Special Townships in Pune's vicinity: Are they turning into Developer fiefdoms?

The Township dream shown by the Government and the Developers is slowly turning into reality! This supposed panacea of  quality housing, good infrastructure and the benefits of an exclusive mini city to township residents, is lined with a grey and thorny lining. Why? Well, for one, the Government has created and also implemented the Special Township Policy, but there are no clear guidelines indicating how these Townships will be managed? Will they be managed by an Urban Local Body? Most probably, but there are no guidelines on this yet. Will they be managed privately? Well, let's hope not!

As per the Special Township Policy, the government has indicated that a Township Management Authority (TMA) will manage the township and till such time that the TMA comes into existence, the Developer of the Township will be solely responsible to managing all the common assets. Of course, at a cost! No denying that fact and in fact, why should anything be free! But what is essentially happening in reality is that the homeowners within these township are now at the mercy of the Developer when it comes to defining these costs. In a democratic country, townships are increasingly looking like personal fiefdoms of Developers, the Raja and the Praja syndrome, the Landlord and the peasants! As long as the Developer remains 'reasonable', the costs will be reasonable. But the day he/she decides that the water charges need to be raised from Rs.16/kl to Rs. 39/kl, the peasants will have to pay!
Unfortunately, No guidelines exist today that defines a democratic setup of representation in this TMA, which is how small and large local bodies in India run. This democratic setup is essential to ensure a fair and transparent process that can define how these costs are laid down and possibly periodically revised. So, in a democratic country, the township residents are going to live in a beautiful, gated, quiet, clean, but an undemocratic fiefdom of a township Developer!

Another issue that this raises, is who owns the land under the Special Township? In absence of a government urban local body, the common areas like roads, environmental services and other assets will be owned privately. Then who maintains these? In a conventional housing complex development, the Developer develops the parcel of land, forms a Society of residents, Conveys the last to the Society and thus clearly demarcates the rights and responsibilities of the Co-operative Society. In a Township, there will be multiple Cooperative Housing Societies, each one using collective common amenities of the Township, like roads, gardens etc. Who owns and who maintains these? At what cost? All these and many more questions are all up in the air, tossed, awaiting a time when all will come crashing down.

In most Townships, the stucture is one layered. The homeowners are part of the citizens of the township and a township management cell of the Developer deals directly with these homeowners. In some townships, there are multiple cooperative housing societies, who are representating the homeowners and then there is the Developer who is functioning as a township manager. How are these different? Why are these different? What is the correct structure to be adopted? The primary question of who owns, who maintains and who is accountable can be answered very differently in these different organisational structures. What is the organization that the Goverment has envisaged in case of a Special township is yet unclear.

This article is a beginning of a series to highlight that there is a serious policy and guidelines gap where Special townships are concerned. These havens, incentivized for developing planned urban settlements, are turning into a cauldron of discontent. The Government needs to take cognizance of this before the pot boils over! 

Comments

  1. The issue raised here is absolutely relevant in terms of its social impact. I always wonder why do we have to develop gated communities as a counterpart of good city owned development which is common for all. Theses gated communities stand up tall n dense like a high profile area spread across a huge land..in the deprived and deteriorated surroundings though extracting and exploiting the mother city and its resources. Can these townships be linked to cities in some way..without creating strong social and environmental disconnects?

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