With potholed roads, garbage-strewn localities and few basic amenities, Najafgarh in Delhi is a stark contrast to neighbourhood Gurgaon
Twelve-year-old Brijesh Yadav dreams of playing cricket for the Indian team some day. Being a resident of Najafgarh, the hometown of popular cricket icon Virender Sehwag, Brijesh’s aspiration is not impossible but for the dearth of good playgrounds in the area for practising.
Located in the south-western outskirts of Delhi, Najafgarh is composed of 80 villages with a population of around 90 lakh. A majority of the residents here hail from Haryana, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Situated in close proximity to the ever-evolving Gurgaon and the international airport, development has by and large bypassed Najafgarh.
In 2008, 322 dengue cases were reported by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi; the maximum cases being registered from Najafgarh and West Delhi area. “The area lacks a proper garbage disposal system. Heaps of garbage is dumped on the streets which ultimately become the breeding ground for mosquitoes and flies and eventually infectious diseases,” says Ghanshyam, a daily wage worker who migrated to Delhi in 2006 and suffered from dengue six months back. A January 2005 report by the Central Pollution Control Board placed the Najafgarh drain as one of the Capital’s most polluted water body.
There are also issues of unavailability of running tap water, irregular electric supply, law and order breakdown with numerous theft cases, and widespread encroachments and unauthorised constructions.
Transport is another major problem here. Due to the bad condition of the roads, traffic snarls are regular occurrences and auto-rickshaw driver charge more. Pradeep Kumar, an auto-rickshaw driver, says, “I charge extra money in addition to the meter charges due to the horrible state of the roads and even passengers do not argue or refuse to pay.” The Najafgarh Chowk, connecting Dhansa road and Dichaon Kalan, is considered one of the busiest intersections after the ITO intersection at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg. Plans are afoot by the Public Works Department to construct three flyovers at the chowk which will connect Gurgaon, Jhajjar and Bahadurgarh as well as ease traffic movement in this stretch.
Building materials dumped on footpaths or by the road by contractors or builders is a common sight here; it causes inconvenience to both pedestrians and motorists. There is a heightened risk of accidents as pedestrians are forced to walk on the roads.
The Najafgarh area has seen a sudden substantial rise in the number of shopping malls and brand showrooms. Though the majority population here reside in villages and can hardly afford these branded commodities, comparatively lower rents than in Gurgaon are driving people to set up shops here.
Ironically, however, despite all the glitter of malls and showrooms, the condition of the local lot has not changed much. Rajender Singh Sehrawat, a former resident of Najafgarh who recently shifted to Vikaspuri, says, “People are denied loans from banks if you mention that you live in Najafgarh!” Men here are usually seen gambling in groups whereas women run small tailoring units or beauty parlours to support their families.
Najafgarh is one of the rare places in Delhi with such a huge green belt still standing and has the second largest food grain market in Delhi after Narela.
The Delhi Development Authority in its Zonal Development Plan, which falls under the Delhi Master Plan 2021, approved Najafgarh town in Zone L along with 58 villages. A Zonal Development Plan means a plan for each zone containing information regarding provision of social infrastructure, parks and open spaces, circulation system, etc. “But it may always only exist on paper”, say residents for whom infrastructure is proving a nightmare.