Ice Melts in Kathputli Colony

Baring some overseas funded NGOs, rest of the institutions including political parties are cooperative and helping DDA and Raheja Developers to complete the project on time

By Asit Manohar

In a bid to provide better life style to the world’s largest community of street performers residing in Kathputli colony — which is home to near 2800 families of street performers comprising magicians, snake charmers, acrobats, singers, dancers, actors, traditional healers and musicians and especially puppeteers or kathputli-performers — near Shadipur Depot in New Delhi, Government of Delhi through Delhi Development Authority (DDA) initiated the redevelopment project of the colony on public-private partnership basis. The contract was granted to Raheja Developers. As per the plan, 3000 flats will be built in 10-story buildings on the 5.2 hectare, apart from that a portion of the land will be given to the developer to construct its own commercial and residential buildings. However, the move failed to bare fruits as the slum dwellers refused to relocate as they fear losing their abode and bread and butter which they found within few kilometers of the colony.

But, after the new government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi took over in 2014, the move was once again accelerated as the government was determined to make Delhi a slum free state by 2022. The DDA along with Raheja Developer officials are working in sync to make this objective achieved. Nearly 1000 families have been shifted to the Transit Colony made for the Kathputli Colony slum dwellers where the private builder is providing free transport service for rehabilitation from the slum to the transit colony. When the families are deported in the transit colony, the construction company is providing free foods including milk, medicine, education to the kids and skill training for the future generation so that they can get the kind of livelihood they deserve. When the customary puppet shows are losing sheen in urban parts of India, skill training is taken as a major booster dose for the slum dwellers future generation from both DDA and the Raheje Developer.

JP Agarwal, Principal Commissioner, DDA said, “We are deporting around 40-50 families in a day and hopefully entire 2800 families would be relocated to the transit Colony in Anand Parvat by end of February.” He said that land would be made available to the developers immediately after the relocation completes. On why slum dwellers should relocate to the Transit Colony leaving their age old dwelling being demolished Agarwal said, “This move is for their betterment. We would relocate them for two years and then after developing houses for them, we would bring them back to that new colony that will be developed under PPP Model.” He said that new colony that DDA and Raheja Developers would have all basic amenities which is completely absconding from the current slum.

Asked about how new houses would be allotted to the relocated slum dwellers Agarwal of DDA said, “We are giving relocation slip to the slum dweller agreeing to shift from the slum to the Transit Colony we have developed in Anand Parvat. Once the houses would be ready for shift, these slum dwellers will have to show the relocation slip to the developer’s office which already there in the Transit Colony.”

On any charges that these slum dwellers will be asked to pay for the houses DDA would be developing through public private partnership Agarwal said, “At the time of shift, slum dwellers will be given slips which would a proof that they belong to the Kathputli Colony. After completion of the building construction, the dweller need to pay Rs 1,12,000 for the houses while an additional Rs 30,000 would be charged for free maintenance of the housing society for five years.” When asked if the slum dweller finds it difficult to pay these amounts being charged Agarwal said, “We have made provision for the bank loan also. So, money won’t be the major constraint while allotting houses to the slum dwellers of the Kathputli Colony.”

Asked about the developer would get in return JP Agarwal of the DDA said, “We are giving 35 percent of the net FAR to the builder while rest 65 percent of the FAR would be used for developing EWS housing colony for the slum dwellers.”

Expressing displeasure over the given FAR Navin Raheja, CMD, Raheja Developers said, “At all India level developers are given 40 percent of the land with half the FAR for such projects while we would effectively be getting around 25 percent of the land under the given offer. Hope, DDA would take note of it and raise the FAR share of the private builder in coming projects.” However, Raheja accepted that such projects are more of social obligation than commercial success.

Explaining about how the construction company is managing things Navin Raheja said, “We are giving on spot agreement while shifting slum dwellers from Kathputli Colony to the Transit Colony in Anand Parvat. Apart from free transportation while shifting, we are giving free coupons for food and other basic necessities including milk to the slum dwellers shifted to the Transit Colony.” On motivational factor that helped both DDA and the private developer to make people agree for shifting Raheja said, “The agreement has been made with due participation of the slum dwellers and its clauses are in sync with their requirements. We have even developed sample apartment which has been approved by the representatives of the slum dwellers in the Kathputli Colony.” He said shifting would be complete by the end of February as around 50 families are getting shifted on regular basis and around 1000 families have already been shifted to the transit Colony.

On requirement for commencing the construction work and time required for completion of the construction and allotment of the houses Raheja said, “Once we are given vacant land along with commencement certificate or RERA registration, whichever applicable at the time of commencement of construction work, it would take around two years from then to complete the construction and allotment work.”

On some of the local NGO badmouthing about the whole move Navin Raheja of Raheja Developers said, “Initially, people living in the slum dwellers were paying heed to these NGO’s words. But, once we managed to motivate some of the slum dwellers there it became easy to convince the rest. People whom we shifted from the Kathputli Colony to Transit Colony, they come to know about the difference in life style and started to convince their brethrens in the slum.” He said that DDA and Raheja Developers have made a team that comprises around 150 people and some slum dwellers shifted to the Transit Colony which is motivating the rest of the families to shift from the slum as life in Transit Colony is far better than their life in the Kathputli Colony while the kind of life they would be given after two years is beyond their expectation.

On fear of losing bread and butter after shifting a slum dweller in the Transit Colony said, “Transit Colony is around 2.5 kms away from the Kathputli Colony. Majority of us used to come in between kathputli Colony and Ananad Parvat. So, it has made little difference for us as we used to move around 2 kms earlier in search of our livelihood. Only think that has changed in terms of bread and butter, is direction, distance is almost same.”

While moving through the Kathputli Colony we came across a DDA official who said on the condition of anonymity, “In Kathputli Colony, while motivating people to shift to Transit Colony, we are showcasing the cleanliness and better hygienic facilities including food and other requirements of their daily needs.” He said that women are happy with their skill training program meant for the children as it would help them getting better livelihood in future. Since, we are keeping all major needs of their daily life, they also want to come into the main stream as their customary bread and butter is on verge of extinction and hence some of the grown up men have also expressed their desire to join our skill training program and we have obliged them positively.

On why NGO people are not giving right information to the slum dweller the DDA official said, “These NGOs are flourishing while doing such injustice for years. Once, the slum is over, from where they would get their bread and butter and huge amount of aid. They fear that they would lose those financial aids which they are wooing in the name of slum development from both our government and overseas.”

On political hurdles coming in their way while achieving their objectives, the DDA official said, “All political parties are responding positively to our move. If these NGOs have any link with any political party then we can’t establish that. But, our efforts have been able to move forward because it was supported by all political parties here in Delhi,” adding, “The way things are moving, we would be able to complete our job on time and Kathputli Colony project would become a role model for Pradhan Mantra Awas Yojna Program that promises one house for each Indian family by the end of 2022.”