Happiness and discontentment
Sometimes, a good location might not just translate to great residential options. Majnu Ka Tilla is one such example in Delhi. Despite being in the premium Ring Road area in north Delhi, it has nothing much to boast about by way of quality accommodation.
Majnu Ka Tilla has three prominent residential areas, namely Aruna Nagar, New Aruna Nagar and Old Chandrawal Village. It also has two huge jhuggi jhopadi clusters which, locals allege, has grown with the connivance of civic authorities and land mafias.
The oldest among all these areas is Old Chandrawal Village, which was populated during the early 1900s when the British government gave dwelling space to labourers engaged in the construction of the secretariat.
Aruna Nagar came into existence in 1958-59, when the land and development wing of the urban develop- ment ministry gave 925 plots measuring 40 square yards to people from various parts of north Delhi under a resettlement plan. While they were being settled there, a Tibetan camp came up across the road on the Yamuna riverbed for rehabilitation of Tibetans fleeing their country after the Chinese occupation. Though they had taken shelter in areas around the IndoChinese border, they had to move again after war broke out between the two nations and some opted to move to Delhi. It was named New Aruna Nagar.
“There are 3000 to 3500 dwelling units in these three colonies but none of the residents has ownership rights. Now the government has included New Aruna Nagar (Tibetan refugee camp) in the list of 895 to-be-regularised colonies. This has caused a resentment among the residents of Aruna Nagar and Old Chandrawal Village,” says a resident.
The residents’ welfare association of Aruna Nagar complains that the Delhi gov- ernment is being biased and discriminatory. “While refugees at Tibetian camps are unauthorised occupants, we were properly resettled under a plan by the government of India. I have nothing against anyone as everyone has the right to a shelter. But if government is planning to regularise their colony, why are we being not treated equally?” says Milkhi Ram Sharma, president, Aruna Nagar RWA.
Residents’ also complain about the government’s flip flop on the ownership issue. Both Aruna Nagar’s and Old Chandrawal Nagar’s status in municipal records is of unauthorised-regularised colonies. In 1984, the government mooted a scheme under which residents were given the option to pay development charges and get their plots converted to freehold.
“Some went for conversion while many decided to wait. But even the former category of residents didn’t get freehold status,” says Tirlok Singh Sachdeva, President, Punjabi Kalyan Samiti.
On the other hand, people in New Aruna Nagar are upbeat about the government decision. “As of now, we don’t have ownership rights but we are happy to know that the government is going to give us that right. We are very grateful to the Indian government for giving us shelter. We have no complaints regarding anything,” says Karten Tsering, president, New Aruna Nagar Colony Resident Welfare Association.
Over the years, New Aruna Nagar has emerged as a foreign tourist hotspot. Many big hotels and restaurants have come up, catering to the needs of the tourists. Numerous shops of woollen clothes, ornaments, momos, and noodles have opened which also make one question the open violation of civic laws.
“How can you make a fivestoried hotel on a river bed? Some people here think they can do anything they want. They should respect to our civic laws,” says a student, who lives on rent in one of the colonies.