In ‘C’ Block of Tilak Vihar, home to families of Sikhs killed in the 1984 riots, Balbir Singh lies on his bed, staring at steel rods sticking out of his ceiling. On a pink wall near the gash in the ceiling is a picture of his grandfather Swarup Singh, who was killed in the riots.
On the outer wall of his third floor tenement, the light yellow paint and the plaster have peeled off, exposing red bricks.
“I was four years old when the riots happened. I have lived here with my parents ever since. Our buildings have never been repaired. There are cracks in ceilings and walls are damp with seepage,” says Balbir.
In ‘B’ block, nine-year-old Harmeet stands on the bed and points at a loft with rough edges: “This broke off and fell on my sister.” His grandmother Kopri Kaur says, “My brother-in-law was killed in the riots… We carried out whatever little repairs we could afford, but the walls are chipping away. How many times will we keep repairing them?”
In July, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced that the government will repair the homes of the riot victims living in “horrible conditions”. Setting aside Rs 10 crore, the government directed the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) to immediately start repair work in eight colonies, including Tilak Vihar, Jahangirpuri and Kalkaji. DUSIB officials said Tilak Vihar, the largest such settlement, is their focus at the moment. For the repair of roughly 848 tenements, the DUSIB has drawn up an estimate of Rs 60 lakh.
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“We will repair common areas like staircases, building floor, outer walls. In 10-15 per cent of the tenements, the construction rods are visible. These will be sealed,” an official said.
The families have been living in the three to four-storey tenements that were 25 sq m when first allotted. Tilak Nagar MLA Jarnail Singh said that as families expanded, some extended their tenements. But the extensions will not be covered in the repairs. “Repair involves putting Kota stone tiles in common areas like entrances, and plastering of staircases and roofs. For 32 years, these tenements have had no repairs. Last year, out of the MLA LAD, we got staircases levelled with steel plates. But most buildings are in a bad shape,” he said.
The staircases are narrow, allowing only one person to pass at a time. Open pipes often leave the floor damp. “These will be locked with tiles of Kota stone,” said Jarnail Singh.