Longer wait for residents as Delhi’s slum rehabilitation hits policy roadblock
For Abdul Hameed, 42, a daily wager, the possibility of owning a house in the national capital became a reality when he deposited Rs1.42 lakh with the Delhi government’s Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) in 2019, for allotment of a house under the rehabilitation policy.
Today, while the bank has started deducting instalments against the loan he took, his dream is still far from turning into a reality. “For the past three months, a monthly instalment of ₹2,1,65 is deducted from my account. But there is no clarity on when we will get the possession of the flat,” said Hameed, who is struggling to feed his family of six due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Due to the lockdown, I didn’t have any work. I don’t know how I’ll pay the installments,” said Hameed.
Hameed’s family is among 69 that were rendered homeless after the slum cluster they lived in near RML hospital in central Delhi was demolished in 2009. The families moved court and, on court’s intervention, were relocated temporarily to Delhi government’s Punjabi Academy building in Paharganj. After a decade-long battle, the Delhi high court ordered in April 2019 that the displaced families be rehabilitated.
“What was meant to be a temporary shelter, for around six months, has been our home for over a decade,” said Kafeel Ahmed, 48, who works in a private firm.
Advocate Jayashree Satpate, who represented families evicted from near RML hospital in the high court, said, “It’s been over a decade now and they are yet to get rehabilitated. They are living in a precarious conditions, facing problems related to safety, water, electricity and other socio-economic rights.”
Like these 69 families, there are 287 families living along the Barapullah drain near East Kidwai Nagar who had made the payments two years back, but are awaiting relocation. DUSIB had planned to relocate these families to its housing complex in Dwarka’s sector 16-B.
While the pandemic delayed the rehabilitation process last year, DUSIB officials said it has now hit a roadblock due to the Centre’s new scheme to provide houses on rent.
DUSIB officials said that the plan to rehabilitate these two clusters was stalled due to the Centre’s Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHC) scheme, which was approved by the Cabinet in July last year. Under the ARHC scheme, houses constructed under the UPA-era schemes such as Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) are to be provided to migrant workers on rent.
As per the information available on housing and urban affairs (HUA) ministry’s website, of the 88,099 flats constructed under JNNURM and RAY, 29,245 are in Delhi.
DUSIB member Bipin Rai said, “We had to put the rehabilitation process on hold due to the Centre’s rental housing scheme. As the flats where these people were to be rehabilitated were constructed under JNNURM, in which part payment was done by the Centre, we were told to give these flats under the new rental scheme. But we are against the rental scheme as it will not work in Delhi. We had written to the Centre in this regard earlier, but they refused to allow allotment of these flats under our rehabilitation policy.”
In a letter dated March 22, 2021, DUSIB has given a list of slum clusters from where relocation charges from land-owning agencies and slum dwellers have been collected as per the rehabilitation policy. There are around 13 clusters where a large number of eligible beneficiaries have made the payments.
Rai said, “We have written to the Centre to allow us to allot flats to those who have already deposited the money under the rehabilitation policy. So far there is no response on it.”
When contacted, a senior HUA ministry official confirmed that they have received the communication from DUSIB. “We are in touch with DUSIB officials and the matter is under consideration,” said the official.
Pandemic make matters worse
Curtains divide the two halls on the ground floor of the building into small spaces for each family at the Punjabi Academy centre. Sudesh, 45, who worked as a private security guard till last year, said, “We don’t have enough space and proper facilities here. The situation was really bad during the lockdown, as everybody was staying inside all day long.”
Mathura Prasad, 52, a mason, who lives along the Barapullah drain near East Kidwai Nagar, said there has been no work for months now. “I had no option but to stay at home, as construction activity was closed during the lockdown. Even now, it is difficult to find work. We are using our savings to feed the family,” said Prasad.
There are many who lost their livelihood during the pandemic and were hoping for a fresh start near their new homes. Raj Kumar, 50, who had a small shop which he had to shut last year, said he is jobless for the past one year. “I was hoping to start something near our new house in Dwarka, as we were told that we will be shifted soon. But then the pandemic happened and now there is no clarity on when the process will start.”
Social worker Shakeel Abdul, convenor of Basti Suraksha Manch, said, “These people have waited for so long and completed all the formalities, including payments. Most of these people have taken loans from banks or relatives. During the lockdown due to the pandemic, so many of them were rendered jobless or are struggling to make ends meet. The government should start the rehabilitation process at the earliest.”
The families at these two clusters, social activists say, are in such dire need for a proper accommodation that they have agreed to go to the outskirts of the city. Tripti Poddar, another advocate who represented families evicted from near RML hospital said, “Their conditions have been so dire for the past decade that many of them are willing to shift to Baprola despite having worked and lived in the heart of the city. The families themselves have approached all possible avenues of advocacy but despite that, multiple court orders, and complying with all prerequisites, including payment, they are still being made to wait, even through this deadly pandemic.”