Urban villages - oxymorons in every way

May 3rd, 2009 - 3:39 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sahil Makkar and Ritu Sharma
New Delhi, May 3 (IANS) Lok Sabha elections are another ritual for Mariam. She does not know who is contesting for the May 7 poll in the capital. No campaigner has bothered to go down her lane in Bawana, an “urban village” in northwest Delhi.

She is only sure of one thing. “Main to haath pe hi muhar lagaungi (I’ll put my stamp only on the hand).” That is the poll symbol of the Congress party.

Mariam is one of the millions living in the 135 urban villages of the capital. Like most of them, she does not think the next MP will address her woes. “Whoever comes to power, our problems will not be addressed. We have no means of livelihood, nothing.”

Like the other urban villages of the capital, Bawana shows the contradiction of the term that is beloved of officialdom. Houses are brick and mortar and usually have at least three floors, but they have no water supply. Women have to walk kilometres with pots on their heads to fetch water, or men have to carry it back in cans slung on their two-wheelers.

The original owners of the land have sold them to realtors and bought swanky cars, which are stabled next to their buffaloes as they continue with their dairy business.

Delhi’s urban villages are so-called because they are no longer surrounded by farmland. They are areas where municipal planning rules do not apply and so people can build as they like. The obverse is that basic municipal services like roads, water supply and drainage are few and far between.

Najafgarh is another urban village that demonstrates lack of good roads and public transport links.

“We have got a Delhi Metro depot in our area but not a Metro station,” rued resident Deep Arora. “The nearest Metro station is in Dwarka. So we still have to commute by (private) blueline buses.

“Traffic snarls are routine as traffic to Gurgaon and Bahadurgarh pass through the area. Moreover there are no red lights or traffic policemen. Roads are also in very bad shape.” Arora does not expect the polls to bring any change either.

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