THE KATHPUTLI COLONY DIARIES by Sunayana Wadhawan,
on behalf of the Kathputli Colony residents
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Kathputli colony is a neighbourhood in central Delhi and is home to over 3200 families of artists and workers who bring the city alive. Today, these families are in the midst of a struggle to save their homes and their livelihoods from being uprooted.
About 50 years ago, artisans and performers from different nomadic tribes of Rajasthan came and settled on a piece of barren land on the outskirts of the city near Shadipur Depot. Since then, they have entertained the city and several countries with their magical performances and traditional arts and were joined by families from different regions of India who began to provide essential services in and around Shadipur. If you were to take a walk around the neighbourhood, you would hear different languages spoken and see the various kinds of work people engaged in. You would also notice that the once barren land is now surrounded by flyovers, the metro, roads, rich neighbourhoods and shopping complexes.
The residents of Kathputli colony are being asked to leave since the land belongs to the DDA (Delhi Development Authority) and they are being seen as encroachers on public land. The residents were told by politicians that there is not enough land for them and that they will have to live in multi-storey buildings. But information from news reports and Right to Information applications revealed to the residents that the land which they had developed over the last 50 years had been given away to a private builder without their participation and consent.
Public authorities like the DDA continue to display a lack of transparency and accountability and the shift towards privatisation isn’t making things better. The DDA was to build 23 lakh homes in Delhi from 1962 to 2001, of which they built only 11 lakh homes. Also a mystery are the missing 12 lakh homes that were to be built by the DDA and the residential land that was reserved for them. It is the failure of the government in fulfilling its responsibility to provide shelter and basic services that is reflected in the settlements that have emerged over time in the city.
However, our policies continue to promote urbanisation, displacement and unequal distribution of land at the cost of the lives and livelihoods of those who build our cities. The government is now handing over its responsibilities to the private sector. The question that needs to be asked though is whether the private sector will be able to fulfil the responsibilities that the government chooses to shy away from?
The DDA was set up in 1956 to protect public land but today is all geared up to serve the interests of private builders through a new land pooling policy and the privatisation of land and housing in Delhi. The DDA signed an agreement with Rajeha Developers under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) project in 2009 for the ‘insitu slum redevelopment’ of Kathputli Colony. Kathputli colony is spread over 5.2 hectares of land and the estimated market value of this land today is more than Rs. 1040 crores. The DDA has siphoned off this land to Raheja Developers for just Rs 6.11 crores. Not only is the government giving away parcels of land to private builders, but it is also allowing them to make profits which have been calculated as being a total of approx. Rs. 1600 crores!
The project proposes to resettle resident families in 2800 cramped multi-storey houses and acquire the remaining land for building 170 premium flats for the rich and a 10 storey commercial complex. During the construction period, DDA will 'shift' all families from their land to a transit camp at Anand Parbat, which people have reported is built of thin sheets, lacks basic services, does not have enough space to house their families or store their sources of livelihood and are unsafe. Further, there are more than 3200 families residing in the Kathputli colony and not all of them have been included by the DDA in their list of eligible families, in spite of the fact that they possess all documents required under the DDA resettlement policy.
The financial bid for the PPP project at Kathputli Colony was submitted by Raheja Developers in 2009 with a completion date set for 3rd September 2011 in the agreement. That completion date was not adhered to. Then, at a meeting at DDA in September 2011, Raheja Developers requested an extension of the completion date by 2 years. Why didn’t the DDA take steps to terminate the contract as per the provisions of the Agreement when the project was not completed and why was no penal action taken against Raheja Developers for non-completion of the project by the agreed date?
There has been a complete lack of transparency as well as accountability in the contract signed between DDA and Raheja Developers. The contract says that they will build 2800 flats for the residents of Kathputli colony, each of 30.5 sq. m. But if we were to add together the size of the room, hall, kitchen, toilet and bathroom in each of these flats, the total size of the flat being made adds up to 20.9 sq.m. In addition, the Viability Calculation for the project gives a figure of 19.62 sq.m as the area of each dwelling unit. So what is the exact area of the flat to be available for an evicted family? This just means that the private developers will be grabbing more and more land in every possible way. None of the artisans and workers at Kathputli colony want to live in multi-storey buildings planned for them without considering their needs, their traditions and their livelihoods. There have been repeated attempts made by residents of Kathputli Colony to access the list of eligible families prepared by DDA and a ‘tripartite’ agreement to be signed between the residents, the DDA and Raheja Developers but these documents have never been shown to the residents. The rules and conditions being imposed on the resident families and the real costs people will have to pay are still no clear.
