“The metropolitan town of Delhi has grown on agricultural lands acquired from its old inhabitant villagers. Initially, in building up of Lutyen's Delhi, the villages were relocated; later only their agricultural lands were acquired and the residential areas were circumscribed by a red line and that is how the term Lal Dora came into use.”
This red boundary has, over the years, been squeezing the villages like a vice. Urban Delhi has grown like an unyielding jungle around them while the villages have remained like islands; its inhabitants confined to do as they please within their tiny spaces.
135 of these lal dora lands exist in Delhi today. Their numbers grow with each Master Plan laid out for Delhi. In the current formal administrative and planning mechanisms, these villages are largely unaccounted for, leaving their fate in the hands of powerful village administrators, caste heads, property dealers and brokers, all of them working to fill their own pockets, leading to large scale exploitation and widening cultural divides.
A very complex culture of class discrimination and alienation exists within these communities. Along with the vertical growth and urbanisation these former farmers and their families, have been dealing with the loss of their primary economic activity, soaring real estate prices, rapid gentrification and very high incomes from rents. Unprepared to face these new circumstances, these factors have had devastating effects on their culture, education and wellbeing.
“The Report of the Expert Committee on Lal Dora”, outlines their proposed future. It paints a picture of great prosperity and economic growth. The vision laid out by the Committee claims to take “maximum advantage of the opportunities that urbanisation has to offer” and proposes further vertical growth to accomodate for the growing industry to take Delhi into the future.
'With increase in population and limited space, one has to shed the reluctance in going vertical. If other world-class cities have skyscrapers, why must we limit our constructions to 4 or 8 storeys? If DDA can have a 23-storey tower and MCD plans to have 28-storey Civic Centre, why should a private enterprising citizen be denied the opportunity to go still higher - a tower that provides for most of the requirements of its residents in situ and is a self-financing (and profitable) endeavour? Liberty and opportunity to private sector has to be provided if our dream of making Delhi a world class metropolis is to come true.'
The report also outlines the civic and financial problems of the villagers as a result of the land acquisition and economic downturn. But, being a report on urban planning, fails to mention the impact it has had on culture, and does not attempt to caution future interventions.
It then becomes clear, that there is a huge gap between these idealised notions of development vs the reality. Crossing the Lal Dora is an initiative to make the voices of the residents of Shahpur Jat heard amongst the larger public, as a cautionary tale about the costs of development.
To know more about our study, download the report here.