Pooja Verma (24), a resident of Najafgarh’s Shyam Vihar, travels two hours daily to reach her college in Kalkaji. Barely 100 metres away from her family’s home lies an empty plot of land, which has been awaiting construction of a Delhi University (DU) campus for the last 30 years.
Youth from Najafgarh, in the rural and semi-urban outskirts of South West Delhi, have few higher education options. Bhagini Nivedita College, a DU-affiliated women’s college in Kair village with limited course options, is the only higher education institute in the vicinity.
Once Pooja completes her classes at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University-affiliated JIMS around 4.30 pm, she makes the long journey home and reaches by around 7 pm.
“Many students here travel around two hours to go to college. It’s difficult, especially for us girls, as we get back late. The area is desolate, and it gets dark by the time we get back in the winters,” she said.
The area houses a sprawling plot of land, allotted to DU in 1989 to build colleges and a campus, which has been lying empty ever since. The 34-acre plot was granted free of cost on a 99-year lease to DU by the Roshanpura Gram Sabha to establish quality education institutes for youngsters in the area. But the only thing constructed so far is a boundary wall.
This July, in response to a Lok Sabha question posed on plans for a western campus for the varsity, the Ministry of Human Resource Development stated, “Delhi University has informed it has decided to construct a college on a piece of land measuring 83 bighas and 19 bighas (16.79 acres) at village Roshanpura, Najafgarh. It has also initiated the process to appoint CPWD as PMC (Project Management Consultant) to construct the college…”
It also stated that as per the proposal, the duration of construction activity is expected to be approximately four years.
Last Tuesday, the Delhi High Court also directed DU to build the college “as early as possible” depending on “availability of budget”. It had been brought to legal attention by a petition filed by the Najafgarh Senior Citizens’ Association in October, 2017.
The plot is surrounded by agricultural fields on two sides, while the other sides are surrounded by closely built houses, restricting vehicular access.
In 2003, the DU Estate Officer wrote to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) requesting a 50-ft wide approach road to facilitate construction.
DDA responded in a letter dated November 26, 2003, asking that the location of the required road be specified. The request was not responded to.
The question of this approach road has been cited as the reason for the prolonged delay in beginning construction.
The High Court had directed the Centre and the National Highways Authority of India to make the approach road once construction of the college begins, stating, “There cannot be any existence without there being any college…”
“That there is only one college in the entire stretch spanning Nangloi, Bawana and Najafgarh shows the government has failed the rural youth’s educational needs. This extended delay betrays a serious lack of willpower in this regard,” said Kartar Singh, General Secretary of the Najafgarh Senior Citizens’ Association.