Captain (Retd.) Maharaj Singh Uppal fought in the 1971 war against Pakistan, which ended with the creation of Bangladesh. Years later, when he was serving in Kargil, he lost his son but couldn’t make it for the funeral due to severe climatic conditions and terrain. In 1981, Captain Uppal was among the thousands who paid money for a plot in Delhi’s Rohinee area. Frustrated over the Delhi Development Authority’s delay in allotting his plot, he returned his war medals to the President in 2007. After strong assurances, he agreed to take back the medals in the same year. But 2007 has turned to 2014 and Captain Uppal still awaits a letter asking him to take possession of his plot. “I wonder why I serve the government for so long,” says the 69-year-old.
On September 7 2011, Vipin Kumar Gautama was waiting in a queue in the Delhi High Court premise to get an entry pass when a bomb exploded. Gautama lost a leg in the blast, which claimed 12 lives and left 76 others injured. “I lost my left leg due to which I had to quit my job. I now shell out Rs 9,000 in rent every month. How long should I wait? Will DDA give my plot after I die,” asks the 67-year-old.
Captain Uppal and Gautama were among the 100-odd people, mostly senior citizens, who braved the winter chill to continue their ongoing protest outside the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) office last week. The protesters are a handful of the thousands of allottees of DDA’s Rohini Residential Scheme 1981, who, despite their age, have had the spirit to keep fighting for what is rightfully theirs. They are led by 53-year-old Rahul Gupta, another person who paid for the plot and hasn’t yet received it. Gupta too nearly lost his life in the 2011 high court blast.
The story dates back to 1981 when DDA invited applications to allot fully developed plots measuring 26sqm, 32sqm and 90sqm to people from economically-weaker section (EWS), lower-income groups (LIG) and middle-income groups (MIG) respectively. More than 82,000 people paid a total of Rs 21.14 crore and were registered to be allotted plots. Thirty two years later, DDA has been unable to give plots to nearly 25,000 ‘registrants’ — people who are registered to get the plots.
A DDA spokesperson said the delay is the result of the scheme being an “open-ended” one, meaning the Authority did not have any land when it advertised the plots. “We thought that the land would be acquired in due course,” the spokesperson told dna earlier this week.
Once the Authority started acquiring land, it had to develop it to ensure water and electricity supply and sewerage facilities before plots could be handed over. The spokesperson said that the land was then gradually being allotted. In response to a query raised in the Lok Sabha in 1995, DDA had said it would complete the allotment by 1997. When that failed to happen, the Authority decided to reduce the plot sizes for all registrants. The spokesperson said that this reduction was necessitated due to unavailability of land.
Another decade passed, during which registrants were able to come together and take collective action as opposed to individually pleading DDA for their plots. In 2007, Gupta approached the Delhi High Court. Two years later, in 2009, the Authority told the court that it had diverted 215 hectares land in Rohini to co-operative housing societies. This, Gupta said, would have been sufficient land to allot plots to 15,000 registrants of the scheme.
In the same year, again in response to a query in the Lok Sabha, DDA said that “considering the shortage of land and delay in acquisition, a precise time-frame cannot be given for allotment of remaining registrants”. The next year, the Authority admitted that it had not allotted plots to 25,298 registrants.
On 14 March 2012, the Delhi High Court ordered DDA to complete the process of granting possession within three months. On paper, the DDA allotted the land, but none of the registrants have receive a demand letter. “We have not given them the demand letter, as the basic facilities are not there,” said the DDA spokesperson.
“The DDA allotted 24,658 plots in 2012, but these plots do not have facilities like sewerage, water connection, electricity, roads and parks,” said Gupta. “Why should be accept underdeveloped plots after waiting for so long?”
To make matters worse, said Gupta, residents of Barwala village in Rohini have now obtained a Supreme Court stay on approximately 17,000 of these 24,658 plots, saying they are the original inhabitants of the land.
Asked if the Authority had set itself a timeframe to allot the plots, the spokesperson said that DDA had set a December 2014 deadline “subject to the condition that there is no litigation. Since the matter is in court, giving a timeframe is not possible”.
Must the registrants of Rohini Residential Scheme 1981 now wait another three decades?