By Nidhi Mishra
New Delhi: Even an offer of a free 600 sq. ft apartment in a Faridabad housing complex has failed to persuade metal worker Bhola Mandal, 38, to move out of the crudely built home that adjoins his workplace near Faridabad’s Mathura road, where he makes steel gates and railings.
Mandal, who was allotted a house under a government programme to relocate slum dwellers in the National Capital Region (NCR) by the Haryana Urban Development Authority (Huda), does not want to relocate because it will entail a daily commute to the factory. It will also mean paying for electricity and water, which are either available for free or are heavily subsidized where he lives now.
“We get water twice a day from the municipality and electricity is subsidized; if I move, I will have to spend nearly half my salary in travelling,” said Mandal, who gets a salary of Rs. 6,000 a month and lives with his wife, daughter and parents in a two-room shanty beside open drains, with a mesh of overhead electrical wires hanging dangerously.
Rehabilitation projects: A file photo of slum dwellers in Kathputli Colony. In 2009, DDA had auctioned 12.89 acres in the colony. Photo by Mint
The reluctance of Mandal, and hundreds of others like him who are living in places without proper sanitation, water supply and other basic necessities, to move to housing complexes built to relocate them, has posed a challenge to the government that plans to make the NCR, centred on New Delhi, free of slums.
It also exposes the lack of planning and poor management of welfare projects that aim to improve the living conditions of the 75.2 million urban poor in India.
Huda’s Ashiana housing scheme, in which Mandal was allotted a unit, is a case in point. More than 19 months after the project was completed, the 3,080 units have failed to attract even a single occupant.
Experts suggest that the government will be better served if it develops the slums, instead of pursuing expensive housing projects that make little economic sense for the urban poor, who earn less than Rs. 200 a day and have to support large families.
“Projects to improve living conditions of India’s poor urban neighbourhoods will require good planning management, implementation and community involvement. India has already done a very good in situ upgradation in places such as Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Kolkata, and should start replicating those models,” said Patricia Clarke Annez, urban adviser in the transport and urban development department at the World Bank.
The other gap in the implementation of such projects is the failure of the government in allotting land for transit camps in the case of on-site rehabilitation where slum dwellers are moved to temporary shelters until new homes are built in the same place they lived in earlier.
N.K. Solanki, administrator of Huda in Haryana’s Faridabad district, says that although the units are ready, no one is occupying them as they do not want to pay for the services.
“People moving from the slums to concrete houses do not want to pay for water or electricity since they have never needed to pay for these services and so the units are lying vacant,” Solanki said.
In another such project, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) auctioned 11.8 acres in 2006 in Tehkhand, south Delhi, for an on-site slum rehabilitation project. A case is on in the courts over whether the land belongs to the Delhi government’s forest department or DDA. In 2009, DDA auctioned 12.89 acres in Kathputli Colony for a similar project. Temporary relocation shelters for the slum dwellers are yet to be built.