Monday, July 19, 2010

Kilokri Residents Feel Neglected: Want Their Share of Development

If the Commonwealth Games is the only word that now rings a bell in Delhi’s corridors of power, then the RWA of Kilokri village has found a way to get its problems addressed.

The area, like any other unplanned colony, has its set of problems like water logging, broken roads, illegal constructions and encroachment by vendors. And RWA members along with prominent village elders have hit a unique idea to compel the MCD and Delhi Police to take note of their problems. They have decided to formally invite Games delegates by putting up posters, banners and hoardings along the Ring Road in front of their village.

They have already written to the lieutenant governor informing him about their intentions. “There is a facelift planned for Connaught Place and India Gate to showcase them to the world while Kilokri and Sarai Kale Khan which have greater historical value have been blissfully consigned to oblivion,” said Nand Kishore, general secretary RWA Kilokri village. He says Kilokri was the capital during the rule of Balban and again during the reign of Tomars and Chauhans. Sarai Kale Khan, he says, was constructed by the Muslim chief Kale Khan in the fourteenth century as an inn to be used by visitors coming to Kilokri.

RWA officials of Kilokri firmly believe that if they manage to get some Games delegates to visit the village, the government will have no option but to spruce up the area. They have even requested the Games organizing committee to incorporate the visit in the itinerary.

The village could sure do with the attention. The main road has been encroached by vendors, making vehicular movement impossible. “In case of an emergency, it’s impossible to drive through the place. There have been cases where people have died because they couldn’t be taken to the hospital on time. If there is a fire or any other law and order problem, there’s no way that a fire brigade or a PCR van can get here on time,” said Jai Sharma, a resident.

Some locals allege that the vendors bribe local policemen on a weekly basis to stay put. “They openly claim that they pay the police so nobody can drive them out of this place,” said RWA president Jai Narayan.

However not everyone in the locality seemed to be hating the idea of vendors on their door step. “It’s a matter of great convenience for our women. They don’t have to go far away to buy vegetables and other items of everyday use,” said Virender Chowhan who has been living in Kilokri for over 40 years. “Some retired politicians have no other work so they pick up useless issues like these,” he added. Sachin, owner of a general store in Kilokri also believes that the vendors are not as big a problem as some people make them out to be.

The contrasting opinions notwithstanding, that Kilokri has lived with neglect for a long time, is apparent. Roads are ill-maintained and Sunday afternoon’s brief shower had made them even worse. Vendors’ carts jostled for space in the narrow lanes.

According to Sushil Sharma, vice president of the RWA, both MCD and the local police have been repeatedly informed about the situation but there has been no response. “Vendors are not residents of Kilokri so it is very easy for them to cause law and order problems and then just disappear,” he added.

Some residents have erected tin sheds to park their cars. The constructions are illegal and rampant. “Today there are four parking spots on the road, tomorrow more people will make these constructions. There is nobody to keep tab on illegal constructions,” complained Nafis Ahmed, another resident.

Local police officers claim that they have no vested interest in keeping the vendors in the area. “We moved the vendors away from the main road outside the colony because they were blocking the traffic and therefore they went inside Kilokri. If it’s a problem to the residents then we will take appropriate action against them,” said an officer. MCD’s deputy commissioner (central zone) Deepak Hastir said he is not aware of the issue.

With less than 100 days to go for the Commonwealth Games and authorities focused single-mindedly on making the city look good to the visitors, Delhiites seem to be catching up with the government at their own game. If the Kilokri story works, it might pave way for many such ideas.