Monday, December 06, 2021

Stopped in its tracks

Two buildings on one stretch, and 108 homes on another — these are what stand in the way of the Delhi Metro’s ambitious but delayed Pink Line project.

Written by Sarah Hafeez | New Delhi |
February 13, 2017 2:06:33 am
delhi, delhi news, delhi metro construction, delhi metro, delhi pink line, delhi pink line metro, delhi pink line metro construction, delhi pink line metro construction stalled, indian express, india news Metro construction has been stalled for over four years near east Delhi’s Hasanpur village as owners of two buildings refused to allow construction unless their demands were met. Express photo by Gajendra Yadav

In 2012, the demolition of a 67-year-old duck farmer’s home in China’s Zhejiang province made international news. For four years leading up to that day, the farmer and his wife had refused to sign an agreement allowing their home to be demolished so a highway could come up, saying they would not budge till they were adequately compensated. The Chinese term for such residents, who refuse to move during demolition, is Dingzihu. It means “nail house” — a reference to how they stick out.

For the last few years, the Delhi Metro has been facing a similar problem.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) had announced in 2011 that it would construct the nearly 60-km-long Pink Line, covering 38 stations, by the end of 2016. But what it didn’t know at that time was that two stretches would prove to be a challenge — two buildings in east Delhi’s Hasanpur village, and 108 houses in Trilokpuri.

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When two is a crowd

At Hasanpur, overhead Metro rail lines running from Anand Vihar ISBT towards Vinod Nagar see a 70-metre hiatus as soon as one reaches the village.

Owners of the two buildings here have been negotiating with the DMRC for the last four years, refusing to allow construction unless their demands were met, a senior Delhi Development Authority (DDA) official said.

Dinesh Chhabra, a businessman who purchased one of the buildings in 2010, said, “I am a victim of circumstances. I bought a part of the plot during an open auction from a private bank. It was a legal sale; there was no question of illegal ownership.” At the time, he built a four-storey building, housing exhibition galleries.

But then, in 2013, the DDA and Metro officials approached him and said the building was right where the tracks are supposed to be. The DDA always maintained the plot was owned by it until recently when it declared the property private, making way for negotiations between private individuals and the Delhi Metro.

Ramesh Agarwal, owner of the other building, however, said, “I bought this building from a private owner in the early 2000s. But the DDA began harassing me soon after. I do not live there anymore and I am in talks with the DMRC, which wants to demolish the building to make way for the Metro”.

delhi, delhi news, delhi metro construction, delhi metro, delhi pink line, delhi pink line metro, delhi pink line metro construction, delhi pink line metro construction stalled, indian express, india news Construction work left incomplete near Trilokpuri’s Block 15. Express photo by Gajendra Yadav

A long wait

When completed, the Pink Line — or the Majlis Park-Shiv Vihar line — will run like a ‘U’ and go through west Delhi’s Rajouri Garden, south Delhi’s Dhaula Kuan, southeast Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar and east Delhi’s IP Extension.
The DMRC has said “the targets for Lajpat Nagar-Shiv Vihar section will be worked out when land issues involving relocation and rehabilitation at Trilokpuri and Hasanpur are resolved”. Officials said they hope to wrap up work here by September 2017.

But it’s been a long wait for the 1,000-odd residents of Hasanpur who believe the Metro could spike property prices, and rue the fact that the two buildings have stopped that from happening.

“It used to be a large garbage dump — this 500-yard plot where the buildings came up. But someone who doesn’t belong to the village landed here 15 years ago, bought the plot and began constructing buildings. We still don’t know how they bought public land which belonged to the DDA,” a resident of Hasanpur, who did not wish to be named, said.

While cranes broke down parts of the two buildings several times over the last few years, they continue to stand. The residential one, which belongs to Agarwal, is in ruins with gaping holes in the facade and each of the three floors. Chhabra’s property is in better shape, though residents claim the insides have been hollowed out by demolition.

The anger of villagers is compounded by the fact that many of them gave up small portions of their land for Metro pillars to come up. “I was promised compensation. I allowed a boundary wall to be brought down and gave up 150 yards of land because the Metro is to serve the people of Delhi, including us. But neither have we got the money nor has the Metro track been completely constructed,” Sahi Ram Singh, a resident, said.

Residents of Hasanpur also rue the fact that their ancestors gave away acres of farmland to the government in 1966. This is the same land on which the Metro is coming up today and on which residential societies have mushroomed over the past two decades.

“The government had come to acquire it and we were illiterate and poor. There was no question of refusing the government. We sold our land for a pittance. But today, people fight it out with the government,” Ranveer Singh, another resident, said.

Sanjeev Nagar, father of a two-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son, said, “The Metro coming here will do us much good because it will make commuting easier, especially for women. We also hope it will make Hasanpur more visible and increase property rates.”

Residents said most of the 250 households in the village earn money by renting out rooms in their double-storeyed buildings at Rs 12,000 to business establishments and Rs 4,000 to tenants.

With all stakeholders at the negotiating table, villagers see hope on the horizon. Anuj Dayal, DMRC executive director, corporate communications, said, “The demand for land in Hasanpur was placed on DDA in 2012 and the issue is still continuing… If land at these two places (Hasanpur and Trilokpuri) was available, construction on these patches would have been completed by May 2015.”

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The other hurdle

Trilokpuri, roughly 3 km south of Hasanpur, has turned out to be a little more problematic for the DMRC because its land acquisition forays got mired in the fallout of the 2014 communal flare-up in the area.

As many as 108 of the 400 homes in Trilokpuri’s Block 15 are to be razed to make way for a 290-metre viaduct on the Pink Line. It has taken months for the DMRC to convince the predominantly Muslim population of Block 15 to shift to alternate housing.

“When the communal clashes broke out in 2014, one of the reasons for the anger between the two communities was this forceful dislocation. Hindus wanted the Muslims of Block 15 to shift out, while the Muslims didn’t,” Dinesh Kumar, a resident of Block 10, said.

With the communal clash delaying talks, court petitions also held up negotiations.

Shamsuddin Azad, president of Block 15’s RWA, said, “Of the 108 houses in the block, 30 families are not only losing their homes but their source of livelihood as well. A medicine shop, a clinic, a cycle repair shop, a restaurant and many other such establishments will be demolished. How will these families find work even if the DMRC is willing to relocate us or pay compensation?”

Recent meetings with the DMRC have resulted in residents agreeing to be relocated to 64 houses being developed by it four blocks away. The houses will be allotted to the residents through a lottery, Azad said.

For the remaining families, options include shifting to Vinod Nagar, where the DMRC is developing housing projects or accepting compensation.

Residents such as Shakeel Thakur said the compensation offered, around Rs 33 lakh for a three-storey building in Trilokpuri, is not adequate as the actual rate is around Rs 45 lakh. He added that those who own houses with commercial establishments are being encouraged to relocate rather than ask for compensation — an estimated Rs 74 lakh.

“The Metro has promised, though not in writing, that it will build and handover shops after the Metro line is completed for those who are losing commercial establishments. But the compensation we are being offered is hardly sufficient,” he said.

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