Capital’s second diplomatic enclave in Dwarka

By Joel Joseph, IANS

New Delhi : A narrow 10-foot road on the outskirts of Dwarka in southwest Delhi, with marshy fields on either side, leads to what will be the second diplomatic enclave in the Indian capital after Chanakyapuri.

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The need for a second diplomatic enclave arose after the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) got several requests from a host of countries that were keen to have missions in a country that is touted as an emerging world power. More than 60 missions are in Chanakyapuri, in south Delhi, that houses the bulk of the diplomatic missions here and there is hardly any land left for others.

Embassies of at least 39 countries of Central Asia, South Asia and some smaller African and Latin American countries that operate from rented apartments in various parts of south Delhi will be allotted plots in the new area.

Looking at the place today, it is indeed hard to believe that in a few years swank embassy buildings will replace the paddy fields and diplomatic sedans take the place of the bullock carts that trundle through the rutted roads.

Even basic infrastructure like roads, electricity, water and sewer lines are something unheard of by the residents of the villages nearby.

Three villages surround the 70-acre plot identified by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) after it got a request from the urban development ministry for land where the diplomatic enclave could come up.

Divided into three sectors 27, 28 and 29, the area comes under phase-2 of the Dwarka development plan. While phase-1 construction is almost complete and is largely inhabited, the land covetred in the second phase is still owned by villagers. DDA says the diplomatic enclave planning is in the final stage.

“We are in the final stage of planning. We have acquired most of the land and the process is on to acquire the remaining land needed to construct the diplomatic enclave. As soon as we acquire the land we will start construction and that will take about three years to get completed,” DDA spokesperson Neemo Dhar told IANS.

Realising the boom in property prices once the diplomatic enclave takes shape, property dealers have already set up shop and are quoting sky rocketing prices.

The villagers themselves aren’t too happy with the deal offered by DDA.

“There are about 250 villagers in my village and most of them are farmers by profession. The DDA has acquired our land but at throwaway prices. They are paying us just Rs.25 lakh (Rs 2.5 million) for an acre of land. We have tried to protest but nobody has heard us. They simply say we will get our money by the end of this month,” Harbans Lal, the head of Bamnoli village, told IANS. The other two villages are Bhartal and Dhul Siras.

With no directions put up by the DDA it is hard to negotiate your way to reach the place. It is almost impossible to travel by that route alone at night, and the absence of streetlights only adds to the fear. Perhaps that’s the reason police have set up a one-room police post in sector 27.

“This area has seen a lot of activity ever since it was announced that the diplomatic enclave would come up here. People come to me with roadmaps asking for directions and want to know the property prices,” said head constable Bramh Prakash, the only policeman posted there.

The DDA too is in the thick of action. “We are in the process of taking charge of the land and we will provide basic infrastructure such as road and electricity and will then hand it over to the ministry of external affairs,” said a senior DDA official.

Dwarka, which is supposed to be the largest sub-city in Asia, will also have what is touted as the largest convention and exhibition centre.

Slated to come up in Sector 24 on a 35-acre area by year 2010, it would be on a scale comparable to the Suntec Convention Centre in Singapore and would be made up of three components – an International Convention and Exhibition Centre, hotels and commercial facilities.

Its proximity to the international airport, an expanding Metro network and other ambitious projects such as building India’s largest convention centre were a few reasons why the government zeroed in on Dwarka to be the second diplomatic enclave.