The NCR is officially spread over 55,083 square kilometres of area, 25,327 sq km of which lies in Haryana.
Basically, 45.98 per cent of the NCR lies in Haryana compared to Uttar Pradesh’s share of 26.92 per cent and Rajasthan’s share of 24.41 per cent — which, in real terms, means loss of control over territory under administration.
The National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) in its 41st meeting held on Tuesday (12 October) under the chairmanship of Union Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri has reportedly approved the Draft Regional Plan 2041 which has been in the works for the last two years.
While most media reports have focused on some noteworthy goals of the plan such as a slum-free National Capital Region with air ambulance facility and high-speed multi-modal connectivity through helitaxis, road, 30-minute Mass Transit Rail System to nearby cities in the region, super fast trains, inland waterways, promoting electric mobility infrastructure, emphasis on water, air quality improvements, urban regeneration, ease of living, etc, an aspect that hasn’t received much attention is the delineation of the NCR itself, which was being pushed by Haryana.
The NCR is officially spread over 55,083 square kilometres of area, 25,327 sq km of which lies in Haryana. Basically, 45.98 per cent of the NCR lies in Haryana (14 out of 22 districts) compared to Uttar Pradesh’s share of 26.92 per cent (consisting of eight districts) and Rajasthan’s share of 24.41 per cent (consisting of only two districts).
The national capital territory of Delhi, which is the core, accounts for 2.69 per cent area only.
Though, when it comes to the population of NCR, Haryana‘s share is third after Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi.
Thus, it may be surprising for some that the Haryana government was lobbying with the NCRPB to decrease its share of NCR when previous governments have done the exact opposite.
Originally, when the NCRPB Act was passed in 1985, only four districts of Haryana were fully considered as part of NCR — Sonipat, Rohtak, Gurgaon and Faridabad.
Apart from these, only the tehsils of Panipat (Karnal district) and Rewari (Mahendragarh district) were included. Of course, some tehsils that were part of aforementioned districts later became districts in themselves (such as Jhajjar in Rohtak, Nuh in Gurgaon, Palwal in Faridabad etc), the area got expanded even further to far flung areas such as Jind and Bhiwani districts.
The idea was to benefit financially from the development projects that the NCR area would get for which finances will be shared between states and the Centre.
In July, the Haryana government sent a proposal to the NCRPB to reduce the NCR area in Haryana from 25,327 sq km to 8,281.60 sq km, i.e. by one-third.
It proposed that under the revised delineation of the NCR, only the area falling within the 50-kilometre radius from the centre of NCT Delhi be covered under NCR in addition to the extent of NCR along national highway or expressways with one-kilometre-wide buffer on both sides within the existing NCR along with extension along national highways 44 and 9 up to Hisar and Ambala respectively (which are counter magnate areas of NCR).
However, the NCRPB seems to have rejected this radical proposal. Rather, NCRPB has finalised NCR as a contiguous circular region of 100-km radius from Rajghat in Delhi. States will be free to include or omit tehsils lying partly within the 100-km radius.
Apart from this, beyond the 100-km radius and up to the current NCR boundary, all notified cities/towns along with a corridor of 1 km on either side of connecting Expressways/National Highways/State Highways/Regional Rapid Transit System will be classified as NCR.
So, Haryana’s one suggestion has been partially accepted.
To put this in perspective, here is a map of NCR with different radii as initially approved in 2005 (cities in red are counter-magnate areas):
And below is the current NCR map. Many new districts were added over the years — Jind, Karnal, Bhiwani, Charkhi Dadri, Mahendragarh, Palwal in Haryana, Bharatpur in Rajasthan and Shamli, and Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh.
Already, the NCR circle was crossing the radius of 150 km, which Bharatpur further stretched. Between 2011 and 2018, the NCR area increased by almost 61 per cent with Haryana contributing the most.
It had 13,413 sq km of area under NCR originally, which increased to 25,327 sq km in 2018.
Now that consensus is emerging over a 100-km radius, the NCR map of 2041 draft plan will look more like the original draft plan of 2021.
But with one major difference — NCR will not be a circular area but somewhat like a chakra of 100-km diameter and spokes in the form of highways, rapid rail extending up to far flung nodes like Hisar, Karnal, etc.
But what’s the reason for the rethink? One can understand that the Centre‘s rationale for delineating the NCR for targeted development of priority areas, but why is a state like Haryana, which actively lobbied in the past to increase the NCR area, is now batting to reduce the same?
It seems that the drawbacks of being in NCR have probably started outweighing the benefits accruing earlier due to this coveted status.
As mentioned in the article above, one of the reasons why states wanted more districts added into NCR was to not only get more infrastructure projects approved by the NCRPB but also to get loans from it at low interest rates.
Another reason was to get projects like Regional Rapid Transport Systems (RRTS) into their cities so that there is better connectivity to a host of cities to Delhi — something that gets really good traction among voters.
However, the eight RRTS projects which were approved in 2009 as part of the Functional Plan for Transport 2032, construction for only three of them could finally start in 2019.
The future of the rest five projects still hangs in limbo.
Another reason why the craze for adding more districts in NCR found popular support on the ground was that people thought this would increase the market price of their agricultural land.
Of course, this would’ve happened had the development taken place at a fast pace in these areas, but their dreams of becoming the next Gurgaon or Noida have fallen flat.
Moreover, the loans received for infrastructure works aren’t enticing enough as they would’ve previously thought. For instance, loans sanctioned for various works for Haryana between 2012 to 2020 are worth Rs 7,431 crore out of which loans worth Rs 6,134 crore have been released (until March last year).
To put this in perspective, the Haryana government earned Rs 6,792 crore from taxes on liquor sales in 2020-21 alone.
But what’s the downside of being in NCR? Pollution provisions have become a big nuisance in the recent past. Last month, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had requested the Union environment ministry to make implementation of pollution-control provisions district- specific rather than applying them to the whole of NCR.
Khattar reasoned that these regulations should be ‘applied within the 10-kilometre radius of the national capital territory of Delhi or within the 10-km radius of cities having 10 lakh population or as per the district specified‘.
It’s not just about the environment. Consider land use regulations for NCR.
Section 10(2) (a) of the NCRPB Act, 1985, states that the Regional Plan shall indicate “the policy in relation to land use and the allocation of land for different uses”.
How the land in NCR is to be used for various purposes is decided by the planning board. Even though inputs of states are taken, there is definitely a problem of loss of sovereignty of chief ministers in how to best develop their areas as per their requirement.
Additionally, hinterland areas, tehsils and rural areas in far away districts can’t possible be governed by similar regulations that apply in say a rural or a semi-urban cluster in or near Delhi.
Ditto for policies regarding transport, power, water, irrigation, rural development, etc.
It’s one thing to have a few neighbouring Delhi cities like Gurgaon, Bahadurgarh, Sonipat or Faridabad to align with the national capital in terms of development, but a another thing when 57 per cent of your area falls under so-called NCR.
The trade off is simply not worth it for Haryana, even if it was at some point of time. The ideal thing to do would be to even omit some tehsils from the districts that will still fall under NCR due to the 100-km radius rule.
This way, while more districts of Haryana can be theoretically part of the NCR, it can still significantly reduce the total NCR area in sq kms.