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What Makes Burari the Unhappiest Place in All of Delhi?

BJP workers campaign for MCD elections in New Delhi.

BJP workers campaign for MCD elections in New Delhi.

Anuradha Gupta, 42, a resident of Ajit Vihar in Burari suffers from partial paralysis, which renders her incapable of moving around.

New Delhi: Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has promised to make the city ‘look like London’ within a year if his party wins the April 23 municipal polls. But as of today, Burari, a constituency in north Delhi, looks more like Pakistan’s Rawalpindi, ranked the filthiest city in the world.

And one gets a sense of it even before visiting Burari — on Municipal Corporation of Delhi website, Burari stands out as a constituency with the highest number of civic complaints. Some residents define life in Burari as a “nightmare during monsoon”, others complain of missing roads and filth lying all around.

Burari is less than 10 kilometres from the upscale neighbourhoods of Pitampura and Rohini, and just 25 kilometres from the Chief Minister’s office. Burari is home to migrants from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, referred to as the Purvanchalis, who come to Delhi in search of employment.

Most people live here in unauthorised colonies, ghettos where houses are built without paying taxes and following government norms. Usually, in such areas, migrants start living in makeshift structures without any civic infrastructure. And over the years, houses are built haphazardly in violation of law, but often under the patronage of powerful politicians and authorities.

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Anuradha Gupta, 42, a resident of Ajit Vihar in Burari suffers from partial paralysis, which renders her incapable of moving around. Because she can’t close the door every time someone leaves, mud and sewage often enters her house. What happens during monsoon can only be described as inhuman. “I just pray it does not rain,” says the mother of two kids.

Gupta, who has been a resident of the area since childhood, says the only thing that changes here are posters of political parties during elections. “I cannot speak about roads when there aren’t any. I often have to visit a doctor who is just a kilometre away, but I need to plan the trip a day in advance. There are dangerous potholes which turn deadly even with a splash of rain. No cars come here. And cyclists often end up falling and hurting themselves,” adds Gupta. Whenever it rains, her children have to bunk their school as the pathway to her house gets flooded with sewage.

Ajit Vihar is not the only place in Burari which has remained neglected despite the changes in government. In the last Assembly election, Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjeev Jha, a Purvanchali, won from this seat as the migrant population decided to move beyond their traditional affiliations to the Congress. But little has changed since then.

Jha, however, blames the mess that he inherited for the poor state of affairs and claims that the AAP government has spent over Rs 700 crore for the area’s development in the last two years. When asked for details, Jha says developmental projects include expansion of a 200-bed hospital into an 800-bed one, construction of 400 study rooms in government schools, construction of roads and cleaning of drainages.

“We are aware that there are problems of sewerage, sanitation and poor roads, but the fact that you reached my office shows that roads have been built. Since most of the colonies here are unauthorised, there are legal issues involved. We couldn’t force the contractors to hurry up the work as there were a number of holidays in between. After the municipal elections, we will speed up the work,” says Jha.

While Jha claims to be confident of voters’ support, Bharatiya Janata Party has aggressively made inroads here even as the Congress is pushing to revive the old connect.

But the residents of Burari are largely unimpressed as every election politicians knock their doors with lofty promises. In Nathupura, an area mostly dominated by daily wagers and contract labourers, every monsoon leads to outbreak of deadly diseases like dengue, malaria and Chikungunya at epidemic proportions.

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“The municipality’s garbage collection vans never come here and we end up dumping it in the vicinity. Whenever it rains, the garbage flows into our homes. Last year, during the Chikungunya outbreak, we were the worst affected but vaccines and medicines never reached us,” says Astha, a 19-year-old labourer from Deoria in Uttar Pradesh, who supports a family of three.

Nearby Sant Nagar has similar complaints. Raju Pandey, a tailor, has been stitching clothes with his hands since morning as there is no power. “Half the times I am unable to take orders as the electronic machine is of little use because of frequent power cuts,” says Pandey.

He is soon joined by another resident who says, “Our area is not a part of Delhi.”

“Sheila Dixit never came here, nor did Arvind Kejriwal. Anyone who could afford has left and shifted to better places. During rains, we can’t even step out to buy the essentials. The air is so contaminated that it’s difficult to breathe,” says Manoj Srivastava, a resident of West Sant Nagar. “I think BJP would be better as they are a mighty power now,” adds Srivastava.

But AAP’s Jha has his own theory on this. “By not nominating any of its past councillors, the BJP has admitted that they have robbed the municipal corporation over the last decade… Our face is Arvind Kejriwal, people will vote for his policies,” he says.

Not very far from this debate, an auto rickshaw decorated with BJP flags parks near Anuradha’s house, with loud noise beaming from the loudspeakers mounted on the top: “Har ghar bhagwa chhayega, Ram Rajya hi aayega (Every home will turn Saffron, the rule of Lord Ram will be there”.