One of the most thickly populated areas of the city, the Laxmi Nagar constituency in east Delhi is largely a swath of contiguous, unplanned urban growth divided by a neat line — the Vikas Marg.
It is the first residential area that one encounters after crossing the Yamuna, coming from central Delhi and headed east. It was one of the first areas to get ‘developed’ in the 1960s with people crossing over from the more preferred side of Yamuna, looking for affordable housing. The result were unauthorised colonies such as Laxmi Nagar and Shakarpur that got regularised in 1977 and later Ganesh Nagar and parts of Pandav Nagar that await regularisation.
The dingy and narrow lanes that merge further into narrower lanes, cheek by jowl existence in matchbox flats, roads that can’t accommodate two cars side by side at the same time — the usual characteristics of illegal, regularised colonies, are not really election issues for residents here as they have learn to live with it.
The lack of civic amenities, however, is the biggest issue at a time when the poll machinery has already rolled out posters and placards that can be seen on every lamppost and house wall in lanes so narrow that even sunlight shies away from them.
“Overpopulation and congestion has only increased in the area in the past few years as most people find its location and connectivity attractive. What were two-storey houses have now become four-five storey apartments to accommodate students and young working girls and boys who prefer to live here on rent,” said Arpita Sharma, a Laxmi Nagar resident.
“Though congestion and traffic jams are expected, bad drainage system is one problem that the government could have solved but hasn’t,” she said.
Lack of proper drainage and overflowing sewage is the problem too at Shakarpur, across the Vikas Marg. “I have been trying to get the choked drains behind my house fixed for the past 10 years but nothing has happened,” said RS Sharma, a Shakarpur resident.
Ironically, an area so close to Yamuna and known collectively as jamnapaar, poor potable water is another big issue here. “We have to buy drinking water every day because the potable water supply we receive is so dirty that you can’t even wash clothes with it,” said Vineeta Baluni, a Ganesh Nagar resident. “There is also lack of sanitation as municipal sweepers don’t come here regularly.”
Baluni hopes that once her area gets regularised, civic amenities would improve. The example of nearby Shakarpur and Laxmi Nagar, however, are not very reassuring.
Despite their problems, voters of this constituency seem satisfied with the work done by area MLA Dr. AK Walia.
“He is an honest man and very approachable. Anyone can visit his house to meet him and gives everyone a patient hearing,” said JP Singh, a Shakarpur resident. “In most cases, he orders immediate action, which is taken. The problems, such as overflowing sewage, however, recur within days,” he said.