Conceived as an answer to stop the mushrooming of slums in the capital, affordable housing for those belonging to economically weaker sections has been a poll promise made by all political parties. Even years after a project is completed, no steps are taken to ensure that these houses are allotted to their rightful owners. Now, with the model code of conduct in place, affordable housing has become a distant dream for slum dwellers. RUHI BHASIN does a realty check.
As one approaches Ghoga in Bawana, Outer Delhi, one is greeted by rows of white buildings huddled together, wearing a desolate look. These buildings house 3,680 flats meant for those from the economically weaker sections. Constructed by the Delhi government in 2008, the only human presence here, six year later, is a lone guard outside the complex, still awaiting the arrival of the people these flats were meant for.
The lack of a government policy regarding allotment of EWS houses has meant that around 13,800 EWS flats (including the 3,680 flats in Ghoga) have remained unoccupied in different parts of the capital. With the model code of conduct in place now, these flats will continue to remain empty until a new government is formed and fresh policies are drawn up.
The Sheila Dikshit government had tried to come up with a policy for allotting these flats. The government had formed a high-level committee of principal secretaries to allot low-cost houses to eligible applicants under the Rajiv Ratna Awas Yojna.
The committee was asked to define the criteria under which applicants would be eligible and finalise the modalities of the allotment process.
According to the eligibility criteria fixed, 3,000 of the 8,000 applicants were found to be eligible — roughly 45 per cent of the total slum dwellers.
This meant the government had to come up with a new policy.
When the AAP government came to power in December last year, the then urban development minister Manish Sisodia spoke of a need to come up with a “holistic policy for slum dwellers”.
“A committee was formed under the AAP government, comprising members of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), the Delhi Police and officials of the Urban Development department, among others. The committee was to come up with a new policy for allotment of EWS houses. Deliberations are still on. The policy, however, can only take shape after the Lok Sabha elections,” a senior DUSIB official said.
The six years have taken their toll on the flat complexes in Ghoga. Many flats have broken windowpanes, the white paint has begun to chip, and grass and weed have overrun the complex. Where a school should have been, is an empty plot.
“A few guards are stationed in the complex and we have to pay for tanker water. There is no water or power connection here. We have been asking the government agency to install a gate for the complex but it has not materialised,” the guard said.
The Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC) has constructed around 13,800 EWS flats in Bawana, Bhorgarh, Narela, Ghoga and Baprola.
According to the DUSIB, another 45,000 houses are under construction in areas such as Pooth Khurd, and Kanjhawala. But the 200-odd families relocated to Bawana Sector-3 during the Commonwealth Games said they regretted moving there.
The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is already falling behind its target of building one lakh flats under the EWS and low-cost housing categories in three years. Its projects were announced in 2011-12. Three years later, the land agency is yet to allot a single flat.
A total of 2,300 EWS flats, constructed using pre-fabricated technology in Dwarka Pocket-8, Sector-23B, have been ready since March 2013. These flats were to be allotted to slum dwellers in Indira Camp 2, 4 5, 3 and 6, Vikaspuri and Shanker Garden. The DDA had earlier claimed that it was carrying out verification of the allottees, but, according to DDA vice-chairman Balvinder Kumar, with the code of conduct in place, the verification process will have to wait until the Lok Sabha elections are over. “The verification process has come to a standstill and will resume after the elections,” he said.
The Urban Development Ministry has continuously emphasised the need for EWS housing, saying the DDA’s most important goal was to develop EWS housing as “this is an area where we fall short”. In fact, it is seen as an important step to check the rise of slum clusters.
A DDA project to construct 10,000 flats in Rohini has run into opposition from the residents of Barwala village. “The villagers are not letting us work. This land was acquired from them several years ago. But the cost of land has increased manifold since then. The villagers are now demanding a higher compensation. The Supreme Court has already vacated the stay in this matter but the villagers are still not allowing us to carry out work,” Kumar said.
According to the DDA, 17,297 EWS flats are being constructed in Rohini and Narela. “Up to 285 flats are being constructed in Sector-4, Rohini, besides 3,060 in Sirsapur and 4,655 in Narela Sector-2,6,7,8,” DDA spokesperson Neemo Dhar said.
“Around 37,000 low-cost houses will be constructed as in-situ redevelopment, whereby a slum will be relocated to a nearby area while the housing project is completed in its place. Such redevelopment will be taken up in Kathputli Colony, Kalkaji and Jailer Wala Bagh,” an official said.
But with a large section of Kathputli Colony residents protesting the move to shift them to a transit camp in Anand Parbat, the DDA said the future of such projects will depend on the success of the Kathputli scheme. “With the model code of conduct in place, no new initiative for the residents of the colony can be announced now,” the official said.
According to the DDA vice-chairperson, land pooling policy is the only hope to address the present shortage of affordable housing in the city.
Sector-3 in Bawana has a school building, but no teachers
Nobody has ever told them about the right to education. And even if someone did, it means little to the children of Bawana, Sector-3. For them, school is a dilapidated building, resembling a dumpyard, outside which they often gather to play.
This building, within the Bawana residential complex, has been shut ever since some of the older children took it upon themselves to teach the younger ones in the absence of any school staff.
The other school in the vicinity is over 2 km away, residents said — not an option in the face of lack of transportation in the area.
“The children, who are four to five years old, can’t be sent to school on their own. What do we do? How do we ensure that our children get educated? There is only one bus that comes in the morning. Though it is supposed to come at 5 am, it arrives on most days by 7 am,” Rampyari, a resident, said. Her two children, aged four and five, don’t attend school.
According to residents, a group of older children started teaching the younger ones in the building within the complex. But this stopped in 2013 when government officials came and told them that the school would be operated by the municipal corporation.
“No one has bothered to come here since. They just locked up the building and went away,” Tej Singh, another resident, said.
The school building is rundown, its windows and doors broken. “Now, the younger children mostly while away their time as their parents don’t know how to get them to the nearest government school. Very few of us have the money to afford private schools,” Singh said.
Most of the residents here have been relocated from various slum clusters across Delhi in the run-up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games. There are 1,184 flats in this complex, of which only 268 have been occupied so far.
“The older children, who go to school or college in other parts of the city, have to wait for the lone bus from 5 am onwards every day. The ordeal doesn’t end there. It’s even tougher to get back to Bawana from the city. Over six hours of a person’s life goes in travelling each day. Some of these children are short on attendance due to this,” Suresh, a resident, said.
“Moving here was the biggest mistake of our lives. Our children lead an isolated life. There are hardly any facilities here as this is an industrial area — not meant for residential purposes. Most people find it hard to make ends meet as most of their money goes in travelling,” Rampyari said.
Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC) officials said the civic body would start operating the school from the new academic term which starts in April. The North Municipal Corporation claimed it was setting up porta cabins near the Bawana colony to start a temporary school.
“We were not given any school building, but were instead offered empty plots to set up cabins. We chose the biggest one and are constructing porta cabins near Sector-3, Bawana, to start a school from April onwards,” North corporation spokesperson Yogender Singh Mann said. The school building, meanwhile, has been left to rot.