Mason Ranjit Singh could not get medical attention for six hours after a dog bit him in the ankle last month. The nearest hospital — the government-run Safdarjung Hospital — lay almost at the other end of town from his home in Tughlakabad Village.
“The only private nursing home is too costly and a dispensary near Asola village never has any stock,” said Singh.
Welcome to the post-delimitation South Delhi, no longer the posh vision that the name conjures up. With a vast rural expanse covering half the city from Bijwasan and Palam in the west to Badarpur on the eastern skirt and the ‘farmhouse-land’ of the Chhattarpur-Mahipalpur-Merhrauli belt in the south, this is one constituency where the Nuclear Deal and economic slowdown are non-issues.
Instead, good-old promises of civic amenities still strike a chord. So, politicians are promising jobs, access to healthcare, higher/technical education, and permanent civic amenities to woo voters.
Sangam Vihar is Delhi’s biggest unauthorised resettlement colony near Tughlakabad. “Politicians come and talk about permanent residence certificates, ration cards and sewer lines for the houses and clean drinking water,” said Kailash Kumar, a trader at the Sangam Vihar main market.
In the Gujjar farmer-dominated Chhattarpur, the educated younger generation wants jobs in the ‘city’. “I need to learn English and get out of here. I cannot work at the farmhouse like my brother or as a labourer like my father,” said Subhash Gujjar, a 22-year-old Arts graduate working as an office help in a farmhouse.
Farmhouses here stand as little islands in the sea of shanties of migrant labourers and landless farmers, most of whom sold their plots before the property boom arrived.
Some 20 km to the west, 60-year-old Rajpal Shehrawat in the Jat-belt of Palam village shares the same ambition, albeit for his grandsons. “Our generation was fooled by promises of development. We are neither in a city nor in a proper village. Now, for the younger lot, we want colleges and industries here. They need to learn English and work for big companies,” he said between puffs on his hookah.
Amidst the squalor, the posh residential colony of Kalkaji sticks out. A part of the old South Delhi constituency with neatly painted houses, tree-lined parking lots and guarded colony gates, this Punjabi dominated area has very different concerns.
“If all work is directed towards the rural belt, I’m afraid our area might get neglected,” said businessman and resident Haran Anand.