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- Niha Masih, Ankita Khare, Vincent Drye

Almost a quarter of people in Indian cities live in slums. As the national capital, New Delhi gears up for the upcoming Commonwealth Games 2010, many slum dwellers are being displaced from the city.

However, the residents of Kathputli Colony can look forward to a brighter future. This slum will be the first to benefit from the ‘in-situ slum rehabilitation scheme’ of the Delhi Devlopment Authority. Instead of being relocated in other parts of the city, the inhabitants will be provided flats on the 5.22 hectares of the slum land.

“Earlier, slum dwellers were given plots at different parts of the city; it was very difficult for the slum dwellers to settle far away from their present place of work so they used to come back,” says Minister of Urban Development, Ajay Maken.

As the name suggests, most of the residents of Kathputli (Puppet) Colony are Indian traditional artists, some of who are internationally renowned for their skills at puppetry and different forms of folk dances.

Under this plan, these people will shift from the sordid houses to an eleventh storeyed building with lift facilities. “Each family is given a separate bathroom and toilet; they are also given two rooms so that there is a private and a public space inside the flat” says Mitu Mathur, architect with Gian P Mathur and Associates, the consultancy in charge of the plan. Moreover, the ground floor will be dedicated to their artistic and commercial activities.

There doesn’t seem to be much awareness as people are still apprehensive about the implementation of the scheme. “Only they know whether people with IDs or ration cards will get flats” says Guddu, a slum dweller.

Accommodations are planned for 2800 families. This goes in-sync with the number of residents with valid ID Cards, confirms Gian P Mathur and Associates. However, according to sources, the slum population is much higher.

Yet, around 50 per cent of the land will be given to the private builders for their own profit-making purpose. On this land, they will develop a commercial centre along with “high category residential apartments”.

The gist of this public private partnership is to socially mix the area and to give a boost the artistic activities of the community. Speaking about the contract, Mitu Mathur explains: “It is a very profitable venture in terms of money and of respect from the community. Also it is very important for us to develop a scheme which is attractive to the developers.”

The foundation ceremony took place in mid February but the construction is yet to begin.