Delhi elections: Raja Vihar, Suraj Park voters see house ownership rights as gateway to better amenities

Abhishek De

Eleven residents of Raja Vihar were handed out conveyance deeds under the Pradhan Mantri Unauthorised Colonies in Delhi Awas Adhikar Yojana (PM-UDAY) by Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri in January. (Express photo)

Dotted with open drains, overflowing sewers and heaps of garbage lying strewn by the roadside, the narrow lane that leads to the house of 45-year-old Ramesh Kumar Choudhary in north-west Delhi's Raja Vihar tells the tale of years of neglect that unauthorised colonies in the city have witnessed. However, for Choudhary, all that is secondary now as he shows the conveyance deed and registry papers of his 33.44 sq mtr house with a beaming smile.

Choudhary was among the 20 residents of unauthorised colonies in Delhi -- 11 from Raja Vihar and 9 from Suraj Park under Rohini Assembly constituency -- who were handed out conveyance deeds under the Pradhan Mantri Unauthorised Colonies in Delhi Awas Adhikar Yojana (PM-UDAY) by Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri in the first week of January.

The move is being seen as BJP's bid to woo over 40 lakh residents of 1,731 unauthorised colonies ahead of the crucial Assembly elections in Delhi -- where the saffron party has been out of power since 1998. The voting pattern of these colonies will have a bearing in at least 34 of the 70 constituencies.

"Getting the registry papers has been a much-awaited relief and will benefit us immensely. Now, we won't face any trouble getting bank loans and can get any government-related work done," Choudhary, who lives with his wife and 14-year-old son, said and added that the whole process cost him just Rs 4,600.

Unauthorised colonies in Delhi have long been neglected by successive governments. (Express photo)

While Rina -- one of the 20 residents who got registry papers -- feels the Centre's move would go a long way in removing the "stain" of living on an unauthorised colony, Mithila sees it as a gateway to better access to sewer lines, schools, parks and health facilities.

"We want parks, schools, street lights and water facilities. The MLA (Vijender Gupta) has done work in the past five years but still a lot is left to be desired. We hope that with the regularisation, the focus will be on the development of such colonies," 35-year-old Rina said.

Open drains, overflowing sewers dot the Raja Vihar unauthorised colony in Delhi's Rohini. (Express photo)

Mithila, who overheard the conversation, stopped by to add that only after the Centre paved the way for regularisation of the colonies, that work related to road repair and sewage lines started.

"Every time during elections, MLAs would talk about unauthorised colonies and giving ownership rights but then the matter would be forgotten. We are happy that the Centre has finally listened to our decades-old demand," Mithila said. "It took me just Rs 6,000 to get the ownership papers for my 110 sq house," Mithila said.

The legal tag to their colony means they need not fear demolition any more, said Raja Vihar RWA president. (Express photo)

Ever since the Parliament passed the bill to provide a legal framework to grant ownership rights to residents of unauthorised colonies, AAP and BJP have been engaged in a war of words claiming credit for the issue that has for long been a political hot potato. While BJP has accused the Arvind Kejriwal government of creating hurdles, AAP has hit back by saying that private colonies cannot be registered on government land.

Blaming AAP for the delay in regularising the colonies, Brijmohan Suman, a property dealer, said the Centre had asked the Kejriwal government two years ago to start surveys in the unauthorised colonies. "But the AAP government created roadblocks by saying there was a shortage of tehsildars and patwaris to conduct such surveys," he said.

Besides being optimistic about a better life with ownership rights, for some, the legal tag to their colony means they need not fear demolition any more.

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has set up around 25 offices across the city to assist the residents of 1,731 unauthorised colonies in Delhi. (Express photo)

"A few months ago, demolition work was carried out in the colony and people were worried. Giving ownership rights means there is no fear of their houses getting razed. This is a very big step taken by the Centre. Also, the President has been made the first party in the stamp paper, so it is reliable and residents need to fear," said Kuldeep Singh Chhillar, president of the Raja Vihar Residents’ Welfare Association. As RWA president, Chhillar said his next initiative would be to make nationalised banks open their branches in Raja Vihar.

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has set up around 25 offices across the city to assist the residents of 1,731 unauthorised colonies in Delhi. Information under 43 heads, like plot area, share in property, proof of construction, GIS survey details etc, are required to be submitted for the registry papers.

Ram Kumar Bhardwaj, a retired government employee of Suraj Park was among those who received the registry papers. (Express photo)

Explaining the process before conferring of ownership rights, a DDA official told indianexpress.com that a private team empanelled by DDA first conducts a survey of the houses and fixes their geo-coordinates.

"After the survey, a QR code is generated and confirmation messages are sent to the owner following which the document submission process begins. After getting the conveyance deeds, the DDA helps in getting them registered at the sub-registrar office," the DDA official said.

Just across the road from Raja Vihar, which has a sizeable Poorvanchali population, is Suraj Park with wide concrete roads, CCTVs, parks and bigger houses comprising middle-income families. Here too the Centre's move to regularise unauthorised colonies seems to have touched a chord with the locals even though they acknowledge the water and electricity schemes by AAP are hard to ignore.

Just across the road from Raja Vihar is Suraj Park, with wide concrete roads, CCTVs, parks and bigger houses comprising middle-income families. (Express photo)

Ram Kumar Bhardwaj, a retired government employee and among those who received the registry papers, said ownership rights was bigger than anything else for him. The 66-year-old said he could finally apply for a bank loan and modify his house after residing in Delhi for 40 years.

"Also, the whole registry process for my three-storey, 70-yard house cost me just Rs 20,300. According to the circle rate, it would have gone into more than a lakh, which would have been impossible to pay. The Centre's decision to subsidise the registration fee is commendable," Bhardwaj said.