Tensions ran high in Central Delhi’s Kathputli Colony on Monday as officials of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), accompanied by scores of police personnel dressed in riot gear, camped in the area to shift the residents to a transit camp in nearby Anand Parbat.
The DDA plans to relocate the residents of the colony for a couple of years while multi-storey buildings are constructed in the area. Flats will then be allocated to the residents.
However, not all Kathputli Colony residents are happy with the promise of “better housing” facilities and many looked at the plan with suspicion. The initial tension began when the residents, seeing scores of police personnel march into the cramped locality early on Monday, thought that the authorities were there to demolish the jhuggis and small houses.
But, no demolition happened. Instead, the focus was on getting as many residents as possible to give legal permission to demolish their houses. Despite their best efforts, the authorities got only about 100 families to sign the papers. A senior DDA official said they aim to have at least 500 families sign the agreement on Tuesday.
Of the 3,500 families living in the locality that is populated with puppeteers, actors, singers, snake charmers, and acrobats, only 500 have moved to the transit camp.
The officials had also brought with them some of the residents who have already shifted. To the media, some of them posed as current residents who are happy signing the agreement. But many of those who actually are yet to move expressed their resentment to the idea.
A lack of trust in the builders and the DDA was widely cited as the reason for their dissent.
“The DDA has promised flats to about 2,600 families. But there are at least 3,500 families here. They have not considered those who could not register themselves. We want a proper final list of people and that list must be signed before a court,” said Dileep Bhatt, the leader of a group of dissenters.
Mr. Bhatt said that the DDA needs to clearly mention who would be paying for a host of additional expenses such as maintenance of lift, monthly maintenance, etc.
But a nodal officer with the DDA produced a signed letter to the local pradhan that said all people, even those unregistered, would be allotted flats. The officer said that the process of shifting the residents would begin on Tuesday.
“The police presence is just to thwart any mischief from those who want to stall the relocation for their vested interests. But we are sure of getting everyone’s approval. The demolition will begin once the houses are empty,” said the official who did not want to be identified.
Thinking of the future
A few who had signed the agreement said they were doing it for the benefit of their future generations.
“I want my children to have a decent, clean house. But if we are tricked in any way, the consequences will be dire,” said Basanti, a resident of Kathputli Colony.