Residents of the Kathputli Colony, a jhuggi jhopri cluster in West Delhi’s Shadipur area, may have to shift to transit camps in Anand Parbat as early as Monday keeping with the Delhi Development Authority’s in-situ redevelopment plans. To oppose such a move, representatives from the colony along with area MLA R.P. Singh met Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung on Friday.

According to the plans that were drawn up way back in 2007, the vibrant community of puppeteers and performers that are residents of the colony, will be shifted to transit camps temporarily, until private developer Raheja builds multi-storey flats at the current location to accommodate the 3,200 or more families residing there.

“If we are shifted into flats then how will all the wood workers, singers who practice their skills, idol makers, puppeteers who make 15 feet tall puppets, those of us who walk on 15-foot tall stilts, rickshaw pullers, weavers, tailors, painters, construction workers, rope makers, toy makers, magicians, sanitation workers, drummers who play dhols that weigh 50-60 kgs and many others workers and artisans who live here be able to sustain our work and livelihood,” the letter to the L-G stated. “It seems like our lives and all the traditions of our country that we have preserved over the years will cease to exist if this project is implemented,” added the letter.

Dalip Pardhan from the Bhatt Samaj, who resides in the area and makes Kathputlis and pagdis for marriages, said the residents will prefer to be allotted plots instead of being given flats in the area. “We came to know that our land has been sold off to Rahejas and they plan to build malls and multi-storey luxury apartments,” he said. “Why isn’t the land, which belongs to the DDA, retained and given to us to continue practising our art and crafts?”

Residents such as Subedar Verma and magician Aziz Khan said that there has been no notification on the eviction date and moving 5-6 kilometres away will also be a problem for their children, who have to commute to schools. “A few days ago, we received calls from the builder and we were told that our Kathputli Colony would be shifted to a transit camp in Anand Parbat within the next two weeks. Newspaper articles have said that DDA will set up a five-day camp and provide them with allotment letters,” further stated the letter.

The letter also questioned the method by which DDA has conducted a survey to review the number of families residing in the area and has pointed out anomalies in the “PPP contract” between DDA and the private builder.

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