Since 2009, the stalemate between the residents of Kathputli colony and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) over redevelopment of the colony, which is near the Shadipur depot here, has not ended. The DDA has managed to shift only 500 families to a transit camp out of the 3,000 families living in the area in the past six years.
Pooran Bhaat, the pradhan of the Kathputli colony and a puppet artiste said, “We want to live in better conditions, but neither the DDA nor the government is listening to our demands. Our demand is that we should be given a written assurance signed by the DDA that we will be allotted flats that will be built on this land within a specific time frame. But they won’t give a written assurance. So why should we leave our homes?”
“We are all artistes — some folk artistes and some traditional — while some are magicians and jugglers. We want the government to look into how we can hone our skills so that we are able to perform better. We have even travelled to several countries for performances. Rather than giving us flats, the government should provide us with a platform where we can grow our talent. We have enough money to build flats,” he added.
The few residents of the transit camp built by Raheja Developers, the builder for the redevelopment plan, at Anand Parvat, also complain of the lack of basic amenities and lack of space to practise their art at the camp.
Dilip, a resident at the transit camp, said, “The houses here are too small to accommodate a family of six. We do not even have enough space to practice our art. We came here on the assurance of the DDA that we would be given houses within two years, but it has been two years at the transit camp and still no work has begun on the ground. We cannot even go back to the colony, as people there are angry with us because we shifted out. ”
Senior officials of the DDA did not respond to repeated calls. However, Dimple, PRO of Raheja Developers, said, “We are looking into all aspects of their problem and possible solutions would be taken into consideration. Proper agreements would also be given to them, but they should start moving out to the transit camp now for the project to start.”
The DDA had signed an agreement with Raheja Developers in 2009 for the “in situ slum development” of Kathputli colony which is spread over 5.2 hectares of land, valued at over Rs 1,040 crore (2009 estimate), but according to the residents, the DDA sold the land to Raheja Developers at a mere Rs 6.11 crore. The project proposes to resettle the resident families in 2,800 multi-storey flats and the remaining land would be given for commercial purposes.
Jayeshree, a lawyer and human rights activist working for the rights of the residents of Kathputli colony, has accused that the entire project is “non-transparent” and “non-accountable”.
“The DDA and the government had taken an arbitrary decision by not consulting the residents of the Kathputli colony for development of their land. The survey they conducted was incorrect, there are issues with the transit camp, the plan was faulty, and the process of allotment of flats was not made clear,” Jayashree said.