Delhi’s unauthorised colonies have once again became a matter for political blame games ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The number of illegal settlements in the capital city has grown considerably in size, from 110 colonies in 1962 with a two lakh population to about 1,800 odd colonies housing about 50 lakh people now.
While no government has done anything to legalize these colonies in over one decade, their large population makes it no wonder that political parties have started wooing them with several sops and carrots in terms of poll promises. “Most of these have no proper sewage systems, roads and piped water. They depend on Jal board tankers. The situation becomes really critical during summer. The politicians visit this area only when there is an election,” said Ranjit Sharma, a resident with Sangam Vihar area in South Delhi.
Last week, the Centre set up a 10-member committee headed by Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal to recommend a process for recognising ownership and transferring rights to those living in unauthorised colonies. The committee would recommend modalities for recognising ownership and transfer rights and the government claims it would end the uncertainty which residents of these colonies live under. The committee is likely to submit the report within the next 90 days.
While the move was welcome, some say the timing makes the intent doubtful. “This is an every election affair. Governments hardly do anything after they come to power,” said Ramesh Jain, another businessman in Burari. Urban Development Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has, however, claimed that since the Delhi Government was delaying the progress, the Centre had initiated the move. Other political parties have already started questioning the timing of such a move. “If they had to regularise, why didn’t they think of constituting a committee before? They had five years,” Delhi minister Gopal Rai asked on Friday.
The AAP government claims that it had sent a list of 700 colonies for regularisation to the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, but no action was taken by them till date. In 2012, the Congress government led by Sheila Dixit had regularized 895 colonies. No regularisation has been implemented since then.