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Terminator tower

The proposed construction of a high-rise building has led to outrage in Delhi University as it poses a security threat to girl students

The construction of a private high-rise building right next to the North Campus of Delhi University has been a matter that has provoked a lot of hue and cry over the past one year from university officials and students. It is also one of the rare cases where all the stakeholders of DU — students, teachers and administration stand in firm solidarity for a cause.

The plot of land situated right next to the Vishwavidyalaya Metro Station is within 100 metres of DU’s North Campus. The varsity’s main contention regarding the construction is the safety of the students as the 39-storey tall residential complex will have a bird’s eye view of Miranda House College and its Girls’ Hostel, the Central Institute of Education, University Hostel for Women, Meghdoot Girls’ Hostel, Girls’ Hostel of the Department of Social Work, Faculty of Science, Cluster Innovation Centre and the Delhi School of Journalism.

A DU official also raised concerns about the complex’s proximity to the residences of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi and the Vice Chancellor of DU, the office of DRDO and other important government offices and heritage buildings. The proposed project will also fall under a silence zone because of its proximity to the colleges in the North Campus and the Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute, a super specialty hospital for pulmonary diseases.

The land on which the construction has been proposed was reportedly transferred to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) from the Ministry of Defence in 2001 at a cost of Rs 42.4 crore, under the condition that it would only be used for public purposes. But two-thirds of the land was leased to a private builder, Young Builders Pvt Ltd, for Rs 218 crore.

The project will spread over 1.18 lakh square metres of land, comprising four towers of 39 floors with 410 units. The development will be at a cost of Rs 257.28 crore and is due to be completed by September 2023. The building is touted to house Delhi’s tallest buildings.

As of today’s date, initial work has begun on the site and its perimeter has been cordoned off.

An official of the university told Newslaundry that the University was not notified about the transfer of land and that it will be used to build a residential complex which seemingly goes against a letter written in 1943 by the then joint secretary of Government of India’s Department of Education, Health and Lands to the Chief Commissioner of Delhi.

The letter as reported by PTI broadly states that the University should be apprised of any kind of construction activities, stating that, “The area of 81.78 acres should be considered to be a protective belt and the Civil Station Notified Area Committee and the Delhi Improvement Trust (now DDA) should consult the university before building plans are approved by them in respect of land under their control and the president of the Delhi Municipal Committee should be asked to ensure that buildings erected on the land under the committee’s control are of good type..”

The construction of the high rise also violates the Clause 11.3 of the 2021 Master Plan of Delhi (MPD) that says, “Restrictions on tall buildings would be necessary for important areas like Lutyens Bungalow Zone, Civil Lines and North Delhi Campus. In the case of Urban Extension, areas for specific Urban Design projects and tall buildings should be identified,” and Para 1.4.4 of the Zonal Development Plan for Zone-C (Civil Lines) under MPD- 2021 which states that efforts must be made to preserve the character of the Delhi University Campus.

On the flip side, as per the environmental clearance papers of the project, Young Builders Private Limited had filed two separate applications in the offices of the Archeological Survey of India and the Ministry of Culture seeking a No Objection Certificate from their end. Both the authorities ruled that the project site fell beyond the prohibited or regulated areas of centrally protected monuments and thus a NOC was not required from their offices.

Avtar Singh, the mayor of North Delhi Municipal Corporation has ordered a probe into the matter, “I was informed through a letter about the approval given to the building plan. I have ordered an inquiry and asked the officials to look into the matter. If anyone is found guilty, strict action will be taken against them. We will ensure that the security of students is not put at risk. If the construction has started, we will stop it,” he told the Times of India.

Delhi University had moved the High Court in 2012 in this matter but lost the case in 2015 before a single-judge bench. Post this, the university filed a review petition in the High Court but the petition was dismissed citing the delay on the part of the university to file an appeal. The case is now being heard in the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal.

DU has already written to the PMO, Defence Ministry and Home Ministry on the matter stating privacy and safety of the girls as the prime concerns against the construction of the building.

Rajib Ray, President, Delhi University Teachers Asso-ciation (DUTA) in statement given to Newslaundry said, “In light of the fact that there is already a severe paucity of spaces for students on campus, for their accommodation, recreation and for other academic activities, the use of this space for a residential complex is questionable in its intent. Not only would this construction affect the cultural and academic life of the university community, it would further exacerbate the traffic situation on campus.

The university has two-laned roads and such a large residential complex in its vicinity would directly result in increased traffic and create civic inconvenience to the resident students and employees of Delhi University.” He also stressed upon how the building will hamper the privacy and security of the females residing in the hostels next to the site.

Students living in the hostels of DU have also written to the Prime Minister seeking his intervention in the matter calling the construction of the building an infringement of their privacy.

Students of the university have in the past expressed their anger over the construction of the project that can prospectively hamper the environment of the campus. Last month, on  September 28, the students union of Kirori Mal College organised a protest which saw participation in large numbers. Students formed a human chain around the plot shouting slogans like “Private building down down” and asked for trees to be planted on the spot instead.

“This huge structure right next to the Metro station will pose a lot of difficulties to us students, primarily it will be a major security threat to us female students as it overlooks four of our hostels. I don’t see any logic behind this, there are enough colleges in the university func-tioning in temporary campuses, CIC and DSJ, for example, operate in the pavilion of a stadium — why not give the space to them instead?” said Tanya Sujan, a final year student of the University.

The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) too protested against the construction of the building and took out a rally from the Arts Faculty to the project site to protest against it. They demanded a hostel be built at the site instead of a tower.

On October 27, Prof. Yogesh Tyagi, Vice Chancellor of DU, announced in the Executive Council meeting that the North Campus area would be developed into a closed and integrated campus like the South Campus which will prohibit outsider’s entry into the campus, in a move to beef up the security of the campus.

Rajesh Jha, a member of the EC, told Hindustan Times that this move fulfills an old demand of the student bodies; “Vice Chancellor Yogesh Tyagi made an important announcement today that within one year, the North Campus would be developed as an integrated closed campus without any thoroughfare. Only university people can enter. The university said it was in touch with different agencies including Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Municipal Corporation and Delhi Police,” he said.

“On one hand, where talks are going on to make the North Campus a closed one, the decision to construct a 39-storey building is a bit bizarre,” said Priyanshu, a student whose college is right next to the project site.

Newslaundry has contacted MD Overseas, the parent company of Young Builders Pvt Ltd for a comment. This article will be updated on the website if a reply is received.

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