Kathputli Colony residents just won't budge

 The Delhi Development Authority's first in-situ slum rehabilitation project appears to be heading nowhere. A public meeting on Wednesday ended without resolving the stand-off between the residents of puppeteers' Kathputli  Colony and DDA officials.

A desk set up by the DDA inside a police-post saw only a few residents turning up to sign the agreement to shift to a transit camp at Anand Parbat. About 35 of 2,800 families had signed the tri-party agreement with the DDA and a private developer on Tuesday, said a DDA official.

On Wednesday morning, Police ensured that people did not stand in groups near the police post. Pathasi, a 60-year-old woman, came to complain that those willing to sign the agreement are being threatened by the anti-rehabilitation lobby. The redevelopment project, a partnership between the DDA and real estate firm Raheja Developers, will use 50 per cent of the land after the slum is cleared to raise multi-storey buildings. 

Of the remaining land, one-fourth is meant for small shops and other community-oriented activities. And another one-fourth would be a remunerative component for the builder where private residential multi-storey complexes could be constructed.

“We want roof! We want roof!”, shouted women residents of this tinsel slum, comprising puppeteers, acrobats, jugglers, magicians and folk artists who have been living in open spaces.

Local resident Dilip Bhatt told an official who had come for arbitration that the DDA should halt the registration process as the slum rehabilitation project is sub-judice. He also said a representation had met Lieutenant Governor Nejeeb Jung to express their concern.

“The transit camp has all the amenities better than this place. And after you relocate there, we will bear the maintenance cost for three years,” said the official, adding the High Court has not directed the DDA to stop the rehabilitation process.

Lala Ram, an irate resident in a tracksuit, jumped in and said, “You say the same things each time you come. This will end up creating more disturbances in the area.”

The residents of Kathputli Colony on Monday had staged a protest. “Police have not used force, but they are trying to instigate people. So that they can impose section 144,” said NGO worker Bhagwati who works with performers and artists of the slum. 

Several burly men were seen shoving back boys from going near the police post. “It is difficult to contain these young people, they will try their best to instigate us,” he added.Toy-maker Anil Kumar who said, “How will we work in two-room flats? They will be giving us two-room flats in 18-19 storey buildings. How will we afford electricity, maintenance and lifts?”

“We are trying to convince locals. Most of them are ready to shift to the temporary camp,” said a DDA official, pointing out that the relocation process will continue until all families sign the agreement.

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