In Retrospect


With the slum rehabilitation project, residents of Delhi’s shanties will be gifted a new future with modern-day lifestyle and high-end amenities, writes Radhika Dutt.

Gearing up for a brighter future, the Delhi Development Authority has undertaken the onerous task of successfully implementing slum rehabilitation projects across the city. This ambitious project seeks to benefit the thousands who are living under abysmal conditions in these semi-constructed structures that are not even equipped with the basic facilities.

The city of Delhi hosts people from across the country, who come to the national capital with the hopes of a refurbished life and access to the best facilities. Overcrowded streets and escalating rents shun people to the uninhabitable spaces by the railway lines, where housing units (jhuggis) have propped up in endless rows offering shelter to the homeless. These jhuggis are not only unsafe places to inhabit, they are also unhygienic as they are not equipped with the basic sanitation facilities, thus compelling residents to use open spaces as defecation zones. This chain of health hazards, lack of hygiene, leading to medical conditions traps the homeless in a vicious cycle of poverty and debt. The survey of 2013 suggests that in Delhi there are 675 slums which are housing approximately 3.065 lakh number of jhuggis across 2000 acres of government land. A new survey is underway to estimate fresh data, which will have only increased over time.
To benefit these citizens while fulfilling the government's ambitions of Housing for All and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, these rehabilitation projects, unlike those conducted in the past, will provide new housing in the previously occupied spaces, preventing a loss of livelihood for the slum dwellers. In the past, rehabilitation projects that relocated slum dwellers were not successful as these residents would come back to their jhuggis that provided easier access to their livelihoods. This time, provisions are being made for a transit camp that will temporarily host the residents till their houses are constructed and in some cases, new land is being used for the fresh constructions, located within a 5km radius of their initial living space. The jhuggis will receive a facelift and host multi-storey apartments of above 30 square metre each, with attached bath, toilets, kitchen, tiled flooring, advanced fire detection system and fire sprinter facilities. The building will be built in compliance with Seismic Zone 5 compliant RCC structure. This In-Situ slum rehabilitation scheme will benefit slum dwellers by protecting their livelihoods while also fulfilling the government's goals under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
The continued occupation of slums occurs not only due to urbanisation and growing migration but also the prevalence of a well-organised underground trade that pushes the needy into this cycle of homelessness and poverty. Run by a nexus of strong men, local police, local authorities, politicians and NGOs, a designated slum lord controls the occupation and sustenance of these jhuggis. The poor are rarely owners of their shanties; these are controlled by the slum lord, who leases out these small properties on either a monthly rental basis or onetime payment basis. Authorities at DDA say that these jhuggis are often sold at prices as high as two lakhs or sometimes even five lakhs. These slums now replicate an organised undercover trade practice that routinely harasses the poor.
Slum Rehabilitation today posits one of the largest challenges to the Indian economy. The Master Plan of Delhi 2021 (MPD 2021), Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) and Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) are all working in tandem to achieve the goal of housing for all in the national capital. The first project at Kathputli Colony was undertaken on a Private Public Partnership (PPP) mode. 60 per cent of the land is owned by the government for setting up EWS housing under MPD 2021 and 40 per cent area is given to the developer as a free sale component, for independent use—residential, commercial or mixed. In contrast, in Mumbai, under the slum redevelopment model, the developer is required to rehouse all the occupants, in the same area. For the interim period, he pays rental compensation to the slum dwellers. In return, the developer is entitled to the balance land which maybe even up to 80 per cent as well as 1.3 times the floor area ratio (FAR), which is used for creating the EWS housing. However, in Delhi, the developer receives returns of only 20 per cent in the form of FAR. Further, in Delhi, the absence of a rental scheme necessitates housing for the transit period too. This disbalance makes the Delhi scenario slightly unviable for private developers. Nevertheless, successful inroads are being made to alter Delhi's landscape and usher in brighter prospects for the city's urban poor. Authorities at DDA too are studying the models adopted in Mumbai and Ahmedabad, to come up with innovative means for implementing successful rehabilitation projects which could be replicated for future use across the country.
