Delhi has around 900 slum clusters housing almost a fifth of its population. That’s around 40 lac poor, disempowered people living in the shadows of the moneyed. Before infrastructure development and modernising efforts are undertaken, a country should first consider and work towards bringing some level of equity in society. While everyone is not equal and will never be, at the very least, everyone should have a place they can call home.
The government has been working feverishly towards building flats and unflattering apartments to relocate the poor. Perhaps, they should take it slow. In a rush to complete building one BHK flats for Delhi’s slum dwellers, the DDA appears to have, once again, produced a dangerous product.
Less than three months after keys to 575 flats were handed over to slum dwellers in Kalkaji, as part of the Centre’s in-situ slum rehabilitation scheme, called ‘jahan jhuggi wahan makaan’, new home-owners are complaining of issues such as seepage, cracked tiles, broken pipes & windows, and chipping cement. Normally the rich are heard and heard soon enough. In this case, it’ll be interesting to see what action DDA takes to correct the situation. And how the government reacts to the apparent failure of their stated mission to rehabilitate the poor with quality life.
And it’s not as if the former slum dwellers are asking for doles and freebies, even though they have a case for it. A study has found that the average monthly income of more than 41% of slum households was between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000, while 25.6% of such households earn less than Rs 5,000. It’s utterly depressing. Yet, the beneficiaries of the scheme, despite living a life of absolute lack of everything, paid Rs 1.24 lac each for the flats. The rest was incurred by DDA.
If the Kalkaji building is not restored quickly and those expected to move into these homes in future are not reassured of standard living, many would rather want to stay put at places they are being taken away from, seemingly with false hopes of a better life. Quite a few of the people interviewed by the media have confessed the poor condition of living in flats is bringing in thoughts of going back. Not that they would have anywhere to go back to. The land taken by the government has been assigned for infrastructure development. So basically, they’ll have to live with it.
The issue of slum housing in Delhi is a long-standing one, with thousands of people living in cramped and often unsafe conditions. The government’s decision to build new flats for slum dwellers was seen as a welcome move, and it was hoped that this would help to alleviate the problem.
Steps need to be taken to ensure that there are no lapses in the construction of these flats. Whether you are building luxurious apartments for the wealthy or you are doing so for the poor, the approach towards safety and ensuring just basic amenities cannot be different.
The DDA and other such bodies and contractors should be required to use only high-quality materials and should be held accountable for ensuring that the buildings are safe and stable. Provisions for basic amenities such as water and electricity should be made, and garbage disposal facilities should be provided. Additionally, the DDA should be required to undertake regular checks on the buildings to ensure that they are being maintained properly and that any issues are addressed promptly.
It is important to note that the issue of slum housing in Delhi is a complex one, and there are no easy solutions. However, the government and the builders have a responsibility to ensure that the people who will be living in these new flats are provided with safe and secure housing that meets their basic needs. This cannot be achieved if the buildings are of poor quality and lack basic amenities.