The stretch of road from Malviya Nagar Metro station to Saket District Court is facing the predicament of not just being encroached upon but also not existing in official records
Encroachments on the footpaths of Press Enclave Road consist of shops and homes. People living with their families, some who have grown up here, inhabit the area, living literally on the streets. A space which is also a source of business, selling ceramics, plants and (a couple of shops) pets. But authorities who were tasked with inspecting the road and demarcating the area declare they have no records of this road.
This gives the road the strange position of not existing on paper but existing in actuality – stretching out from Malviya Nagar Metro Station to the Saket District Court. The status report on behalf of sub divisional magistrate (Hauz Khas) signed by Tehsildar Arvind Kumar states that while “the said road” falls under two revenue villages of Hauz Rani and Khirki, “In the presence of representative of all concerned departments, the revenue records of village Hauz Rani and Village Khirki were checked and it was found that the said road has not been mentioned in the maps of aforesaid villages and it is not a shajra road. The dimension (length and width) of the said road is also not mentioned in records.
The status report had even gone on to state that officials from DDA S&S-II and Assistant Engineer, PWD had informed that they don’t have any map whereby it can be known under which khasra number the road has been made and whereby the dimension and area of the road can be revealed. This was after an inspection was done in March 2020. The documents were made available to Advocate Mohit Kumar Gupta around end-December the same year.
How this came to be was through Gupta’s PIL, filed over four years ago in 2016 – which has now resulted in the extraordinary declaration by the authorities. He wanted to pinpoint responsibility for the stretch which always faces traffic jams, and a footpath which is rendered unserviceable due to encroachment.
Before March 2020, when the inspection was conducted, the Saket court had been informed on behalf of the PWD that the possibility for providing a footpath in the entire stretch from Malviya Nagar Metro Station to Saket Court Complex had been explored. PWD also pointed out that footpaths already existed at both sides of the road, “except in 328 metre approximate length opposite Hauz Rani Village on Press Enclave Road and footpath is not feasible due to narrow width of the road in this stretch.”
What it is obvious that a good part of that stretch has commercial encroachments and the bit where it isn’t “feasible” to have footpaths is due to tens of chemists shops opposite Max Hospital. After about 200 metres there is a narrow junction. There are also no designated stops, meaning autorickshaws, RTVs stop in the middle of the road, even as people wait on the street for public transport.
The claim that footpaths already exist is technically true that several stretches are occupied by people such as Jeet and Mamta, a husband-and-wife duo who run a shop here. Jeet, who grew up in the adjoining road, sells wooden mirror frames, candle stands, boxes, amongst other things hidden beneath. Calling the area home for more than 30 years, he claims there has never been a problem, with no authority demanding money for allowing them to stay there, in the room which also serves as a home.
The Covid-19 lockdown had completely halted his business for a few months in the initial days of the pandemic. It is now slowly picking up, only to be disrupted by rains again this month. In this struggle for survival, he doesn’t have time to worry about authorities – ones who have shown in 2019 and in early 2020 in court orders, as having removed encroachments from the footpath. Perhaps the word “temporary” in the compliance report submitted on behalf of the SDMC on 7 March 2020, holds the key to this anomaly.
It had said that as per the direction of the Saket Court, encroachment removal action on 21 February, on both sides of the Press Enclave road from Malviya Nagar Metro Station up to Saket Court Complex took place, with “all temporary encroachments on Govt. Public land noticed during the actions “being “removed”. Before this, the court was also informed that on 24 May 2019 an “encroachment removal action” took place.
The reality is different. Many others occupy parts of the pavements. Such as Sheela Kumar, who unlike many others, has a well-built shop, one that her family owns. The shop occupies a great expanse of space but also stretches out into the pavement of the road, as is customary by the sight of it. “It has now been 21 years since coming here after marriage. My father-in-law has been here since 1964. Back then there was no Press Enclave Road, just a forested area. Slowly he started giving away land for more people to come and occupy. This is our shop and has our home built on top. Earlier we used to make our own pottery on the rooftop but when the government banned it, we had to switch to selling ceramics”.
While the law, development and ease of movement is imperilled, there are also people’s livelihoods in jeopardy in this unplanned city and its lack of structural change. To this, add the fact that the road does not even exist in official documents, and a melting pot of disaster overflows.