Promises aplenty, little development
Residents of Ghoga, a village established in 1806 in northwest Delhi’s Narela, located in the outskirts of the national capital, have been wary of monsoon for years. They said the menace of mosquitoes around the johad (pond) gets worse every time it rains , resulting in a high number of malaria and dengue cases every year.
The pond, said 61-year-old Samandar Singh, used to be full of water all year round till almost a decade ago now.
“Now all it has are tall grasses. Mosquitoes breed all the time, but during the rains it becomes really bad. A lot of children every year catch viral fever and other diseases. The sewage water also gets mixed with it and the stench is unbearable,” he said.
Union environment minister and BJP MP Harsh Vardhan adopted this village in 2016.
In the village development project plan shared by the MP’s office with HT, ‘redevelopment of the johad and its approach road’ has been listed as a project which has already been completed.
“The MP had addressed the residents on the day he adopted the village,” said Jai Bhagwan, 70, a retired Delhi government employee. “Other than the pond, he promised developing a park and a playground for children. We haven’t seen him in the area since and none of the major works promised have started. The johad is almost dead and is a major source of spreading diseases.”
The development plan listed the park also under the “completed” section. Other “completed” projects such as developing an open exercise space and repairing a community hall too were found incomplete on the ground.
The 213-year-old village, around 40 kms away from the city’s centre , also does not have any health care facility such as a dispensary or even a mohalla clinic.
The Satyawadi Raja Harish Chandra hospital (SRHC), run by the Delhi government, is around 6.5 km away in Narela. There is a small government-run homeopathy clinic in the village, which is of little help for major illnesses, said Amravati Devi, 71.
Bordering Haryana, the village has a rich green belt and almost every other house
owns cattle but no veterinarian at hand.
Another issue, the villagers said, is the dilapidated ‘baarat ghar’ (community hall).
Locals can’t plan weddings here and have to pay a hefty amount for renting a place outside the village.
The large community hall compound housing the structure lies abandoned with a few children playing cricket on its terrace. The window panes are broken, the ceiling fans are crumbling, the roof has cracks, the tubelight panels are hanging out and the tiles are marked with betel stains.
“The building complex was well designed when it was thrown open in 1997 by former Delhi chief minister Sahib Singh Verma. We have no facility within the village for weddings and such events. One could only rent the outer compound for a small event, but guests cannot stay there as the building is not in a condition to be used,”said Ram Kishan Bharadwaj, a farmer.
The residents approached AAP MLA Sharad Chauhan to renovate it. “The MLA has promised he would get the building renovated when he gets funds later in the year,” said Bharadwaj. “All the MP has done is set up benches across the area and installed six streetlight poles.”
Harsh Vardhan had adopted Ghoga and Singhola villages in northwest Delhi under the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojna (SAGY).
These villages are under North West parliamentary constituency represented by BJP’S Udit Raj. The North West constituency is a reserved seat, with a sizeable SC/ST population. Earlier, it was a part of the Outer Delhi Lok Sabha constituency that was represented by Congress’ Sajjan Kumar and BJP’s late Sahib Singh Verma.
The small village, around 8 kms away from Ghoga, popular for its marble market, too faces similar problems. The village was adopted in the second phase of the scheme in January 2018.
Just as one enters the village, with a population of around 3,500 dominated by the Jat community, a large open drain welcomes you. A few pigs could be spotted roaming in and out. A swarm of mosquitoes breeding in the drain hover on groups of men and children sitting outside on cots in the evening.
“This drain is the major problem. Every year, we have numerous cases of malaria, dengue and other such viral fevers. At times, dead animals were found dumped here. In the summers, it’s not possible for us to stop children from playing outside, as there is no park or ground in the village,” said Sarita, 36.
Adjoining the drain is a pond, work on beautifying which was under way.“The water body is being turned into a water harvesting unit. This is the first promised work which started just a month ago,” said Hari Ram, 66, retired central government employee, showing a letter from the MP office of the minutes of the meeting of his inspection issued to various departments including the village’s local welfare body.
There was a big programme in the village when MP Harsh Vardhan had announced adopting Singhola, he said.“The MP had instructed officials for several works including cleaning of the drain, reviving the johad, building a park, a dispensary, a senior secondary school and other such facilities,” said Ram.
A large green patch along the johad is used by women to store cattle dung. “It has been over a year when the MP told me he would have tea with residents in the park near the pond when he comes next, but the patch is lying as it is,” said Raghubir Singh, 65, another resident.
Vardhan had initially adopted Dheerpur in his constituency, and started work there.
“I had decided to adopt Dheerpur under SAGY, but it was not accepted by the rural development ministry for it is an urbanised village. There aren’t any rural villages in my constituency, so I had to adopt two rural villages in Northwest parliamentary constituency,” the MP said.
Projects such as building of lanes, installation of streetlights and work on a pond has been started in the villages, he said.
“Projects of an estimated cost of ₹60-₹70 lakh have been initiated. Some have been sanctioned and have to be done by various Delhi government departments,” Vardhan said.
When asked about the projects, work on which had not started, but are under the ‘completed’ head, the MP’s office said, “Work orders of some projects have been given. We have asked for fresh report from the SDMs. The SDMs had been changed recently. All works will be done.”