NEW DELHI: The December 12 razing of 500 shanties in Shakur Basti here has left Delhi Development Authority (DDA), which acquires land for developmental projects, in a fix. According to an RTI, of 2,658 acres of agricultural land acquired by DDA in Delhi, 1,048 acres have been encroached upon by unauthorised colonies, incurring huge losses to the public exchequer.
“The authority cannot dismantle or raze any of these illegal structures as the Central government in 2006 through NCT of Delhi Special Provision Act regularised all the colonies. DDA has paid compensation to farmers for the land, but as they are occupied, designated projects could not be implemented,” S K Meena, director, Land Management DDA, told The Sunday Standard.
As per market sources, the current value of land in Delhi is Rs 53 lakh per acre. According to this, the current value of 1,048 acres of encroached land comes to `555.40 crore.
“This happened due to inaction of the authority. DDA keeps on acquiring more and more agricultural land, but what about the ones that have been encroached upon? said RTI activist Ramesh Kumar Mumukshu, who filed the request.
Also, 450 acres worth Rs 238 crore have been acquired in North, East and West zones of DDA, which are lying vacant. “The major reason of encroachment is the migrant population coming to Delhi for decades. They start with small encroachments, after which land mafias take over the land and start developing them. We raze new ones, but we don’t have the authority to touch the old ones,” said Meena.
“What was DDA doing for the last two decades? Encroachment does not take place overnight,” said Mumkshu.
To acquire land, DDA has to send a notification two years prior to the acquisition. No activity is permitted on land identified as developmental area except farming. As the date of acquisition draws closer, farmers—who own the land—build concrete structures and begin demanding higher rates for the land. If the structures are demolished, the owner takes a stay in court, claiming that he has been living there for decades. According to DDA, 13,000 such cases are pending in courts across Delhi.
There are 350 jhuggi-jhonpri (JJ) clusters in Delhi. According to the AAP government’s rehabilitation policy, JJ clusters that came up before January 1, 2006, will not be removed without rehabilitation. The government also disallowed new jhuggis after it came to power on February 14, 2015. “Sometimes it is very hard for us to find out the date of construction of houses as people living in illegal colonies pay electricity and house rent allowance to Municipal Corporation of Delhi and have forged papers,” said Meena.