The residents have invested much of their hard earned money into developing Kathputli colony and wish to construct their homes themselves. A letter written to the Hon. Lt. Governor of Delhi by Raheja Developers states that the project is under ‘Rajiv Awas Yojna’. This policy is aimed at making a ‘slum-free India’. However the policy guidelines clearly state that redevelopment of a slum can take place through 5 different ways, i.e. private sector, ppp model, by the government, by ngo’s and by the beneficiaries themselves. Why hasn’t this last option been considered in the case of Kathputli colony especially when people desire to build their homes and services according to their needs ? The residents feel that they are being excluded from this process so as to ensure that a few people can make profits.
As residents began to confirm their suspicions that they were being misled and misinformed by the DDA and Raheja Builders, DDA officials arrived at Kathputli colony on the 21st of February 2014 and distributed notices to residents for the registration and eviction of families to begin from the 24th of February 2014. The residents have since then been guarding their homes, organising public meetings and developing alternative housing plans to fulfil their demands for participatory planning.
The DDA and the Raheja Developers have been harassing residents by implicating them in false cases and using police force to make people sign demolition slips and vacate their homes. Several residents have been physically assaulted by the police and threatened by DDA officials. Residents have also been tricked into signing and giving their thumb prints impressions on demolition slips without any guarantee of relocation, and have been taken advantage of for not being able to read and/or write. The National Human Rights Commission has taken note of these incidents and has sent legal notices to the Delhi Police and DDA. Over the last few months, people have not only seen the nexus between politicians, builders and the police come alive but have also strengthened their resolve to challenge it fearlessly.
The move to begin evictions was also challenged by the residents in the Delhi High Court since the DDA refused to enter any meaningful dialogue with the residents. The residents through their writ petition demanded that their houses should not be demolished, a termination of the contract signed between DDA and Raheja Developers and accountability from DDA as to its arbitrary behaviour in excluding families from the list of beneficiaries. They ask for the land to be redistributed equally among all the residents of Kathputli Colony and that the DDA should adhere to its policies and the norms laid out in the Delhi Master Plan. The residents submitted several proposed of housing plans to demonstrate how all the families could be given enough space to house their families and sustain their art. If they are shifted into flats then all the wood workers, singers who practice their skills, idol makers, puppeteers who make 15 feet tall puppets, those of us who walk on 15 feet tall stilts, rickshaw pullers, weavers, tailors, painters, construction workers, rope makers, toy makers, magicians, sanitation workers, domestic workers, drummers who play dhols that weigh 50-60 kgs and many other workers and artisans who live here will not be able to sustain their work and livelihoods.
The High Court of Delhi announced its verdict on the 20th of March, 2014, and has directed the DDA to conduct a survey to ensure that all families eligible for relocation are included and relocated. The High Court has also provided for a 5 member committee of residents to visit transit camp and submit a report to the DDA on the lack of facilities at Anand Parbat along with suggestions to make it liveable according to the needs of families and their livelihoods. The High Court has asked the DDA and Raheja Developers to ensure that the tripartite agreement with residents of Kathputli colony is provided at the time of relocation to Anand Parbat and that residents must be relocated back in Kathputli colony after 2 years. The DDA will have to consult residents regarding their suggestions for the layout plan for the redeveloped Kathputli colony and ensure it provides for all eligible families with spaces for artisans and workers to sustain their livelihoods. The residents of Kathputli colony have also been asked to review the layout plan prepared by Raheja Developers while keeping in mind the norms given in the Master Plan.
The residents of Kathputli colony are now closely observing whether the orders of the High Court will be respected by the DDA and Raheja Developers and are hoping that they will not be forced out of their homes till they are satisfied with the provisions being made for them. At the same time they recognize the need to be vigilant and ensure that public authorities take responsibilities and fulfil them. The political struggle for information, accountability, land rights and dignity is alive among the residents and so is the conviction that their voices must be heard. Residents are exploring several political and legal possibilities for the realisation of their demands. If this project to redevelop Kathputli colony really aims at creating a brighter future for the people of Kathputli colony, then it must be done with the people's participation and recognition of their ideas and their dreams.
(I would like to thank the residents of Kathputli colony and the Hazards Centre for
providing access to information and knowledge shared by them regarding Kathputli colony
and the PPP project between Raheja Developers and DDA.)
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