NEW DELHI: Block after block of vacant flats appear alongside the wide road as you drive past rural Bawana-Narela into zones marked out as relocation sites for slum dwellers.
Neglect has taken a toll on many of the 14,000 flats erected for EWS (economically weaker sections) here. In some blocks, iron bars and glass from window panes have been pilfered. Doors and bricks have been vandalized. Garbage clogs unused corridors even as threat of commercializaton by squatters looms. Since the flats—built under Rajiv Awaas Yojana of the UPA—started to come up in 2008, the slum relocation and rehabilitation policy of Delhi government has gone through amendment.
While most were developed by Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation, DUSIB, too, is in process of building a few thousand. With selection criteria still a concern, allotments, however, are on the back burner.
Till September 2013, just 266 families from eight clusters were relocated to 1,184 flats in three blocks in Bawana. Some more allotment letters were released in recent months, but most flats await formal possession.
In a review of the EWS housing scheme, lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung made it clear that he wants allotments to be a focus area. A meeting with Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board is likely soon. The urban development department of Delhi is working on changes in the allotment policy.
Meanwhile, time has taken its toll and this was evident when TOI visited some of the sites. Spaces meant for parks have been overrun by weeds and garbage dumps. There's no place for children to play. Mosquitoes, mice and even snakes are regularly reported by the few occupants.
Though meant for poor, the flats are now being used for commercial activities. TOI found a doctor's board offering dental services, mobile phone outlets, a gas agency and a few general stores. The balcony of one flat has been removed to make way for stocks of a general store running from the premises.
Property dealers, too, can be found. This indicates these flats are being seen as potential buys. This is despite the fact that, under the policy, they cannot be sold as they are given to the allottee on leasehold.
When contacted, chief secretary D M Spolia said he was aware of the problem and has issued directions to agencies to ensure that flats are renovated before being given out to allottees.
"I'm aware of the problem of maintenance of the vacant flats. We will renovate and restore them. Directions have been issued to agencies involved," Spolia said.