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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Paid for a flat but never got one: Slum dwellers bear brunt of Centre-Delhi tussle

Out of the 55,424 flats, 38,824 flats are finished, while the remaining are under construction. However, only 3,829 flats are currently occupied.

Written by Sourav Roy Barman | New Delhi |
September 15, 2021 2:32:44 am
According to official estimates, there are 675 JJ clusters that house 3.06 lakh families. (Express photo)

Promises, announcements and provisions in the law are at Shamshad’s fingertips. “Jahan jhuggi wahan makaan, nahi toh jhuggi ke paanch kilometre radius mein naya ghar, har paanch saal mein sunte hain ye saari baatein (Housing at the existing slum site or within a 5-km radius, these are promises made to us every five years),” he said.

A resident of C-33 JJ Basti on the Kali Bari Marg near RML Hospital since birth, Shamshad (35), a tailor, paid Rs 71,491 to the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) in 2013, hoping to secure a flat at Dwarka in a housing complex meant for the economically weaker sections built under the erstwhile Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

Eight years later, the promise of a dignified living continues to elude him, even as he struggles to repay the loan he took at a high interest rate. The plight is shared by at least 2,694 families who paid up to Rs 1.42 lakh (general category) and Rs 31,000 (Scheduled Caste) to the board for low-cost flats.

Letters exchanged between the DUSIB and the Union Ministry for Housing and Urban Affairs, seen by The Indian Express, show that the process of relocating came to a complete halt due to a disagreement between the Delhi government and the Centre over a decision taken by the Union Cabinet in 2020 to use 55,424 flats built in the city under JNNURM under the Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHC) scheme.

Out of the 55,424 flats, 38,824 flats are finished, while the remaining are under construction. However, only 3,829 flats are currently occupied. The rest have been lying vacant for years due to issues ranging from absence of coordination between the Centre and the state to the distance of the colonies from economic centres that are sources of livelihood for the urban poor, resulting in their gradual deterioration.

Vinod Kumar (36), employed as a painter, also made the full payment in 2013. “We have spent our lives here. We want our children to move up in life. There will be issues if we are moved too far from our sources of income. But those difficulties pale in comparison to the wretched living conditions here,” he said.

Amzad, a roadside tailor, said, “I paid Rs 94,000. Now they want us to pay Rs 30,000 maintenance charge. And why will we be allotted the flats on rent when we were made to pay with the promise of ownership? I had to take loans to pay, faced with the threat that the slum will be demolished within 15 days.”

The rehabilitation process hit a hurdle after the Union Ministry for Housing and Urban Affairs communicated to the states and UTs in July last year to convert the flats built under the JNNURM into Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHC) and use them for “no other purpose”, as per a Union Cabinet decision. So far, 29 states and UTs have agreed to implement the policy.

The Delhi government wrote back to the Centre, saying it has already taken Rs 76.71 crore relocation charges from agencies such as DDA, DMRC, NBCC, SDMC among others to relocate jhuggis on their land to flats. As per the list shared with the Centre, 2,694 persons have also paid their share to the DUSIB.

“DUSIB has charged the relocation charges from land-owning agencies and also from the beneficiaries as per provisions of relocation policy duly approved by the Lt Governor. Relocation charges amounting to Rs 76.17 crore in respect of 10 JJ bastis were received from land-owning agencies… It is requested to kindly exclude them as these JJ dwellers and land-owning agencies concerned were identified and committed prior to the communication by the Centre to the Delhi government,” DUSIB Director (Rehabilitation) Abdul Dayyan wrote to the Centre.

When contacted, Dayyan said the matter remains unresolved.

It also came up in a review meeting chaired by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and it was decided that after allotting the flats committed to the beneficiaries, the remaining ones “may be explored for utilisation under the rental scheme”. However, the Centre rejected the proposal, saying Delhi should make proper use of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana to ensure housing for all.

“When we made the payment, my girls were kids and we could adjust even in a cramped room. It is not possible anymore. The roof is leaking and during rains, water floods the room. The community toilet stinks. There is no water in the taps. Why were we made to pay at a short notice under the threat of demolition?” asked Shahjahan, a homemaker.

Kirpal Singh, who the residents consider as the ‘pradhan’, said he raised the matter of pending relocation, despite making payments, with DUSIB CEO Vijay Kumar Bidhuri two months ago.

“But there has been no headway. Even basic facilities like water and light in the toilets are not made available despite repeated requests,” Singh said.

The Indian Express found the toilet complexes, one under the DUSIB and another run by the NDMC, filthy and unusable, making the situation particularly distressing for the women of the families, originally hailing from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and some other states.

According to official estimates, there are 675 JJ (jhuggi jhopdi or slum) clusters in the city that house 3.06 lakh families, and nearly 1,800 unauthorised colonies, home to a mix of low- and middle-income families.

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