Living a hard life in unauthorised colonies, residents are denied basic facilities like roads, water, and electricity. Fifty-six years ago, Delhi had 110 unauthorised colonies, housing nearly 221,000 people. Today, it has 1,797 of them. Stories of residents living in such colonies.
Raj Mandal, a resident of Lal Kuan, an unauthorised colony in South Delhi bathes once in a week because of a shortage of water. His colony does not have a water connection. The residents survive using Delhi Jal Board’s water tanker, which comes once in a week.
“We get a water tanker once or twice in a week. We are not provided with any facility from the government, we get electricity from some private players, which charge us Rs 12 per unit while the actual charge is rupees four,” said Mandal. The colony does not have a garbage collection facility either. No-one comes to them to pick up their garbage and the residents are left with no choice but to throw it in the open plots and nearby river bodies.
“Nobody does anything for us; we have to do everything ourselves – from cleaning the sewers to keeping the roads clean or arranging water for ourselves. The politicians just come here at the time of elections, begging for votes but after it gets over they are nowhere to be seen,” he further added.
Due to lack of a government electrical connection, many residents are involved in electricity theft to avoid paying hefty amounts to private players. This has resulted in many incidents of death due to electric shock.
“Last year some boys of the colony climbed on an electric pole to check disruptions in their connection. They were not trained and didn’t wear any safety gear. While repairing the connection they got electrocuted and died. That’s our condition, and I believe nothing is going to change,” said Vikram Singh, another resident of Lal Kaun.
In Rama Vihar, another unauthorised colony in North West Delhi, residents were protesting against the lack of facilities. A crowd gathered at Vedpal Sharma’s house, the man who had sold the plots to the residents. This colony too lacked the basic facilities.
Sahil Verma, a resident of the colony said: “We don’t have any water, sewer, garbage collection facility since we moved in here and that was 17 years ago. All the residents have built a sewage collection hole beneath the house. When it gets filled, we call the sweepers and get it cleaned in every two to three months.”
“We are treated as third class citizens. We all want to get out but can’t because of the high property rates. I challenge any politician in India to come here and manage to live here for just two days. They will realise the pain that we go through every day,” said one of the protestors. When we contacted Vedpal regarding the protest he said, “I have sent dozens of letters asking for regularisation of our colony to our MLA and even to Chief Minister.” Rama Vihar is also a political battlefield for all the parties because of its population. At every election, they were promised these facilities but nothing has happened.
Another unauthorised colony, Mukundpur, looked like a breeding ground for mosquitoes. “If you come here in rainy season you will not be able to stand here because of the mosquitoes. There is no active sewage pipeline. Entire colony becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes and many residents fall prey to dengue and other such diseases,” said Kawaleshwar Prasad, a resident of Mukundpur, Delhi
How these unauthorised colonies came into existence
Delhi Development Authority, the sole developer of affordable public housing, has consistently fallen short of the resources to meet the ever-growing demand for such houses. As a result, the working class seeks alternatives illegally. Over the decades, an estimated one-third of the city’s population has found illegal addresses.
Seeing the growing demand and the lack of public houses provided by DDA, the private developers entered the scene. They did plotting in agriculture land without approval of layout. The motive of these developers was to gain hefty profits. Neither did they build these colonies with proper structure nor did they make arrangement for any basic facilities.
A ray of hope
In 2015 Union Cabinet approved an ordinance to regularise 895 unauthorised colonies with over 60 lakh population. Out of which 312 are on private lands and 583 are on public land. Delhi Jal Board also claims that it expanded its pipe water network to 1,201 unauthorised colonies. But still, almost 700 colonies are without a water connection.
Pramod Kumar, a resident of Vijay Vihar, a colony which has been passed for regularisation and is now equipped with facilities recalled: “Earlier we used to travel two to three kms just to get some water. The lack of roads made travelling very difficult. We still face water-related issues, but we are happy that we at least got the connection. Now the roads have also been built. However, we don’t have any sewage pipeline yet. I believe that our lives have completely changed.”
Virendar Aggarwal, a resident of Prem Nagar, another colony which recently got regularised said: “Earlier we used to wait for water tankers, which would come once in a week. We need not worry about that after getting the connection. I think no-one should live a life like we were living before.”
Watch the video to understand the plight of the residents
Photos and Video: Rahul Satija