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Revisiting Delhi

Revisiting Delhi
The landscape of urban Delhi is dotted with unauthorised settlements or jhuggis that have propped up in endless rows. The inundating population of the city has shown no signs of containment, as lakhs of migrants flock to the national capital, each day, in the hope of a refurbished life, set away from the miseries of their rural poverty. Yet, unexpectedly, they encounter a grossly overpopulated city, with escalating rents and are eventually caught up in a nexus of strong-men, NGOs and local authorities, who routinely harass the poor to shun them to the fringes of the city. Dwelling by the railway lines, or near the discarded sections of Delhi, these slums are rampantly unhygienic, housing the poorest sections of our society. Most living here and are not equipped with basic identity certification and their source of income is rather scattered. The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, in tandem with the Delhi Development Authority, has been investing time and resources to furnish the outlook of these slums that are pockets of crime, poverty and disease. However, the progress on the front of successfully rehousing the poor has been rather delayed. The new government, both at the Centre and in Delhi since 2014, blames the predecessor for the delay, as the project has been authorised since 2008 in a Public-Private-Partnership mode. The various stakeholders involved, along with a resistance from the slum dwellers have stalled this project that has been due on the cards for a fairly long period of time. This alleged failure, primarily of the DDA, to house Delhi's urban poor has accelerated the ruling AAP government's interest in claiming stake and seeking a shift in responsibility. Jhuggis are essentially illegal settlements and the government can provisionally choose to demolish them. However, understanding India's poverty paradigm and the compulsion that drives people to this end; on humanitarian grounds, governments have refrained from bringing down these settlements without providing an adequate alternative. The Parliament convened last week that these slums would now be protected from any punitive action, up to December 31, 2020, until orderly arrangements are in place. A major loophole that is still to be addressed by the government is the potential method that could be adopted to prevent jhuggis from furthering their footprint on the Delhi landscape. Even if the present dwellers are resettled, which in itself is an onerous task, the future continues to look dim. As long as poverty sustains and the migration to urban areas persists, the potential for new jhuggis will continue to manifest. To battle poverty, disease and also beautify the urban landscape of the national capital, overcoming the barrier of unauthorised settlements is essential. However, it is an uphill task for the government to balance sensitivity towards the poor, provide them with a refurbished life and at the same time demolish their previous way of living.
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