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Cautious optimism

With the Delhi government bent on getting 1,797 colonies regularised, Patriot speaks to people to get their reaction. It turns out they are not sure it will change things much

“We have lived in this home for so many years. How does it matter if it’s unauthorised? Our children have gone on to good things in life and they have settled in other cities. If this home gets authorised, we will just feel a sense of security,” says Gayatri Sharma, sitting in her two-storey home in Gali No. 17 in Wazirabad, north Delhi.

We are here to know what the residents of Delhi think about the final push being given by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to regularisation of around 1,797 unauthorised colonies in the Capital city.

The proposal, endorsed by the Centre, will lead to thousands of households gaining ownership rights, for which they have been waiting since decades.

The approach to Sharma’s home suggests that hardly any development has been done over the years. Faith in the municipality is so low that people are sceptical of even the work executed. “The sewer lines were on hold for 10-12 years,” she rues. “Then they were laid just last month. With the current monsoon, they will be tested,” she says. As it is, the mud-caked street is just a plethora of potholes filled with water.

Most houses on the street can only be entered by negotiating pools of slush. A resident starts telling the story of her life, how she came here from Ghaziabad, when her son had just passed Class 10, and was deciding about his future. “There were mostly private colleges in Ghaziabad. My husband had a job here and used to travel to and fro, so moving to Delhi made sense,” she tells.

Her husband, who works in Delhi Development Authority (DDA), purchased this 65 square yard home from a farmer. “Gradually more people started coming in and farmers sold their land to them,” says Sharma.

Talking about the scenario back in 2002, when she came here, she said the “Situation was very bad. Houses used to be flooded when it rained. We built our own soakage pits from there the dirty water flowed into an open drain,” says Sharma.

The empty plots in the street also came handy as dumping grounds, because the area was not serviced by any Municipal Corporation garbage truck.

Residents of the area also took a connection from the water supply line which was serving Jagatpur village, adjacent to this area.

“If they regularise our colony, then of course development will start taking place. Services will be improved, which maybe were not provided because of the status of this colony,” says one.

Transportation is another concern, which the Sharmas say might get resolved now. “We hope to get to see a bus plying from our area. We have to go to the main road, which is quite far, by rickshaw or private modes of conveyannce.”

“The children of this area have not seen a park while they were growing up. You can’t leave them outside because street dogs are there. The streets anyway are not even walkable. Once the area is regularised, maybe a park will also be constructed,” says Sharma.

As both her children are working in Gurgaon, the couple has no plans to move out from this area. “We will continue to live here because of all the memories we have made here. That has nothing to do whether the area is unauthorised or authorised,” concludes Sharma.

Dashrat Jha, 64, a resident of Pandav Nagar, has never wished eagerly for the authorisation, although they he was provided with a provisional certificate.

Jha came to the Capital city in 1974 from Bihar when he got a job in an industry in Delhi. “During that time there was nothing in this area. The only facilities provided was a bus service which used to ply from Central Secretariat,” he recalls.

Gradually, a new service was started for Noida as well, from this area, which used to go till Sector 6.

“I bought my home which is some 70 square yards at the rate of Rs 1,000 per square yard in 1974,” says Jha. Today, in this 70 square yard plot, Jha family also runs a provisions store.

“Electricity has been here since years but supply used to be quite erratic,” says Jha. However, recently, with the current government’s tight policy on electricity supply, this area, like most parts of Delhi, gets uninterrupted power supply.

He believes if the regularisation is done, then, “It will be a good feeling if we’re able to get proper registration papers done for our home. There’s always a fear that your home is in danger. That fear will be gone once I see registration papers in my hand.”

“We are not that strong financially, and can’t really afford to move out. We have lived here for years, and regularisation wouldn’t really change anything for us, besides having proper papers,” concludes Jha.

Recently, the Delhi government said that it will go with any policy which the Centre finds fitting to the situation but it was also keen on some changes. The colonies have been divided into three categories – those built on government, agricultural and private land.

While the Delhi government wants to put all the unauthorised colonies in the lowest category corresponding to the nearby area, the Centre suggests otherwise. The Centre had proposed putting these colonies in a higher slab than or equal to residential areas nearby.

So a colony adjacent to a posh colony, will be put in the same the category, which will demand people pay the circle rate. The government is also considering to put “very nominal” charges as stamp duty when people go to get their properties registered.

For, Kulbushan Sharma, 67, a resident of an unauthorised colony in Kotla village in East Delhi, the current status of his home has put him at a gross disadvantage. When he went to a booth at a job fair which was providing loans, after approaching the lady at the booth, he came to know that because he lives in an unauthorised colony, no loan can be given.

“I wanted the loan so that I can open some business for my son. Maybe a small departmental store. I know he can run that. He’s very smart while people think he’s mentally retarded,” says Sharma.

Living in an area which comes in the Lal Dora category, where the area is exempted from the building bylaws. Unlike the other areas, which fall into the Lal Dora category in Delhi, Sharma says, “Over the years we have been given water and electricity supply. But garbage remains a big issue. The smell is unbearable sometimes,” concludes Sharma.

In all, 40 lakh people have their hopes pinned on the Centre and the Delhi government working together to ensure some security for their homes.