Residents of Delhi’s Mehrauli wave legal papers, ask how properties are illegal

February 14, 2023
 File Photo
File Photo

NEW DELHI: As Delhi Development Authority continued its demolition drive in Mehrauli for the fourth day, Uttam Kumar Gupta walked restlessly with his property papers near the bus terminal and approached several people, from DDA officials to cops to mediapersons, claiming that he had legal documents.

“I bought this one-bedroom flat for Rs 16 lakh in 2021. I paid stamp duties, got the property registered and also paid the municipal tax. How else does one understand whether the property he is buying is legal or not?”

The building was constructed in 1989. “The registrar’s office is on the opposite side of the road, less than 100 metres away, and if they don’t know the legality of this land, who is to be blamed,” Gupta asked. “Why didn’t they reject our paper? Then it would have been my responsibility if I had still gone ahead and bought it.”

Gupta’s house is one of the hundreds to get the eviction notice from the land owning agency stating that it was forest land meant for Mehrauli Archaeological Park. DDA plans to clear 20 acres thathave apartments, independent houses and jhuggis. Like Gupta, many others are also asking why the authority didn’t stop and penalise them when the houses were being constructed.

In one of the houses on the main road, families could be seen asking DDA officials to stop demolition for some time so that they could evacuate. “This family lived here for 50 years, you are bulldozing their house in front of their eyes,” said Indrajeet Singh, another resident. While most of the independent houses are over 30 years old, apartments have mostly come up in the past five years.

Amit Chaudhry, who lives in Pearl Residency that has got a stay order, said, “In case of apartments, the lands are not purchased by us. Builders first built apartments, then people bought it. Where were the officials when the apartment was constructed? It is an administrative flaw. Builders and officials should pay the money that we have invested… then we would not say anything.”

One of the builders of Pearl Residency said, “We built it in collaboration with the land owner. We verified the papers, then went ahead with the construction. Almost all flats here have bank loans as the flats are priced around Rs 30 lakh.” The construction started in 2019 and completed in 2020-21.

DDA started demolishing a commercial complex on Monday. “If the building is illegal, how the registry was done, why is there no action against the SHO, MCD and revenue department officials concerned,” said DK Thakur, who has lost his coaching centre.

With the drive going on in full swing, residents were busy removing their belongings, from sofas to beds to utensils. Manoj Babu, a retired Air Force personnel, was asking people to take out their belongings fast as DDA bulldozers could arrive anytime. “The government system allowed this. I bought the house in 2002 by taking a loan from a nationalised bank,” he said.

DDA officials refused to comment on whether any action is being planned against the officials who were working in the area when the encroachment happened and the buildings started coming up. “Multiple agencies were involved in the process, so we would need to find out the reasons and identify several people responsible for the encroachment. However, people should have done proper inquiry before buying properties,” said an official.

He added that the drive would continue. “We will guard the space as soon as it gets vacated. However, no action will be taken against the buildings that have taken a stay and we will submit our reply soon,” he said. A comprehensive management plan has been chalked out to conserve the park and attract tourists, he added.

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