Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Living in the National Capital Part 4: Social Division and Unequal distribution of resources

Khampur is a village less than 10 kilometres from Delhi’s heart, Connaught Place. The area is like any other Delhi village- urban concrete jungle, with no regulation on building construction. It is home to numerous Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) aspirants, who live as tenants. Rent in the area is as high as Rs 12,000 a month for a small room, which is normally occupied by two people.

The area is also home to numerous vegetable vendors, labourers, people with odd jobs, and traditional villagers who have been living in the area for decades. They have been joined by an influx of UPSC aspirants who have changed the demography of the area. These aspirants, who can pay higher rents receive more resources than those who have less paying capacity. A class society has been created in one of the corners of the city, just like every other village in Delhi. And resources seem to be available on the class status of the person.

Deepak and his family faces huge water problem in the area
Deepak (name changed on request), a gol-gappa vendor shared his story. He faces acute water shortage in summers every year. “I have been living here for past 10-15 years. Water is the biggest issue we face. There is a heavy shortage of water supply.” Deepak lives in a permanent settlement, and not a temporary shelter. He receives water supplied by Delhi Jal Board, which comes directly under Delhi Government. Kapil Mishra, newly appointed Law Minister of Delhi Government, has also been appointed the chairman of Delhi Jal Board. He replaced Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.

Interestingly, the UPSC aspirants in the same area receive 24 hour water supply. Rishikesh Roshan, an aspirant from Patna (Bihar) told us that he has never faced any problem in the area- be it water supply or electricity supply. “We receive 24 hour water supply and there is no power cut in the area. This is a perfect area to live in and prepare for UPSC exams.” This comes as a surprise as many of the people living here much longer in the same vicinity have different experiences of these basic resources.

When asked if Deepak has raised the issue with the local MLA or the Ward Councillor, he said, “I am a daily wage earner. Who am I to raise such questions? If I indulge in such activities then what will happen to my work? I have left it to the landlord. I do not want to get into all this. I have accepted my life as it is.”

Politicians share their achievements
The dingy lanes of the village makes one realise the strong pressure of population the area is under. The ever growing population in the area, unauthorised construction of houses, influx of new students every year- all this result in more pressure on the limited land and thus unequal distribution of natural and basic resources. Deepak also shared that there was not that much of a problem when he first entered the area years back. They had reasonable supply of basic resources. However with time the water supply started diminishing. This is still happening inspite of the promise by Kejriwal to provide free water to every family in Delhi.

Delhi is constituted of numerous villages. The Delhi villages are different than other villages in India. They are somewhere in between- neither modern nor traditional. They are highly populated due to the lesser rent one has to pay compared to the urban settlements in Delhi. The villages also come under Lal Dora area, and thus Municipality permission is not required in many constructions.

The unequal resource distribution and urban divide requires attention of the authorities in power. A divide in society, of any kind, is not good for social cohesion. Kejriwal promised water to everyone, it should not depend on whether a person can pay higher rent or lower rent.

This article was first published by on July 1, 2015

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