Delhi/NCR – The Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority (GNIDA) has made it clear it will not legalize properties in Shahberi and may even demolish them.
But despite overflowing drains, no water connection and flats built on weak foundations, residents want to continue living there.
“There is no question of legalizing properties in Shahberi now. The debate over Shahberi is no more about convenience and facilities. It is clear that Shahberi is unsafe for anyone to live there. The buildings have no fire safety, there is no space between houses — all these make the area highly unsafe. I request all residents to take legal action against builders who have flouted rules to construct these illegal and dangerous houses. There is no point in putting pressure on the authorities to legalize the colony. We have already declared it illegal and will take action accordingly,” said Anup Chandra Pandey, the GNIDA CEO.
Despite this tough stance by the GNIDA, Shahberi residents have put up a brave face — they have held protests, shouted slogans and even moved the Allahabad high court. Even after the twin building collapse that killed nine persons last year, residents have little choice but to hold on to their properties.
Most of the residents there belong to the low or middle-income group and have invested their hard-earned money in around 30,000 houses. Buying another house or staying on rent is an option they would not like to explore.
The impending monsoon, however, is a cause for concern. A few weeks ago, a piece of concrete fell off the stairs of an under-construction building in Balaji Enclave and caused panic in the area. The authorities swung to action and sealed the property.
But despite the general sense of fear, residents have done whatever they could to protect their houses from possible demolition.
They have recently met chief minister Yogi Adityanath and discussed their problems. They have also approached the Uttar Pradesh Rera and have moved the Allahabad high court seeking legal sanction for their property. “Legally, after being notified, Shahberi has lost its status of a village. Now, with its acquisition primarily quashed, it doesn’t enjoy the facility of the authorities either. Basically, we are in no-man’s land. We have an electricity supply from UPPCL and pay bills for our metered connections. There is also piped gas connectivity to our houses. Then, how are we illegal?” asked Almas Chaudhry, a resident.
All plots in the area were sold and registered under the district collectorate and the buildings came up between 2016 and 2018. However, no resident pays property tax as their plans are not sanctioned by the GNIDA. All of them are dependent on groundwater for their daily use. Sewage drains have been constructed by the builders, but with no proper outlet, they end up in local swamps and water bodies, which further enhance the water table of the area.
But despite odds, flats in Shahberi are still up for sale at Rs 19 lakh for a two BHK. Only a stone’s throw away, the same flat may cost Rs 35 lakh in Noida Extension.
“The garbage disposal system is managed by the residents themselves and each house pays up to Rs 100 a month for it. The streetlights, too, have been arranged by the residents and are lit with power supply from the apartments. Most houses have diesel generators with which residents back up their power supply and they dug deep borewells,” said SK Upadhyay, another resident.
The residents told TOI that about 3,000 of them had cast votes in the recent election with voting cards made from their current addresses. They all have Aadhaar cards mentioning their local addresses. They also get postal service at their doorstep. The postal code of the area is 201318. Declared illegal, all construction, sale, and resale of flats has been barred in Shahberi.
The acquisition of land has been quashed by the high court, which GNIDA has contested. However, construction still continues in Shahberi, though not on a major scale.
“Our question is, if we are living here peacefully, why are we being harassed? Why can’t a drainage system be created? We should be given basic facilities so that residents do not suffer health hazards,” said SK Mishra, who owns a house here.
The district administration has refused to be drawn into the Shahberi conundrum. District magistrate BN Singh had earlier told TOI that it is no more under the supervision of the administration because it does not fall among the 88 villages governed by the DM.
“We are not fighting for some form of clarity. We are happy living here. All we want is some support for utility from the Authorities. Let that be given to us,” Almas Chaudhry, another resident, said.
Sharmila Bhowmick, Economic Times, Delhi/NCR