Its location next to an MCD landfill site has denied Bhalaswa resettlement colony in Delhi a dignified life for over a decade
An outdoor advertisement under a campaign launched by Delhi Election Commission encouraging citizens to exercise their franchise during the recent MCD elections features a young man saying how his vote forced the authorities to clean his area. A visit to the Bhalaswa resettlement colony located at the flood plains of Yamuna in north Delhi presents a stark contrast. The residents here vote in every election hoping (and demanding) to get some basic amenities but they hardly get any.
Adequate water and power supply, plots with boundary walls, school for children were among the many dreams these people were promised when they were evicted from Yamuna Pushta and 12 other colonies across the city in 2000 under a so-called resettlement plan for the city's ‘beautification'.
Almost 11 years later, most of those promises remain unfulfilled. And whatever little has come to them has been after years of intense struggles. “The authorities dumped us here just like they dispose the garbage at the nearby landfill. I don't think they consider us anything but trash,” said Bittu whose family came to Bhalaswa 10 years ago.
In exchange for their houses, the families were sold a plot each for Rs 7000 in Bhalaswa. But it took more than two years and a court ruling for the families to get the possession of the plots. During these couple of years, the families lived either out in the open or in temporary tent-like structures. They battled not only their miseries and the system's apathy but also poisonous reptiles like snakes, recalled Roshan Ara who was evicted from a colony in Nizamuddin. Electricity and schools came much later. Even now the area doesn't have a secondary school and the number of primary and middle schools is not proportional to the total population of close to 20,000. For children the garbage dumps are their playground.
Water supply remains another worry. Due to the nearby landfills, the water from the garbage is seeping beneath the surface, contaminating the ground water that people here use. The demand for a proper water connection is caught in the throes of buck passing between the Delhi Jal Board (whose pipeline passes very close to the area) and the Delhi Urban Slum Improvement Board.
The residents also allege irregularities in fixing APL and BPL card holding families which deprive them of necessities like food through fair price shops. The area is flood prone and is almost submerged during monsoon every year. Last year a system was installed to pump out water from the area, of course not without a fight.
But this is not where their worries end. Since the lease for the Bhalaswa plots were given to them for 10 years in the early 2000s, the prospect of being moved out once again looms large. They fear the golf course and related projects in the neighbourhood under the Delhi Development Authority master plan might need more land and uprooting them is one of the easiest ways to acquire it.