The wasted land

In a congested city, 37 acres of land donated by the Mamurpur Panchayat for a women’s college has been lying fallow for half a century

ABOUT 20 kilometers from the nearest Delhi Metro station lies a land which should have been a women’s college under Delhi University’s Swami Shraddhanand College.

The 93 bigha land (37 acres) with dense trees, with some parts used as a dumping ground, and a vast playground for monkeys has been lying in that state since 1978. It was given by the Panchayat at that time led by the Pradhan, Sunder Lal Khatri for construction of a women’s college but nothing materialised.

Now, it comes to attention with MP of North West Delhi Hans Raj Hans questioning the Minister of Human Resource Development, Ramesh Pokhriyal about it in the Lok Sabha.

He had asked in December 2019 whether the government has any proposal from the institution.

The land lying in Mamurpur village of Narela has not seen any keenness from the authorities, with Pokhriyal responding that the government had not received any proposal yet.

Green space: (left) The land for the women’s college; Satyavir Khatri, has been looking at this land with hope since his college days Photos: Sashikala VP

While the Pradhan is no more, we spoke with his son Raj who tells us that they have been going to successive governments for the college to be built but nothing has materialised. “The panchayat and villagers had decided together that they would give their land for this. When Tejendra Khanna was LG, we went to him many times and he was helpful. There was even a talk of a SAARC college so he asked me to take the chief engineer and DDA’s vice chairman to show that land. But the then CM Sheila Dikshit wanted it in South Delhi so instead they took the land in Maidan Garhi”, he tells us.

He says after that he has also tried to get a Metro built there, “Neither the Metro nor the college has been built and now it’s just lying like that. The Forest Department had even taken over the land so we took them to court. We won the case at Tis Hazari and got the land back for the college around 2005”, he tells us.

“I would write all the time to the Government of India, to the Delhi Government that there should be a college for women. The last time I wrote to the Delhi Government was four years back. But now…what to do…,” Raj says, sounding like he has given up hope on this.

We also spoke with the RWA president Jai Singh Shuhag of Sri Ram Colony, right opposite the site. He says there was a time some three years back when a professor from Shraddhanand College had come calling. “He said the college wanted to build a Jagannath temple with the college which would soon be built here. He wanted land close by so we can have an education institution and a temple next to it.” After showing him around, Shuhag didn’t see him again.

INDIA – FEBRUARY 28: Indian woman student at Delhi University in former Viceroy’s Residence, India (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)

Nothing has happened, he says, and with the Panchayat system now dissolved, he believes the college is not accountable to anyone. “Who will ask the college what have you done with the land we gave you?”

He says he knows who is to blame. “It is because the government which doesn’t want to make it”, he accuses. He goes on to allege that it is the fault of the Delhi Government led by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), even though they have been in power for only the past five years in the land’s   42-year history of abandonment.

AAP had in its poll promises given an assurance of opening at least 20 colleges. This promise could not be kept, AAP says, as Delhi University falls under the jurisdiction of the Centre-led BJP.

Raj thinks this is not a good excuse. “They can at least speak to the Centre to build the college, they can put some effort in”.

Shuhag too isn’t convinced that it isn’t the government of the Union Territory to blame, but goes on to talk about why it must be a priority for the government. “It would have been so good for the girls of this township if the college had been this close”. Instead, he says, keeping in mind the safety aspects, and the lack of transport, parents “have to drop them and pick their daughters off.”

The closest women-only college is in Bawana — the Aditi Mahavidyalaya — fully funded by the Delhi Government, which is at about 10 km from Mamurpur.

While the literacy rate of Narela Taluk is 70.36%, male literacy rate stood at 75.9%, whereas 63.78% females were literate according to the Census of 2011.

Needed Centre: RWA president Jai Singh Shuhag says the women’s college is required in the area. Presently, the only women’s college is in Bawana, which is a task to travel to Photos: Sashikala VP/ Getty Images

But even so, a patriarch of a family we met who also happens to live near this barren land believes women have progressed a lot since his time. Satyavir Khatri himself studied in the Shraddhanand College and says co-education isn’t a problem. “Look at women, they are all making noises these days about their power”, he says laughing, sitting on a plastic chair, soaking up the invisible sun on a gloomy winter’s day.

“Girls are doing very well, they have left boys behind. It’s because unlike boys they focus on their studies, while boys will get into all sort of bad habits”, Satyavir says when we ask if women have been of a disadvantage because the college has not been built yet. “My own girls have studied and are now grown up and married. But yes, if the college were built it would help this area become better”. And by better he means get a Metro line, “which we really need”.

The closest Metro station to this village is Samaypur Badli, but for onward transport availability one should get off at Jahangirpuri. “Travelling from one place to another is very difficult here”, Satyavir says.

For now, the residents just gaze at the forest that could have been a place for learning.

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