Dense green cover and wide roads are typical of Vasant Vihar, a colony located on the outer Ring Road, close to the diplomatic enclave of Chanakyapuri. The area is home to some of the Capital’s high-profile residents including senior government and army officers. However, it has recently been in news because of the growing traffic mess on the Rao Tula Ram Marg (RTR) flyover, a key south Delhi link to the IGI airport. The peaceful colony of Vasant Vihar is fast falling prey to encroachments by slum dwellers and increasing traffic congestion.
Home to Delhi’s former Lieutenant Governor, Tejendra Khanna, Bollywood actor Sharmila Tagore and senior journalists including Karan Thapar and Aroon Purie among others, the locality has eight slum clusters along its boundaries. Illegal constructions, lack of parking space and spilling of traffic from the RTR flyover are slowly robbing the area of its serenity. However, this was not the case decades ago. The colony was developed in the late 1960s by a group of retired central government officers. They formed a cooperative housing society and applied for land to be allotted. The colony, from A to F blocks, was planned by the society. Each block has a market. There are 52 parks in total. There are a number of schools here which happens to be one of the contributing factors to traffic congestion.
It was one of the few housing societies like Panchsheel allowed to build houses of more than 400 square yards, said old timers. The colony was planned with three main streets -- Poorvi Marg, Pashchimi Marg and Vasant Marg. Later, RBI, Air India and Indian Airlines Colony were developed in the vicinity by the government.
“At that time, one could spot the Qutub Minar and Rashtrapati Bhawan from the first floor of the under construction plots. We were the first ones to buy a plot here. During those days, one either had to depend on their own vehicle or take a bus to reach here,” said Kanta Soni, president of E-block RWA.
BR Kapoor, 80, recalls that most of the area was a forest. “I used to visit my brothers who lived around the place. There was nothing except for wild bushes here. Jackals and other animals could be seen often,” said Kapoor. He said that BP Mittal, a retired government servant then, who set up the cooperative society, is considered the founding father of Vasant Vihar.
“Mittal was the man who brought people together to build a housing society of their own. The society was named after the adjoining Basant Gaon, from where parts of land were acquired to build the place,” said Kapoor. While the residents maintain they are still proud of the colony, problems such as the neighbouring slums eating into the boundaries and lack of parking space disturb their peace.
“Many of the plots are now being converted into builder flats. According to MCD norms, they are supposed to build stilt parking spaces in each of the new buildings. But the stilt parking is hardly used by anyone as cars are still parked on the road or along the pavement. Also, the Munirka and airport-bound traffic spills on to the three major roads adding to congestion during peak hours,” said Suresh Goel, president, Vasant Vihar welfare association.
Overflowing sewage, hooliganism and illegal parking of commercial vehicles have become a pain, in particular for C and D blocks, which share their boundaries with Basant Gaon and Kusumpur pahari slum cluster respectively.
Security has come up as another major issue. “Over the years the threat of bikers involved in chain snatching has grown. Anti-social elements from neighbouring areas get inside the parks and indulge in alcohol consumption and gambling,” said Goel.
Meanwhile, the Basant Lok complex, which used to be one of its major hangout zones needs to be revamped. Built by the DDA in the 90s, work on its facelift project is yet to start. The complex popularly known as Priya’s, is one of the only surviving single screen theatres in the area. A Metro station will come up opposite the complex. Residents fear that it will add to the floating population and congestion in the colony.