not only from the DDA but from the Urban Earth Commission, they got a detailed study done from NEERI. They have got done the studies from CWPRS, Pune, again a govt. body and they got building plans approved from the Urban Earth Commission. 
The plans were approved by DDA after they got all the approvals and far as I can see there was about two years that study is being done before the approval were allowed. 
Question: Don't you think, concretisation of the yamuna flood plane will prevent water recharge system?
Answer: I think there is lot of misconception, why do you want to do water recharge on the river bed. On the contrary, river bed is have to some....some....some....tube wells to discharge the water. So, the water table is released, because of the increasing water table. So water recharge is not the issue for river bed. 

Question: Your comments on the ownership issue between DDA and UP Irrigation dept. who exactly own the Yamuna river flood plane. 
Answer:  This is all government land, and then it is tranferred to the DDA long time back, and it was also leased out to the peasent co-operative societies long time back. I don't remember, and then the temporary lease has expired and then they were asked to vacate the river, and they vacated while other went to the court. But the lands belongs to the goverment. It might be DDA, might be some other. Some are to MCD for infrastructure projects. But no land belonging to private hands by and large. 
Question: What about UP Irrigation Department
Answer: No, UP is having some lands, UP is having some lands. 

There were more, but we have presented what is vital to our research. Now, you have to reflect on the above inteview, and tell us what you think about it. By the time we reached the end of the interview, Mr. AK Jain got really restless, and started asking where we will be using the footage. Before he started throwing more question, we were out of there. 
coming next on Akshardham files is : 
>>Sikandar Paswan's interview - who is he? a majdoor working on the commonwealth games village site. counting day, when he will be thrown out. 
>>The systematic way on how Akshardham trust captured more 30 illegal acres of land, 
>>The law, its presence or rather the absence in the Akshardham case. 
Sabir Haque
with Nidhi Bal Singh & Leena Rani Narzary
Sabir Haque
[New Media Evangelist]
35,Mashigarh, Jamia Nagar
New Delhi - 25
sabir at ndtv.com
ph no: 9891408334
Nidhi Bal Singh
nidhib at ndtv.com
ph no: 9891627733

Leena Rani Narzary
leenar at ndtv.com
ph no: 9891495886

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