Illegal constructions and encroachments have forever been plaguing Delhi, often turning out to be a hot political issue. While the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ensures a slew of schemes for slum-dwellers, including free water and electricity, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) on the other hand has been regularly carrying out demolition of illegal structures.
Matters escalated in April this year when the BJP-led MCD demolished several jhuggis in Jahangirpuri following violence over a Hanuman Jayanti procession. The demolition drive continued in many other areas, including Mangolpuri, Najafgarh, Shaheen Bagh, New Friends Colony and Tughlakabad.
While the MCD claimed the drive had nothing to do with the violence and was a regular exercise, the AAP retorted back, saying most of Delhi would cease to exist if every unplanned structure is demolished.
Illegal constructions from 2017 to July 2022
Recent Lok Sabha figures show agencies identified 57,014 illegal constructions in Delhi from 2017 to July 2022. These agencies include the MCD, New Delhi Municipal Council and the Special Task Force for Delhi Master Plan. At the same time, 26,124 illegal structures were demolished in the same period.
The highest number of encroachments (13,420) was identified in 2019, while the highest number of demolitions (6,192) took place in 2018.
The pandemic years 2020 and 2021 saw a total of 7,432 demolitions. Several political and social activists had urged for a halt to demolition drives during the pandemic as it further created problems for people in difficult times.
Lok Sabha data also show that between December 2017 and July 2022, agencies sealed 7,123 commercial units for violation of rules. Shahdara South (1,332) and Karol Bagh (1,092) saw the maximum sealings. However, 2,619 commercial units were also de-sealed in the same period.
For an unplanned city such as Delhi, illegal structures do hamper development, cause inconvenience to people and put further strain on the city’s resources. But it is also true that lakhs of people are living in poverty-stricken conditions to make ends meet. So where do we strike a balance?
It’s high time that politicians and bureaucrats come together to address the elephant in the room.
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