When life throws up a challenge
Roads get ‘elevated by mistake,’ and suction pump ‘mafia’ collects a king’s ransom to clear waste
is not easy for citizens of Delhi living in unauthorised colonies. Roads are built on an elevation by mistake,’ there’s no drainage so areas get flooded during the rains, marooning people for days... and then private operators charge big sums to clear the area.
As no attention is paid to basic infrastructure, water pipelines and sewage systems, sometimes things go completely awry for lack of planning. Residents of Vikas Nagar can bear testimony to this. A concrete path laid out in the area before the 2008 general elections, linking the colony to the main road, was elevated and did not have any water outlet. As a result, when it rained, water flowing from the elevated road collected below, inundating homes and basements. People were also marooned in their homes in the waterlogged area. “It became impossible for us to reach our work-place during the rains,” says Remendra Kumar, secretary general, Delhi Shramik Sangathan.
Most of the unauthorised colonies near Uttam Nagar started getting densely populated around 2004-2005. This was primarily agricultural land. Construction of these colonies are not based on any l ayout or planning. “Whenever elections are round the corner, work starts at a frenzied pace. The areas lack basic drainage systems and piped water connections. The residents have to then depend on private operators who come and clear the makeshift drains with suction pumps.The waste is then collected from homes for a fee of ₹ 800 to ₹ 1000. This is a roaring business,” he says.
Prices, too, have increased manifold in these areas. Before 2005 plots here were priced at around ₹ 2000 per sq yard but this almost doubled after electricity connections were introduced. After construction of the “elevated” road in 2008, prices touched ₹ 10,000 per sq yard in Vikas Nagar. Today the average rate of plots in these colonies is around ₹ 20,000 per sq yard.
Besides the areas have no health facilities, no parks for children, no community centres and no schools.
It is one thing to make promises and another to fulfil them. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which captured the imagination of Delhi’s citizenry with its promises to bring down water and electricity tariffs and to battle corruption, seems to have set itself a tough task when it comes to regularisation of unauthorised colonies.
In its election manifesto titled Delhi Dialogue, AAP has said “Within one year of forming the government unauthorised colonies will be regularised and residents given ownership rights.”
There are a number of very important issues here which need to be considered. Is a blanket regularisation of 1939 unauthorised colonies in the Capital possible or should it be decided on a case-by-case basis? Delhi also has a three-tier governance system – won’t that pose a huge challenge to the new ruling party?
Ashish Khetan, AAP leader, forfor mmer j ournalisnalist and the point pperson for Delhi Dialogue,D is confideconfident things will work ouout. “This is our promise andan we shall fulfil it through coordinationtion with DDA and thet MCD,” he says.
Indu Prakash SingSingh, national convenor, National Forum for Housing Rights, also thinks a blanket regularisation is “doable”. The party has clearly said that it will not demolish any of these colonies. They have the political will and the peoples’ mandate to achieve it, he adds.
Urban planners, however, are