Delhi Assembly Elections 2020| In Delhi’s illegal colonies, it’s owner rights versus development
One major issue that has grabbed the political centre stage ahead of the February 8 Delhi assembly elections is unauthorised colonies.Updated: Jan 22, 2020 05:48 IST
For Dayal Saran Sahoo, a resident of north-west Delhi’s Raja Vihar, one of Delhi’s numerous unauthorised colonies, it has been a long and anxious wait for a text message on his phone from the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).
Sahoo, who owns a grocery store, applied for ownership rights of his residential property with DDA in December last year, following which officials surveyed his house. By January 3, he said, he was supposed to get a text message from DDA. But that has not happened yet.
“I can submit documents needed for the registry process only after I get the message,” Sahoo said.
One major issue that has grabbed the political centre stage ahead of the February 8 Delhi assembly elections is unauthorised colonies. It is much part of Delhi’s triangular battle involving the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress.
The BJP has been trying to convince people how the central government led by the party has finally opened up a process to confer property ownership rights to residents of Delhi’s 1,731 unauthorised colonies.
The AAP , which has had a great support base in these colonies since its first election outing in 2013, has emphasised how its government in Delhi ensured development in the areas of water, infrastructure and health-care in these neighbourhoods.
The Congress has been trying to pitch how the grand old party was the first to take up the issue of regularisation and welfare of unauthorised colonies.
But while there is excitement over the Centre’s decision to give ownership rights, there is uncertainty in the minds of residents as DDA has suspended the process to give conveyance deed, based on which registry papers are issued, due to the model code of conduct in place for the elections.
WHAT OWNERSHIP MEANS
Tucked away in a remote corner of the Rohini assembly constituency, one of the three segments the BJP won in 2015, Raja Vihar and Suraj Park – two nondescript unauthorised colonies – had hit the headlines recently when 20 residents were given conveyance deed and registry papers under the Pradhan Mantri Unauthorised Colonies in Delhi Awas Adhikar Yojana (PM-UDAY).
Residents of these colonies are upbeat over the ownership rights. They say the “legal tag” will put an end to the fear of “demolition action” by civic authorities. “Once it (ownership rights) happens, then there is no fear of demolition. Last year, the civic agency had demolished a few properties. This is a very big step taken by the Centre,” said Kuldeep Singh Chhillar, president of the Raja Vihar Residents’ Welfare Association.
As Delhi’s population soared, hundreds of residential neighbourhoods – popularly referred to as unauthorised colonies—surfaced in the city without any legal sanction. More than four million residents here do not have legal ownership rights and are not entitled to loans by mortgaging their properties.
On December 16, DDA launched a website wherein residents of 1731 identified unauthorised colonies would be able to apply for ownership rights under PM-UDAY. So far, 176,000 individuals have registered with the website, of which 4,500 have submitted documents. Around 1,500 properties have been surveyed but only 20 individuals have been given documents necessary for their property’s registry, data shared by DDA showed.
DEVELOPMENT IS KEY
Residents of unauthorised colonies agree that the way to the next Vidhan Sabha will pass through development and welfare schemes.
While the BJP-led Centre’s decision got residents excited, the AAP government’s development work in the areas of water, sewer, roads, health care centres and parks have struck a chord with voters.
“We have the basic amenities now. That matters more than anything else, including ownership rights, which have been a recurring poll issue for years now. In the next five years, we look forward to relief from road congestion and parking problems,” said Sajid Anas, a resident of Masoodpur, an unauthorised colony in south Delhi.
Welfare schemes such as full waiver on monthly power bill up to 200 units, free water up to 20,000 litres a month and free bus rides for women too have apparently gone down well with most residents of such colonies.
Sitting on the street outside their homes in Raja Vihar to catch some sun on a chilly January afternoon, Saroj Sharma and her friends couldn’t stop discussing price rise, especially of essential food items. “It has become difficult to meet basic requirements. Half-a-litre of milk is for R 20; vegetables are so costly. How will a poor person afford it? Thankfully, we don’t have to pay for water and electricity is subsidised. It is a huge benefit,” said Saroj, who too has applied for ownership rights.
GP Tiwari, another resident, said, “In assembly elections, people will vote for basic issues such as sadak, bijli and paani (road, electricity and water). The ownership rights is big move by the BJP but people are getting direct benefit from water and electricity subsidy. We will have to see how BJP will counter this.”
For at least two decades now, political parties in Delhi have been raking up the regularisation issue, especially ahead of elections. Regularisation is a more technical process towards authorisation. Conferring ownership rights is one aspect of a broader process. However, the dynamics of the politics revolving around unauthorised colonies has visibly evolved as Delhi changed with time.
While Kuldeep Singh sees major relief in terms of demolition, Irkan Chaudhary, a resident of south-east Delhi’s Zakir Nagar, feels ownership rights would contribute in removing the “stigma” of living in an unauthorised colony. “Residents would best understand the stigma. From employers to bank officials, people have always judged us on the basis of our addresses,” Chaudhary said.
For Rakesh Goyal, a businessman who resides in east Delhi’s East Vinod Nagar, it is an opportunity for easier and convenient loans. “People in unauthorised colonies have huge dependence on moneylenders for loans, at an extremely high rate of interest. This may change soon,” Goyal said.
Balbir Singh, a property dealer in Sangam Vihar, disagreed. “With more private banks, loans anyway have become easier. The biggest effect will be a potential increase in property prices,” Singh said.
The location and demographic mix in these colonies are factors that visibly affect how their residents look into the issue of ownership rights. While Zakir Nagar is a settlement on the Yamuna floodplains, East Vinod Nagar is ensconced amid colonies that have been regularised in the past.
Sangam Vihar, believed to be Delhi’s biggest unauthorised colony, is in the heart of south Delhi and in close vicinity of affluent neighbourhoods such as Sainik Farm. Within Sangam Vihar, concerns may differ – while Singh prioritised shooting property prices, Madan Kumar, also a resident of the area, looks at it like a window to better water access, sewer lines, parks and health clinics among other facilities.
“The innermost blocks of Sangam Vihar are yet to witness development on these fronts. Hence, residents of the relatively more developed blocks and those in the backward ones would look into the ownership rights issue in different ways,” Kumar said.
The concerns are similar for Mithlesh Jha – it would pave way for health centres, schools, markets and commercial areas. Jha is a resident of Kirari, an unauthorised colony in the north-west peripheries of the city, inhabited largely by migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and came into existence much later than Sangam Vihar or Zakir Nagar.