Express press service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala Urban and Rural Planning (Amendment) Bill 2021 – which will be tabled in the assembly on Monday, October 4, 2021, to make amendments to the law passed in 2016 – could deprive local bodies of their powers to participate in the dynamic process of planning and development. Experts also point out that the bill goes against the spirit of decentralization of powers envisioned in the People’s Plan (Janakeeyasoothranam) campaign introduced by the left.

Jacob Easow, a former Supplementary Chief Planner, told TNIE that the 2016 Amendment Bill, if passed, will reduce the freedom of local elected bodies to plan development. “The amendment will bring bottlenecks to the development process of the five-year democratic system in Kerala. It also goes against the suggestions of the Rebuild Kerala development program, although the suggestion to revise the Kerala land use planning act is part of the Rebuild Kerala initiative,” he said.

The proposed amendment suggests omitting the provision for an implementation plan from the master plan, and instead including a priority action plan. Indeed, the master plan/prospective plan/long-term plan covers a period of 20 years, while the executive plan or medium-term plan/medium-term plan covers a period of five years. Within the framework of the execution plan, the elected local communities can solve urban problems or alleviate the miseries of the populations by appropriating a project.

It will take years to get the master plan approved as it is a tedious exercise involving a multitude of legal processes. To sanction the plan, approvals are required from more than five offices, such as the district planning and land use planning office, the district planning committee, the chief planner’s office, and finally the secretariat and the government. As a component of the master plan, the priority action plan becomes very rigid and static.

In addition, he will have to go through all the cumbersome formalities and the long legal process that the master plan takes. “This will not only strip the powers of local elected bodies every five years, but remove the spirit of decentralized planning and its principles. It will not help to rebuild a new Kerala but rather lead to deterioration of Kerala,” said an official who was part of the exercise.

The official called the decision “administrative smuggling.” Additionally, a sub-committee formed to write the proposal undermined the power of the district planning committee. The proposed amendment also overemphasizes the chief town planner, officials said.

The law project

The Kerala Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Bill, 2021 has been drafted to avoid delays in the preparation of master plans and to incorporate measures in land use planning due to natural calamities.

The government has approved in principle the Kerala Planning Amendment Act 2016.

The 2016 law was enacted replacing a 100-year-old UK law just five years ago.

In the new bill, it is proposed to omit the provision relating to the execution plan. Instead, a provision for the priority action plan, within the framework of the master plan prepared by the local body concerned, should be incorporated into the law.

The reason given is that there is a long legal procedure to sanction the execution plan.

The priority action plan requires the same sanction procedure as that of the master plan.

The implementation plan covers a period of five years while the master plan covers 20 years.

By omitting the implementation plan in the Kerala Land Use Planning Act 2016, local bodies risk losing a great opportunity to act as self-governing local governments and ensure good governance.