Puppeteers on a string

The in-situ slum rehabilitation project at Kathputli can become a national model. Delhi must get it right.

Late in August, it was reported that the DDA, the Central agency and planning authority owning vast amounts of land in Delhi, had given the go-ahead for residents of Kathputli Colony to be shifted to transit camps. Last month, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit inaugurated a second such DDA project in Kalkaji. Kathputli is a 30-year-old Jhuggi Jhopdi Cluster (JJC) in west Delhi. Under the DDA's plan, the settlement is to be redeveloped with flats for current residents at the same site, known as in-situ rehabilitation, in a public-private partnership (PPP) model. To defray costs and earn returns, the private developer will be allowed to build a limited number of high-rise apartments on the site for sale at market prices. During construction, the residents will shift to a transit camp and return to separate high-rises within the settlement. The project was initiated in 2008 but has been delayed, affecting all stakeholders the DDA, the residents and the developer.

Despite these delays, Kathputli is seen as the pioneer in-situ rehabilitation project in Delhi one that officials desire to replicate, if successful. Until 2007, residents of JJCs were relocated, usually forcibly, to under-serviced resettlement sites such as Mangolpuri, where they were given a plot of land, beginning with 67 square metres early in the 1960s to just 12.5 sq m by 2007. Subsequently, a decision was taken to stop allotting plots and begin with built-up flats in current resettlement colonies like Savda Ghewra and Bawana, located in the northwest periphery of the city. Most of these colonies remain under-serviced, unsuited to home-based livelihoods and far from places of employment. Many flats remain unoccupied.

As an alternative, in-situ rehabilitation is gaining traction. Apart from Kathputli and Kalkaji, the DDA has other projects in the pipeline. The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), the new agency under the state, is interested. Political actors too are coming on board. Recently, the state opposition party's president, Vijay Goel, promised a flat to every resident in Delhi's slums at their current site if his party comes to power. These aspirations also resonate with the policy ambitions in the Delhi Master Plan 2021 and Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY), the flagship Central scheme for slum-free cities.

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