Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Eleven years on, unauthorised colonies in Delhi wait for essential services
A 24”x 36”, poster-sized photograph of Haji Ishaq Malik, 87, with former Congress president Sonia Gandhi and other senior Congress leaders is prominently displayed in the living room of his three-storeyed house at Rajiv Gandhi Nagar in Northeast Delhi’s New Mustafabad.
The picture was taken at Delhi’s Chhatrasal Stadium on October 4, 2008, at a massive event organised by the then Congress government, just before the assembly elections, to distribute provisional regularisation certificates to 1,218 of the total 1,639 unauthorised colonies.
Malik was one of the 11 people –representatives of resident welfare associations (RWAs) of unauthorised colonies—who received the certificates from Gandhi.
Neatly wrapped in a transparent plastic sheet, the wooden-framed provisional certificate hangs right below the photograph. “But it (the certificate) now has no meaning,” said Malik, president of the local RWA, while he fondly talks about his brief meeting with Gandhi.
Ahead of the assembly elections in 2008, the Sheila Dikshit government initiated the regularisation process, which was longstanding demand of people, to pacify its vote bank. The move proved to be a master stroke as it helped the Congress secure a third term in power in Delhi by winning 43 out of 70 seats.
But 11 years later, regularisation is a distant dream despite it being one of the top poll promises in the manifestos of all political parties in successive two Lok Sabha and three Assembly elections in Delhi since 2008.
HT visited four out of the 11 unauthorised colonies—Sangam Vihar B-block, Ganesh Nagar-Pandav Nagar Complex, Mangolpur Khurd (a village) and Rajiv Gandhi Nagar in New Mustafabad—which were given the provisional certificates by Gandhi.
Waiting for essential services
The certificate has upped their hopes of getting essential services such as roads, sewer and water. But little has changed in the last 11 years. “Though the Congress had initiated the process to lay water pipelines, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) completed the process soon after it came to power. But we are yet to get regular piped water supply. We are dependent on groundwater and tankers. There is no sewer line,” Malik said.
Nearly 33km away from New Mustafabad, the situation is the same in South Delhi’s Sangam Vihar B-block. Development of civic infrastructure has not kept pace with the increase in population due to rampant unauthorised construction.
Satyender Singh Tomar, former president of B-Block RWA in Sangam Vihar, who received the provisional certificate from Gandhi, said water pipelines were laid in the colony in 2008. “Though the AAP government started water supply, a large number of households, especially those which are not along the water pipeline, are dependent on tankers and private suppliers. People have laid their own lines and connected it to hydrants installed by private suppliers,” he said.
The internal colony lanes are dotted with huge water tanks kept outside the houses. While the AAP government has subsidised water, several residents in the colony continue to spend Rs 500-Rs 800 monthly on water. “But DBCs (domestic breeding checkers for mosquitoes) come and challan us. They (government agencies) should first provide regular water supply before issuing challans for mosquito breeding. How are we supposed to meet our water requirement if we don’t store it?” said Sarla, who has been living in the area for 15 years.
Ownership rights over property
There is a thriving property market in these colonies, which have outgrown the initial boundaries based on which the provisional certificates were given. In the last 11 years, there has been rampant unauthorised construction in area to meet the housing requirement with increase in population.
In 2015, the Centre and the Delhi government decided to extend the cut-off date from February 7, 2007 to January 1, 2015, resulting in an increase in the number of unauthorised colonies from 1,218 to 1,797.
Unlike New Mustafabad and Sangam Vihar, residents of Northwest Delhi’s Mangolpur Khurd, an urbanised village, and East Delhi’s Ganesh Nagar Pandav Nagar Complex are more concerned about getting ownership rights.
Ganesh Nagar Pandav Nagar Complex is as good as any regularised colony with essential services like sewer, water, road and electricity in place and mixed-use development—shops on ground floor and housing above. While the colony hasn’t got regularised, the number of RWAs have increased with an increase in population.
The colony has expanded vertically despite a ban on fresh construction since 2007—the cut-off date was revised to January 1, 2015—but the civic agencies are unable to keep a check on it. “The corporations don’t have record of what came up before and after 2007. And now that the government has revised the cut-off date for regularisation, there is no way to check it. The corporations can only take action if they spot fresh construction,” said a senior East corporation official.
Shamsher Singh, former chief town planner with the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi who oversaw the preparation of layout plans of unauthorised colonies, says structural stability of buildings is just not a concern for the residents. He cites the building collapse in East Delhi’s Lalita Park, in which 80 people lost their lives in 2010. “The buildings are prepared without proper plan and locals are just not bothered about structural stability of building. In case of a disaster, there will be severe consequences here,” Singh said. But people aren’t concerned.
With essential services sorted, locals want ownership rights. “People here want ownership rights so that we can reconstruct our houses as per sanctioned building plan and get loan against it. Currently, all transactions happen on General power of Attorney (GPA), which is not recognised in Delhi,” said Atar Singh Nagar, president of the RWA, which got the certificate in 2008.
However, with the Centre and the state government at loggerheads, residents say, regularisation is unlikely to see the light of the day.
“A majority of the work in our colonies was done by the Congress government. The boundaries were fixed by them. But the municipal corporation didn’t complete the process from their end,” said Nagar.
Malik agreed that coordination between the Centre and state government was needed to see through the implementation of the process in its entirety. “The Congress was in power both at the Centre and the state in 2008. But they couldn’t get it done then. This needs coordination between the two governments, which doesn’t look possible right now,” said Malik.
Once an agricultural village, Mangolpur Khurd, which was one of the villages which was given regularisation certificate, today become a hub of godowns and household industries, especially after 2008.
Inderjeet Singh, president of the RWA and a Congress member, said, “Villages were included in the regularisation list following our demand.”
Singh says that the villages has all the basis services. “The most important concern is that of land title. With large part of the village commercialised, ownership rights to property owners will help people monetise the land. There are household industries operating from the areas. The Delhi Development Authority’s decision to amend the master plan for household industries last year has come as a huge relief for the locals,” he said.
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