Despite the project of rehabilitation being sanctioned in 2008, it is still incomplete due to various exigencies. There have been organised protests by slum dwellers who are instigated by the slum lords. The latter wish to maintain the status quo as that has turned into a shady advantageous business for them. People's faith in the government is still murky and the needy are readily manipulated to believe that these projects would not entirely uplift them. Most residents in jhuggis are illiterate with naïve minds, readily influenced by the power mongers. Only when they shift to their transit camps and experience the altered life as a reality do they persist in assisting the government's projects. Authorities at DDA say that they have progressed these rehabilitation projects in the most humane and empathetic manner, by ensuring that assets are not destroyed and all belongings are transferred to the new locations, free of cost. On the level of governance too, challenges continue to exist. Delhi, being the national capital and a union territory has several players who manage different heads. The PWD, the MCD, the DDA and DUSIB must all work in tandem to complete the rehabilitation project by ensuring that infrastructure, roads, water, sanitation and all peripheral requirements are completed within the stipulated time. Along with this, it is essential to improve the awareness of the residents of jhuggis to prevent their manipulation and ensure their journey towards a better and more dignified lifestyle.
The first redevelopment project in Delhi had been halted for a long time due to the persistence of several challenges. Nobody was willing to accept that slum dwellers would be occupying their neighbouring areas, even for the interim transition period. The prevalence of casteism cocooned an aversion towards the poor, who desperately require the assistance of the government and private players. In Kathputli Colony, 3080 families will be provided a lifestyle upliftment in the way of modern housing with high-end amenities for their homes and centralised amenities like large green parks, schools for children's education, religious structures, exhibition spaces for local arts & crafts, open-air theatres for performance, storage spaces for artefacts, police station, fire station, parking facilities and shops for daily conveniences. The slums of Kathputli Colony will be renewed within two-three years, till then, 2800 families are being housed at a transit camp in Anand Parbat, just 1.8km away from the colony and 500 more are being housed at the EWS establishment in Narela. There are still 700 families who have been declared as ineligible for housing, yet, provisions have been provided for them to file appeals to the appellate authority of DDA and secure their own spaces. Despite initial apprehensions, the residents at both Anand Parbat and Narela feel elated with their new homes which are being provided at the most nominal cost of Rs 1.2 lakh and Rs 30,000 maintenance charge for five years. To procure this amount too, the PMAY has provisions for loans at minimal interest rates.
The community at Kathputli Colony houses residents who are engaged in performance arts and daily labour. "My family has been living in Kathputli since 50-years. Over time, the small establishment grew as more people began occupying the jhuggis. We lived amidst filth with no designated space even for toilets. Now, the government has given us a roof above our heads, a floor to rest our heads on–what more can we ask for?" said an elated Patassi, who has spent her entire life in the shanties of Delhi, fighting powerful slum lords and finally receiving what she truly deserves as a citizen of the country. "There are some among us who have formed a nexus with local lords and some private NGOs. They try to manipulate us and stop us from progressing with the government's initiatives. But, we are not fools, we will stand for what is right and we will grasp what we truly deserve," she added with exhilaration. Falling prey to the conniving ways of shrewd leaders and the nexus of slum trade, the residents of Kathputli Colony have been the victim of unfortunate money-making. This time, with the collective efforts of the Delhi government, the Central Government, the private developers and the resilience of colony–residents of Kathputli are geared up to welcome a new future. "We are so happy that finally, our children will be able to go to school and afford a dignified life. We are waiting for our new homes to begin afresh, leaving behind the memories of poverty, filth and disprivilege," beamed Patassi foreseeing her new life in the renovated Kathputli slums.
Along with the development of Kathputli colony, the DDA is also working on projects at Kalkaji, Pocket 40 and Jailer Wala Bagh, Ashok Vihar. At Kalkaji 3036 families are being provided EWS housing, which is expected to be complete by June 2018. "We are judiciously using land as an effective resource without burdening the public exchequer. The undignified lives of slum dwellers require an upliftment. To bring them out of this living hell, the central and Delhi governments are endeavouring to fulfil the goal of Housing for All by 2022," said Jai Prakash Agrawal, Principal Commissioner of DDA, who is overlooking the master project of holistic slum rehabilitation. There are plans underway to designate townships for housing which will not only accommodate all those who are presently homeless but will also create extra provisions for the future, as more people are expected to inhabit Delhi in the coming years. While tackling illegal housing poses a threat to the present conditions, for the future too the possibility of further squatting on undesignated lands continues to loom. The new housing if successfully implemented will redraft Delhi's landscape and provide its residents with the care and nurture that the State owes them. "Rome was not built in a day. The process is cumbersome and will take time to unfold. But, we are dedicated and we will change Delhi's urban landscape to make it a world-class city," said Mr Agrawal emphasising on the government's duty towards its citizens. With the government's emphasis on 'Development for All' and the Delhi government's corresponding efforts in uplifting the poor of the city, the implementation of this project will positively uplift Delhi's urban landscape while consciously preserving the interests of each citizen. The undeterred aim is to refresh the city of Delhi by 2022.

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