When life throws up a chal­lenge

Roads get ‘el­e­vated by mis­take,’ and suc­tion pump ‘mafia’ col­lects a king’s ran­som to clear waste

HT Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Van­dana Ram­nani

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

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