Delhi Master Plans fail to crack slum resettlement puzzle

Updated on Feb 16, 2018 10:10 AM IST
Delhi’s planners are yet to find a workable formula for slum redevelopment and regularisation of colonies. While the city is bursting at the seams with increasing population, successive plans have failed to resolve problems of its existing habitants.
Today, there are 1,650 unauthorised colonies with about 50 lakh residents who have been asking successive governments to regularise their colonies so that they can get some bare minimum civic amenities.(Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
Today, there are 1,650 unauthorised colonies with about 50 lakh residents who have been asking successive governments to regularise their colonies so that they can get some bare minimum civic amenities.(Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
Hindustan Times | By

The promise of a better life remains a pipe dream for 62-year old Umesh Singh, 11 years after he moved from a slum cluster along the Yamuna, near ITO, to Bawana on the city’s outskirts.

Singh left his job as a driver but his sons — Akash and Balram — have inherited the burden of commute from their father’s exodus to a place which is 35kms away from their previous home. Both travel every day to Chandni Chowk where they work as salesmen.

Singh, like tens of thousands of slum dwellers, broke community ties and gave up livelihood on a promise of better life in 2006. Today, as Singh says, “Life is worse than what it was in the slums.”

The governments, he rues, are “just for the rich”.

“We were lifted from slums and dumped here,” said Singh, pointing to heap of garbage strewn on the road leading to his house in the Jhuggi Jhopri (JJ) Colony, as he walked past two-storey houses constructed for the erstwhile slum dwellers.

“Nobody cares about poor people like us,” he said.

The concerns and the problems of Singh are shared by the residents of 55 other resettlement colonies in the national Capital where basic amenities such as roads, hospitals, street lights and sewer lines are non-existent.

Not to mention the struggle for earning a living after relocation from slums to city peripheries. In many cases, the colonies have been overtaken by informal management, a clear deviation from the purpose of resettlement.

“There are no street lights. Women fear to tread outside their houses after sundown. Buses run on this route once or twice a day... There is no end to the list of miseries we face,” Singh said, emphasising how his resettlement dream turned out to be a nightmare.

Slums at Jailerwala Bagh in New Delhi. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
Slums at Jailerwala Bagh in New Delhi. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

In situ redevelopment

The resettlement of slum dwellers has been on the agenda of successive governments post Independence. During the Emergency in 1970s, nearly two lakh people were shifted to colonies on the city’s outskirts.

Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi set a deadline of making Delhi slum free by 2022. Of the existing 55, as many as 44 colonies were established between 1960 and 1985.

But the three Delhi Master Plans, so far, have failed to come up with a viable solution to the problem. About 26,861 of the 28,344 flats constructed in the past decade by the Delhi government agencies for the urban poor lie vacant in different parts of the city.

In the previous two Master Plans for Delhi (1962, 2001), a ‘three-fold strategy’ of resettlement was adhered to.

Among the measures — relocation to new areas, in situ upgrade at other sites and environmental upgrade to basic minimum standards — the agency preferred relocation. But Master Plan for Delhi 2021 came up with what they called ‘in situ redevelopment’ in which the dwellers are resettled in multi-storey apartments near shanties instead of giving them plots for constructing houses on city peripheries.

The recent big relocation exercise involving eviction and resettlement of slums or JJ clusters took place in 2010 ahead of the Commonwealth Games. The dwellers were relocated to 11 sites in north, northwest and west Delhi, including Bawana.

“When we ran short of land, we stopped giving plots to slum dwellers and hence came up with in situ redevelopment on private-public-partnership model where they are being resettled in flats in multi-storey buildings either on or near the plots where the shanties were located,” said JP Agrawal, principal commissioner (housing), Delhi Development Authority (DDA).

But the existing in situ redevelopment, according to experts, is different from what the it would mean in the sense that it also involves private builders.

“They (DDA) should strengthen the earlier two forms of resettlement—improving the services or develop the entire portion of slum land and converting it into houses for them. But when DDA gives up to 40% of the plot that housed slums to private builders where is the question of land availability,” said Dunu Roy, director, Hazards Centre.

The first in situ redevelopment project taken up by DDA was kicked off in October 2017 when the land owning agency demolished 3,000 slums at Kathputli colony, near Shadipur Depot — a move which was resisted by a group of residents who claimed that the rehabilitation process was haphazard. Over 2,000 families have been shifted to a transit camp in Anand Parbat, 3kms away. Others have been relocated to government flats in Bawana, nearly 40 kms away.

“The rooms in transit camps do not even have proper toilets. Women cannot venture out in the night. How can they even expect us to live there for two years before we get new flats?,” asked Dileep Bhat, a resident.

The proposed 30sqm, one-room flat costs1.12 lakh, for which the beneficiaries may get bank loans.

After Kathputli, 3,000 slum dwellers living in unauthorised clusters in Kalkaji would be shifted to flats in a nearby multi-storey building by June next year.

Ownership and regularisation

The residents of the resettlement colonies have been demanding ownership rights of their houses for over two decades. The Arvind Kejriwal government in March 2015 prepared a proposal to give freehold rights to residents of resettlement colonies on a payment of 10,000.

If implemented, the order would have benefited over 15 lakh residents living in 44 resettlement colonies across Delhi.

The proposal was also mooted during the Congress regime in 2013 when the government distributed documents conferring ownership rights to the first
lot of residents of resettlement colonies in Delhi.

Much like resettlement of slum clusters, the regularisation of unauthorised colonies is another issue the national Capital is grappling with.

Read: Multiple agencies hamper implementation of Master Plan rules

In fact, the Master Plan for Delhi 2021 says that unauthorised colonies pose a “a serious human problem as a huge population is living in these colonies”.

The problem stems from the failure of successive governments to regularise them.

As many as 567 out of 607 listed unauthorised colonies were regularised till October 1993, but many more unauthorised colonies have come up since then. Today there are 1,650 unauthorised colonies with about 50 lakh residents. The Master Plan clearly shifts the onus of regularisation of these colonies on the Delhi government.

“The governments have failed to address the issue despite regular announcements. The need is to make living conditions better in these colonies. The Master Plan had suggested combining plots in these colonies and coming up with group housing. But that is not happening,” said AK Jain, former commissioner, planning, DDA.

Sevda Ghera area in Bawana, New Delhi. (Sushil Kumar/HT PHOTO)
Sevda Ghera area in Bawana, New Delhi. (Sushil Kumar/HT PHOTO)

In absence of any proper plan, the residents of unauthorised colonies approach local MLAs for basic amenities. Shri Sai Kunj, a colony in South Delhi’s Vasant Kunj, is a case in point.

As the residents await the recognition of the colony as ‘unauthorised’, local lawmaker of the ruling party, Naresh Yadav, has taken up the work of laying the approach road in the colony.

“We are using interlocking to lay roads so that we can remove them when sewer lines are to be laid,” said Yadav in an example of how the basic amenities are a mess in unauthorised colonies.

Not that the Master Plan has no monitoring. But the last meeting of the monitoring committee, as mentioned in chapter 18 of the plan, was held under the tenure of then-L-G Tejinder Khanna between 2007 and 2013.

“Everything that the agencies do is on ad-hoc basis. The government needs to come with a proper plan so that a long term solution can be found,” said urban planner, AGK Menon.


    Gulam Jeelani writes on politics, national affairs and socio-economic issues for Hindustan Times. A journalist for seven years, he worked in Lucknow and Srinagar, before moving to New Delhi.

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