Home Articles Transparency in Public Dealing Departments through GIS

Transparency in Public Dealing Departments through GIS

P. S. Uttarwar
Joint Director (Planning),
Delhi Development Auhtority, New Delhi
Tel. No. + 91-11-7013939

An Approach For Sanctioning of Building Permits

Delhi Development Authority is a premier agency for acquisition land , planning and development of the capital city. It is also entrusted with responsibility of disposal of developed land. Generally developed land is allotted to various agencies and individuals for construction of buildings etc. All construction activity within its “development area” is controlled by DDA. Responsibility of accepting, processing and issuing building permit lies with DDA under the provisions of Delhi Development Act and Building Bye-Laws 1983. For this purpose a separate Building Section under overall control of Director (Building) has been functioning at Vikas Sadan, INA market New Delhi. Rapid urbanisation and population growth has made task of processing of huge information as well as issuing of large number of building permits by traditional methods very difficult. Following problems are being faced by the Building Section: (a) Collection/maintenance of massive information related to properties and conversion of information into “database”; (b) Monitoring of physical development e.g.- housing, land development, infrastructure etc.; (c) Integration of information gathered from diverse sources on a common field i.e. property no. or area; (d) Periodical updating of information and database for planning and policy making; (e) Storage and retrieval of information.

In addition to above, there might be specific requirement of organization. For example, properties booked for unauthorized construction or a property where stay has been granted by court ,building permit is to be withheld. Such information is required at the time of acceptance of building permit itself. Building Permits are to be issued within stipulated time as specified by the Building Bye-laws. Failure to do so, may lead to legal complications and granting of building permit by default (deemed to be sanction clause.) In present scenario building permits are being accepted and processed manually, where it is difficult to verify above information. Such situation may lead to delay and dissatisfaction among public.

The process of issuing of building permits for Residential plots upto 500 Sq.Mts on the same day is prevailing which is called as “instant sanction”. Applications are collected on a counter and disposed off on same day. In this system it is difficult to verify information related to unauthorised construction or legal stay etc. on applicant’s property due to large volume of applications. Retrieval of information is also difficult. To overcome this lacuna, next logical step to is to computerise whole process of issuing of building permits. Computerised system will help to –

  1. Accept and check supporting documents at the time of submission of Building Permit itself;
  2. Reject incomplete/non conforming proposals at initial stage itself. This may help to avoid delay and impart transparency to the system;
  3. Monitoring of important references and impart transparency to the system.

Computerisation of Building Section

Primary function of the Building Section is to issue building permits to the applicants. However its activity includes monitoring of unauthorised construction, legal cases and policy formulation. Based on these functions and activities a computerised system has been envisaged. There will be a central database having following information: (I) Properties booked under unauthorised construction, (II) Development Area map and number showing table, (III) ‘Master Property Register’ with information like last building permit issued etc., (IV) List of legal cases, stay orders, vigilance references etc.for properties affected, (V) Other relevant information. Above database will help to operate following sub systems for Building Section.

Instant Sanction Sub-System

At present,all building permits are scrutinised with the help of a standard scrutiny proforma on a counter itself. Similar proforma will appear on screen for scrutiny of proposals submitted. The relevant information will be filled by operator on screen itself. It will be a ‘menu’ operated system. Computer will counter check entries made by operator from central database. It will also check other scrutiny formalities for documents, building plan fees, norms and development areas etc. If answer is ‘YES’ then standard sanction letter is issued. Simultaneously this information will be recorded in central database and ‘master property register’ is updated.

Routine Sanction Sub-System (Acceptance of proposals)

Building permits, submitted on counter will be verified from central database for following:

  1. Whether property is already booked for unauthorised construction;
  2. Whether property is falling in development area of DDA;
  3. What is last building permit issued for the property;
  4. Check restrictions like legal cases, stay orders, vigilance references, etc.

A proposal which fulfills all these requirements will be issued a standard acceptance letter with various instructions. The Authority reserves its right to raise any objection, quarry at a later date as per law and procedure. All such information on acceptance of building permit on a particular day, will be transferred into ‘monitoring sub-system’ by default. Thus all building permits could be monitored by officers from their desks by using monitoring sub system.

Monitoring Sub-System

It is envisaged that the sub system will help to keep track of movement of files, important papers and urgent references etc. This sub system will lodge day to day movement of files and papers of all the units by evening. A movement sheet of files/papers will be prepared by each unit and received in the central unit for updating of records. Thus central unit will be in position to provide list of pending references which are due on that date. It is possible to include ‘time bound references (TBR)’ from Ministry or Head of the departments or VIPs etc.

This sub system can also remind officers of their public hearing cases on due date. One of the important aspect of sub system is to monitor building permit cases where deadline as prescribed in bye-laws is likely to be expired. It is mandatory in bye-laws to communicate sanction/rejection or objections within stipulated time. Otherwise such cases can claim ‘deemed to be sanctioned’ status and may lead to legal complications. This sub system will receive information from all other sub systems on regular basis. It will monitor unauthorised construction cases, legal cases etc. and issue suitable reminders to concerned persons/department.

