Move to give better life to capital’s slum dwellers


New Delhi : Slum clusters in the Indian capital may soon become history as local authorities prepare a plan to rehabilitate nearly three million dwellers by moving them to low-cost apartment homes that the government would build for them.

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At least 20 percent of Delhi's population of about 15 million live in cramped and squalor-filled shanties but contribute heavily to the city's development. The proletarian army engaged in sundry jobs like road-vending, manual labour or working as domestic helps are a huge asset to the well-off living in villas and high-rise apartments.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has said shanties in the city would soon have to be demolished. She said at least 40,000 low-cost apartment homes would be built to rehabilitate the slum dwellers who live in sprawling clusters of lean-to shacks without any access to toilet, water or other civic facilities and that are highly vulnerable to the elements.

"They would have a respectful address in four-storey complexes with ownership rights. The city government has decided to construct flats in large numbers by using monolithic technology which would be instrumental in building thousands of flats in a short span of six months," Dikshit had said at a function at the Delhi College of Engineering.

The move comes before the Delhi Commonwealth Games 2010 as these slums, often wedged in the midst of middle class homes and near malls and shopping places, are a major eye-sore and a health hazard.

The government plans to start construction of these flats on a large scale from July onwards. These flats would be sold to the slum dwellers at a nominal price for which they will also be provided loans.

The chief minister said these low-cost apartments would be located in well-developed areas with schools, dispensaries, shops, playgrounds and other basic civic amenities. She added her government would ensure shanty dwellers are provided all amenities, including transport, so that poor people do not face difficulties and could accept their new neighbourhood as a permanent place.

Already people from at least 20 slum clusters in east Delhi have been shifted to the resettlement colony Savada Ghavera. Around 6,000 such families hail from the Yamuna river embankment.

"For the last few years, the state government has been taking steps to give a comfortable life to slum dwellers. The resettlement colonies are much more hygienic than their shanties," said Subhas Bose, chief functionary of the NGO Anubhav that works for the betterment of slum children.

"Provisions for schools, hospitals and other civic amenities will go a long way in helping these people climb the social and economic ladder," Bose told IANS.

He however said the government would have to build more flats than their present proposal of 40,000 to absorb all slum dwellers.

Officials at the ministry of urban development said more flats would be constructed in a phased manner.

"Piped water, electrification, street light facility, all-weather roads, toilets and drains are a major worry for slum dwellers and efforts would be made to do away with all these problems," said an official.