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Nearly decade after Kalkaji slum rehab foundation was laid, here’s how DDA built 1st 3,000+ flats

PM Modi inaugurated over 3,000 flats Wednesday for rehabilitation of slum dwellers in Delhi. Beneficiaries paid Rs 1.24 lakh each for the flats, while rest of the cost was borne by DDA.

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New Delhi: Two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated over 3,000 flats Wednesday for the rehabilitation of slum dwellers in Delhi’s Kalkaji Extension, under Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA) “in situ rehabilitation project”, the beneficiaries gathered to get the first glimpse of their new homes Friday.

While some expressed delight at the sight of the high-rises, others were disappointed with how far above the ground they would have to live and the “small size” of the flats. The beneficiaries who have been identified for rehabilitation in the first phase of the Kalkaji Extension project are scheduled to shift in 90 days, those ThePrint spoke to said.

“We are happy that we were able to escape from where we were living before. We have been waiting for the flats to get ready for a long time,” said Jayant Rai, who drives an e-rickshaw in Kalkaji.

He added: “All the facilities offered here are like the ones rich people have. It’s a good area, there are parks and everything is systematic. We have been asked to shift after three months. My wife and I are glad that we will be able to offer our children a good future.”

Rai received the possession letter of his flat Wednesday, when the 3024 newly-developed flats were inaugurated by PM Modi at Vigyan Bhawan in Delhi, to provide a “better and healthy living environment” to slum dwellers.

The project in Kalkaji Extension is one of three such undertaken by the DDA, the other two being at Jailorwala Bagh and Kathputli Colony.

While the Kathputli Colony project was the first to have been proposed — in 2009 to provide in situ rehabilitation to the colony of puppeteers, acrobats, storytellers and folk dancers (street performers) living near Delhi’s Shadipur Depot — the Jailorwala Bagh project, for nearly 7,000 people living in 1400 jhuggis in Ashok Vihar, was envisaged in 2012.

According to DDA officials both the Kathputli and Jailorwala Bagh projects are underway. While the Jailorwala is likely to be ready by December this year, the date of completion of the Kathputli colony cannot be estimated yet, they added.

The Kalkaji Extension project, for the rehabilitation of slum dwellers living in Kalkaji’s Bhoomiheen Camp, Navjeevan Camp and Jawahar Camp, was conceptualised in 2011 and the foundation stone was laid in 2013.

In the first phase, the DDA has constructed 3,024 flats at a vacant commercial plot for those living at the Bhoomiheen Camp. After the Bhoomiheen Camp site is vacated, the rehabilitation of slum dwellers in the Navjeevan and Jawahar camps will be taken up in the second phase on land vacated by the Bhoomiheen Camp residents.

“These poor people have been made to live in deplorable conditions. When there is such an imbalance in one single city, who can we think of holistic development? In the Azadi ka Amrit Kaal, we have to fill this huge gap. That is why, the country is moving on the path of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas and Sabka Prayas for everyone’s upliftment,” Modi said at the Vigyan Bhawan event Wednesday.

Manoj Garg, a BJP worker, told ThePrint that 1866 flats of the total 3.024, were allotted to the beneficiaries living in the Bhoomiheen Camp at Wednesday’s event.

The flats have been built on an area of 3.60 hectares. Each apartment has a bedroom with a living area, a balcony, kitchen, and bathroom. The blocks are fitted with lifts, fire extinguishers and a proper drainage system.

The beneficiaries had to pay Rs 1.24 lakh each for the flats, while the rest of the cost was borne by the DDA, said DDA executive engineer Sandeep Poonia, who was in charge of the project.

Ramodar, who works as a carpenter in Kalkaji, and his wife, were the first ones to be handed the keys of their new house by Modi Wednesday.

“Our earlier place was bad and dirty, but this is very good. We felt happy when we were given keys because now we can give our children a comfortable life,” he said.

Also read: ‘Dengue Vihar, Gandgi Puram’ — how neighbourhood poster protest is creating a buzz in Agra

‘Eight years in the making’

The EWS (economically weaker section) flats have been eight years in the making, according to some beneficiaries ThePrint spoke to.

According to Poonia, all rooms are well-ventilated, have similar sizes and have potable water supply. The blocks are 14 storeyed with stilt parking (or stilt level plus 14 floor) and the complex has sewage treatment plants (STP) to treat waste water on site and green parks for horticulture purposes.

Some of the slum dwellers interviewed by ThePrint, however, expressed apprehension about some aspects of the flats.

The flats | Photo: Sukriti Vats | ThePrint
The flats | Photo: Sukriti Vats | ThePrint

“These flats were being constructed for the past eight years. They looked good from the outside, but inside they felt small. Our family consists of me and my husband and our four daughters. How will we all fit there? Where will we keep our stuff?” asked Chaya Rai, one of the beneficiaries.

She added: “I am scared about the lift too. If we get a flat on a high floor and the lift by chance stopped working, who would we ever come down or go up?”

An elderly woman, Rai said she had also grown fond of her earlier home, where she had lived for over 50 years. Though she thought the new flats were beautiful, she felt bad that her old home would be destroyed (to make way for the second phase of construction.)

Another beneficiary, Pinky Thakur, meanwhile fretted about whether the apartments were safe for the kids.

“In the middle of the apartment halls, there are areas from where you can see above and down (shaft for ventilation). If a child goes close to those areas on a higher floor, there is a high chance that he could fall from there. There should be some covering there to avoid such cases,” said Pinky, a mother to two young children.

Garg said he had heard complaints about the flats being too small.

“Some people have been complaining that flats are too small, that’s not true, it is 25 sqm big, there is a latrine, bathroom and balcony. Those who were saying they have many children, who are married and have their own families can also get their separate apartments if they have the required documents and they follow the process,” he said.

Development model

While the market value of the flats is estimated to be as high as Rs 25 lakhs each, according to DDA housing commissioner V.S. Yadav, the Rs 1.24 lakhs paid by the slum dwellers includes maintenance charge for the first five years.

“Rs 350 crore was the construction cost and then the land had additional cost. But there is no provision for us to recover. There is a net loss for us but DDA is doing it for the betterment of the city. It’s CSR kind of activity to fulfill PM’s vision of ‘Jahan Jhuggi Wahan Makan’,”said Yadav.

Yadav added: “According to the guidelines of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), we are asked to use the land as a resource and enter such rehabilitation projects in public-private partnership.

While for the Kalkaji and Jailorwala Bagh projects the DDA had directly invited bids for construction and supervised the work, in the PPP model through which the Kathputli Colony is being rehabilitated, it’s the private company handling the construction will be expected to built flats for the residents in 60 per cent of total land (provided by DDA) and the rest 40 per cent will be given to them on freehold basis to recover costs by utilising it for commercial purpose, Yadav said.

This PPP setup will be used by DDA for all their future projects, he added.

“Residents of 600 slum clusters in Delhi, if they are ready, will also be provided similar flats. So today we are showing them what they can have for themselves,” said BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

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