Technical Reference Sub-system

Building Section requires a constant information/update on building Bylaws, Masterplan and other regulations due to its techno legal nature of work. This sub system will provide instant information and regulations in force from time to time on this aspect. It will provide information on Development Areas of DDA, Layouts and related record, Area denotification and transfer of records to Municipal Corporation of Delhi. These information may be stored in various table forms and these tables can be joined on a common field or identity. Information can be searched for any technical term or a query. It will act as an expert system.

Data Inputs and Database

Computer based information system requires constant flow of data from various sources to update its existing database. Success of any information system largely depends on regular input of data and quick retrieval of required information. Data may be in the form of map, file, document or aerial photo/satellite imagery etc. Survey reports obtained from the field or revised drawings submitted by applicants can be superimposed on existing maps/drawings.

Use of Aerial Photography

One of the important function of the Building Section is to detect unauthorised construction and maintain record for legal prosecution etc. Aerial photography is useful tool to detect changes and maintain truthful record of terrain/structure. However conventional Aerial Photography for small areas is not advisable as its uneconomical and time consuming process. To overcome these difficulties “ Small Format Aerial Photography” can be conducted on limited areas. Single engine small trainer aircraft like ‘Pushpak’ which is available with any flying club is good enough for SFAP. With conventional camera photography of desired area can be carried out. Coloured or Black & White oblique pictures of building/group of

buildings can be taken. Oblique pictures may reveal details like elevation, setback, height etc. of a building. A mosaic prepared out of oblique photographs may help to prepare layout of area. SFAP can be useful for detection of unauthorised construction and encroachments, monitoring changes over a period of time, detection of location, size, composition, distribution and physical characteristics of marginal settlements i.e.- slums, squatter areas etc. and for traffic studies. On experimental basis small format aerial photography was carried out by Prof. P. Misra from Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, Dehradun (India) in 1985 for Rohini Project of DDA. It is understood results of this SFAP are highly encouraging. Information disseminated from oblique photographs is computer compatible and it can be utilised by other departments of DDA like Lands, Engineering etc. Computerisation will also help to restructure lower level staff for better utilisation.

Database Design

A database comprises of many files and records where information is stored. This collective database can be utilised by various users. It is necessary to design or organise database in such a way that (1) there is little or no redundancy of files/records, (2) access to data from one or more file is easy, (3) data entry or updating of records is simple, (4) it stores data independent of applications, (5) manages data access and retrieval from security point of view. There are mainly three kinds of recognised database structures, termed as hierarchical, network, and relational.

Hierarchical data structure

In this structure records are divided into logically related fields, which are connected to other fields in a tree like arrangement. All records are divided into groups and one field is designated as heading or ID. Data is arranged under each heading in a serial order and data is retrieved by searching through various levels. It is similar to tree form of data presentation.

Network System

In case of graphic database rapid linkage is required between graphic attributes(maps) and non graphic attributes (data). In hierarchical system data is linked from one level to another level by selecting common fields. This search within the database is very slow. Therefore network system is suitable for such database.

Relational Database

It is a simple form of database which stores records in table form. Records are arranged in a order or sequence within two way tables based on relation of records with each other. Such tables are stored in computer files, just one in each file. Record in each file is identified by a unique key, which is called as a ID or identity. Retrieval of data from relational database is easy. User has to define relation for making queries. Structure of relational database is very flexible. This database allows data to be searched, amalgamated and analysed.

Structure of Records

Experience shows that, relational database is appropriate for information system which deals with issuing of building permits on the basis of predecided criteria. This data base management system has many advantages: (1) centralised data base permits all the users to operate data simultaneously, (2) data base is not dependent on any application, it permits modification of data base to accommodate new applications without disturbing existing operations, (3) Standardisation of data is biggest advantage, (4) flexibility of the data base allows use of it for the new purposes, even though those were not envisaged initially.

Software Options

Taking into consideration nature of relational data base, and requirement of graphic and non graphic attributes following softwares found suitable for non-graphic data, dBASE III + or latest version, ORACLE, GRAPHIC DATA, AutoCAD and ArcINFO.


A computer based ‘Building Permit System’ has a capacity to handle large volume of data and convert it into ‘information’. It also helps to eliminate human bias & subjectivity from the system. Such a system may provide for in built facilities like: (a) monitoring of files, papers and pending building permits; (b) technical reference system for making building bye-laws more transparent and offer uniform interpretation of building bye-laws; (c) store relevant information and extracts from previous decisions of the Honorary Courts for utilisation in similar cases and (d) act as an interface between common man and Building Section. At a later stage a system can be introduced where any individual desirous to know progress of his building permit or enquire, may be entertained at reception counter itself. A operator by referring to computer terminal may satisfy his all the queries.

Thus GIS can play an important role in bringing tranceparancy in public dealing departments. This is positive way of utilising IT to eliminate delay, inefficiancy and finally coruption from the system.


  1. Building Bye-Laws,1983
  2. Burrough P. A., Principles of Geographical Systems for Land Resources Assessment. Oxford University Press,1989.
  3. Dale Peter F. & Mclaughlin John, Land Information Mamagement, An introduction with special reference to cadastral problems in Third World countries.Oxford University Press, 1989.
  4. Uttarwar P. S., Masterplan Information / Monitoring System, Delhi.International Institute For Aerospace, Survey and Earth Sciences (ITC), Enschede, The Netherlands.n