Displaced and out of work, Kathputli Colony residents struggle to survive 5 years on

January 29, 2023 01:50 am | Updated 01:50 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Ghost town: Heaps of garbage have taken over the DDA housing society in Narela with mostly uninhabited flats. 

Ghost town: Heaps of garbage have taken over the DDA housing society in Narela with mostly uninhabited flats.  | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

Five years have passed since Sheela Devi came from the now-demolished Kathputli Colony slum cluster to Sector G-7, Narela. Yet the 55-year-old struggles to make ends meet, as there aren’t enough customers in the largely uninhabited housing colony to support her make-shift convenience shop.

“It’s like a ghost town. There are hardly any people here, apart from us. In terms of public transport, just two DTC buses ply here. There are no employment opportunities nearby; my sons have to travel over 20 km to get work. We were happier in Kathputli Colony. Over here, we feel neglected and confined,” said Ms. Devi, who spent 35 years living in the Kathputli Colony until it was demolished in late 2017.

In 2008, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) selected Kathputli Colony, home to street performers and artisans, for an in-situ slum rehabilitation project executed on a public-private partnership (PPP) model by Raheja Developers. In line with the policy for rehabilitating the dwellers of J.J. Colony, the DDA relocated 2,800 Kathputli Colony residents to a transit camp at Anand Parbat, developed by the developers in 2013, till the completion of redevelopment work. The remaining 492 beneficiaries were allotted DDA flats in Narela.

For Sandeep, 29, the relocation resulted in him having to quit his job as a sweeper at a hospital close to the now-razed slum cluster, as he was unable to travel over 30 km daily.

Pointing towards heaps of garbage and sewage outside their housing society, Mr. Sandeep said that despite multiple complaints to the authorities, the sanitation issues in the area have not been addressed. “We moved here because we were told we would get a house in the redevelopment project. But five years have gone by and there is still no clarity on when the project will be completed,” said Mr. Sandeep, who now takes up sanitation work within the area on a daily wage basis.

Shoaib, who heads a resident welfare association (RWA) for the slum-dwellers, feels the same. The 35-year-old said the condition of the flats has deteriorated due to the lack of maintenance. Responding to these observations, the senior DDA official said, “it is the RWA’s responsibility to maintain the space within their housing society”. He added that close to 2,800 beneficiaries from the erstwhile slum cluster are eligible for a house at the project site.

However, the process of allotment is yet to commence. “We cannot allow allotment of flats until we receive clearances from various agencies, including the Fire Department. It is the developer’s responsibility to ensure all services are in place,” said the senior DDA official.

Some residents fear the DDA may evict them since the agency hasn’t released the final list of beneficiaries. The senior DDA official clarified that the flats in Narela have not been given to the residents – of the now-razed Kathputli Colony – permanently. “Of these beneficiaries, if some are eligible for a home under the project and want to continue living in Narela, they will be permitted. However, if they are ineligible, they will have to vacate,” said the official. The DDA did not offer a comment on the issue

A spokesperson of Raheja Developers said work on 700 flats out of 2,800 was completed almost six months ago, while the project’s remaining phases will take one-and-a-half years to complete. The spokesperson added that the COVID-19 restrictions and recurring construction bans have added to the delay in completing the project.

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