In street number 4 of East Azad Nagar, January was the month for hectic wedding preparations. The neighbourhood was transformed with festive music, lights and flavours. Nothing, however, could fix the perennial waterlogging in the lane.
“My daughter’s wedding was an occasion to celebrate but the water-logging caused us so much embarrassment. We stayed inside most of the time. It is what we do the rest of the year too as the lane is always water-logged,” said 65-year-old Asha (name changed), who lives here.
The 3-feet wide lane is home to a row of multiple-storey houses built on 25-yard plots. Four years back, East Azad Nagar earned the ‘legal’ tag as its layout plan was approved by the municipal corporation. However, that changed nothing on ground for the residents.
Regularisation of unauthorised colonies — one of the biggest political issues in the Capital — stems from the failure of successive governments to provide planned housing. Official estimates peg the number of unauthorised colonies in the city at 1,650, with about 50 lakh residents. East Azad Nagar was one of the 895 colonies which were regularised by then Sheila Dikshit government in 2012.
Ahead of the 2015 assembly elections, the Aam Aadmi Party also promised to provide registration rights with regard to property and sale deeds in resettlement colonies.
“We will provide water, sewer lines, electricity, schools and hospitals in a systematic and phased manner. Multi-pronged approach is the only way to empower unauthorised colonies, and has never been attempted by the BJP or the Congress. Within one year, these unauthorised colonies will be regularised and residents will be given ownership rights,” the AAP manifesto promised.
Soon after coming to power, the AAP government announced the decision to open registry of property in unauthorised colonies bypassing the process to be completed by the municipal corporations. The government said in 2015 that soon after it sends the boundary details to corporations, it will also allow registry of property.
However, the process is now stuck as the Union urban development ministry has asked the Delhi government to submit details of plot size and population in these colonies.
“We have received a letter from UD ministry with a list of queries. They want to know the population of every colony, size of plots, vacant plots, details of land owning agency and cost of regularisation,” said an official in the Delhi urban development department of Delhi government. Officials say it will take time to prepare the report even as lakhs of people continue to battle with the living conditions on a daily basis.
“Government should acknowledge that these colonies have come up because of the failure of those in power. The onus is on the government as they were supposed to build these houses. The government should simply try to make the living condition better in these colonies,” said Dunu Roy, director, Hazards Centre.
However, regularisation and approval of layout hasn’t meant better amenities for these colonies. East Azad Nagar, for example, has the tiniest of roads, no parking infrastructure, open overflowing drains and dangling power wires. Moreover, the structural safety of buildings in these colonies is a major cause of concern.
“Regularised or not, our problems are the same. The main road has been carpeted several times because of which the level of our lane has become lower, hence the water-logging,” said Rakesh, a resident of East Azad Nagar’s street number four.
Subhash Chandra Kohli, president of East Azad Nagar RWA, agrees that nothing has changed on ground. “Delhi government is still to include the colony in the official map of authorised Delhi colonies,” he says.
Senior officials who worked on approval of the layout plan of East Azad Nagar in 2013 say several rules, as per the Master Plan, were bypassed in the process. “The law mandates a clearly defined minimum width of streets and bylanes, space for public utilities and emergency measures. On paper, most of these were done with riders. For example, the width of the streets has been increased by marking them with dotted lines. A rider has been inserted in the statute that whenever the property owner applies for reconstruction of house, the building plan will be passed taking into account the marked line on the map,” an official said.
Officials admit that the only possible benefits of regularisation will be ownership of property and making the area eligible for basic government services. Vijay Kumar, a resident of street number 19, A-block, East Azad Nagar concurs, “The only way it helps us is that we can now sell and purchase property legally.”