It’s like an abandoned city. Various plots in Rohini’s (west Delhi) sectors 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30 have small, dilapidated one-room structures, standing in rows. No electricity or water connections are available here. Huge banners near the plots proclaim: ‘Kachcha makaan bananwane aur freehold karaney ke liye sampark kare (contact us to get makeshift structures set up and get your plot converted from leasehold to freehold)’.
What on earth is happening here? Investigations by HT Estates have revealed that plot owners in these sectors have not been able to build permanent structures because of lack of water and power connections that the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had to provide when the plots were allotted way back in 2003-04.
Till October 2011, no structures were set up as the original allottees or subsequent owners went in for sale-purchase through general power of attorney (GPA). “Since there was a complete absence of civic facilities we saw no point in constructing houses on the plots as none of us can live without water, roads, sewage disposal systems,” says Harish Kwatra, a plot owner.
Kwatra and others like him realised they had a problem in their hands when, in October 2011, the Supreme Court in the Suraj Lamp case, banned ‘GPA sale’ in Delhi. Sale of the Rohini plots was impossible then as these were leasehold and could be sold only through GPA.
To execute a sale-deed, it is mandatory to get a plot converted from leasehold to freehold but such plots need to have built-up structures. “It was around that time a racket of setting up makeshift structures started and leasehold to freehold conversion started. Some property agents put up boards and banners claiming to get the freehold conversion done,” said a local property dealer.
This is how it goes. A plot owner first gets his layout plan of one-room construction approved by MCD by allegedly paying a bribe. Then he builds a makeshift one-room structure on the plot and applies for leasehold to freehold conversion to DDA, claiming he has a solidly built house with all facilities. Owners also allege that the junior engineer from DDA required to clear the papers and the plot takes a bribe for the conversion. Thus, according to DDA records, the plot has a well-built house which is inhabited. The owner now can execute a sale-deed in favour of any buyer without any hassles.
“It’s a one-time requirement to construct a makeshift one-room house just for freehold conversion. The total expense in the whole process comes to around Rs 3 lakh to Rs 70,000 for construction, Rs 1.30 lakh is paid as bribe (allegedly) to various officials and Rs 1 lakh is paid as conversion charge,” says a plot owner. Many of them say they are forced to take recourse to such illegal methods as the area is uninhabitable because of “utter neglect” by DDA.When the Rohini Scheme was launched in 1981 by DDA, thousands applied for plots in various upcoming sectors from sectors 1 to 37. In 1991-92, plots were allotted to applicants from sectors 1 to 25 and in due course of time these sectors have developed. Ten years later, in 2003-04, DDA sent allotment letters to 12,000 applicants from sectors 26 to 30.
“Unfortunately, there are no roads, no water or electricity connections to these sectors. A majority of plots are small, of about 26 sq m, 32 sq m and 60 sq m, and their owners have been living on rent elsewhere. They want to build their homes here and move in, but cannot do so,” says Vimal Jindal, a local property dealer.
He says that land prices have escalated several times in the last 10 years but people still cannot move in here.
“In 2003-2004, a 32 sq m plot was allotted at Rs 3,889 per sq m but now its price varies between Rs 50,000 per sq m to Rs 1 lakh per sq m. There is nothing but land trading going on here,” says Jindal.
DDA VC promises to set up facilities in six months
When asked about the problems in sectors 26 to 30 in Rohini, the vice chairman of Delhi Development Authority, Balvinder Kumar, accepted the delay in setting up basic amenities, but promised to resolve the issue within six months.
“I have issued strict direction to my engineering staff to expedite the work in the area so that facilities can come up fast. It will help people move in that area,” said Kumar. Disagreeing with the plot owners’ claim that water and sewage pipes had not been laid down anywhere in the whole area, he said, “I have checked the records and found that water pipes and drainage systems are in place. However, the power supply is still an issue. We have already given money to the distribution company which has promised to construct a 33 KB sub-station very soon. Once the sub-station comes up, we will start giving electricity in that area.”
When asked about prevailing corruption in DDA due to which false information was being furnished for converting land from leasehold to freehold, Kumar said he had written to the union urban development ministry to relax conditions for construction on plots for the conversion.
“This is an age-old condition which is not only propagating corruption but also causing huge inconvenience to people. I have asked the union urban development ministry to remove this condition for leasehold to freehold conversion of plots, which is encouraging people to indulge in corrupt practices. It becomes difficult for DDA to look at each and every case because plot owners and DDA officials collude to violate this provision. I believe we should do away with any such condition, which has no practical meaning,” says Kumar.