Save the Senior Citizens of Dwarka from Lethal Dust Pollution

Senior citizens in group housing societies of Dwarka urge the government to save them from dust and noise pollution of extended construction activity. Photo of March 26, 2017 by Rakesh Raman
Senior citizens in group housing societies of Dwarka urge the government to save them from dust and noise pollution of extended construction activity. Photo of March 26, 2017 by Rakesh Raman

As extended construction in housing societies is happening in Delhi, hundreds of thousands of senior citizens are virtually facing a painful death from deadly dust and noise pollution.

By Rakesh Raman

Rakesh Raman
Rakesh Raman

Hundreds of thousands of senior citizens in Dwarka – which is a huge residential area in India’s capital New Delhi – are facing an immediate threat from dust and noise pollution in group housing complexes.

The managing committees (MCs) of most housing societies are distorting the floor area ratio (FAR) rule of the government to mislead the residents and start pollution-laden extended construction projects in occupied societies.

Although the resulting pollution will affect all men, women, and children, it is extremely harmful to senior citizens (people above 60 years of age) because of their weaker immune system.

They will not be able to recover from ailments – such as asthma, bronchitis, airway inflammation, coughing, and wheezing – caused by high levels of dust pollution. The situation will get worse for the senior citizens when they will not be able to bear the health care costs for the increased physical disorders from such pollution.

An estimated 250,000 senior citizens in Dwarka’s population of over 1 million will get directly affected by the extended construction activity. As such construction in housing societies will happen in the entire city of Delhi, nearly 5 million senior citizens are virtually facing a painful death.

And there is no government existing in Delhi that cares for these harmed senior citizens. All their requests to the Delhi Government and the Government of India to save them from harmful dust and noise pollution have been falling on deaf ears.

Although the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 – initiated by Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India – is supposed to provide “simple, speedy and inexpensive mechanism for the protection of life and property of the older persons,” it is a completely ineffective piece of legislation.

The senior citizens of Dwarka – which is said to be the largest residential suburb in Asia – say they have been running from pillar to post to get extended construction stopped in group housing societies, but the authorities have refused to listen to them.

Corruption in Construction

The managing committees (MCs) of the housing societies – which are governed by the Registrar Cooperative Societies (RCS) of the Delhi Government – are mostly corrupt.

Now, the office bearers of the MCs are selling a false idea to other residents that if they support extended construction, the value of their property will increase.

While greed has blinded them, many residents have fallen prey to different MCs’ nefarious designs and are supporting them. As they play hand in glove with each other in this artificial majority of mutual convenience, the MCs are bullying and threatening the other residents – including senior citizens – who oppose them, by saying that majority is supporting extended construction.

They are even forcing the residents who oppose extended construction to sign no objection certificates (NOCs) because according to government rules if even a single flat owner disagrees, the proposal for extended construction would have to be shelved. So, MCs need 100% consent from all members / residents before starting the construction activity in a particular group housing society.

Important Information

A few days ago I launched an awareness campaign in Dwarka to protect the environment by highlighting the risks of extended construction in the inhabited group housing societies.

Hundreds of people in Dwarka have come forward to support my effort toward environmental protection. However, some people in my locality are trying to harass and threaten me so that I should not oppose the extended construction activity.

They also have lodged a fabricated complaint against me with the Delhi Police, under various Sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

I have requested for investigation in the police complaint against me by writing to the Commissioner of Police. The police action is awaited. You can read my letter to the Police Commissioner, Mr. Amulya Patnaik.

While I am not deterred by the threats from criminals, I have decided to intensify my campaign to protect the environment. You are invited to join me in this endeavour to protect millions of people from pollution by filling in a simple online form. I will soon contact you to discuss the future plan of action.

Thank you.

Some of the MCs are even committing financial crimes including sourcing fake quotations from some construction-related companies without following statutory financial guidelines. While their action amounts to fraud, they are asking the residents to shell out huge amounts of money either for extended construction or massive building repairs.

The MC members argue that majority is supporting their decision while actually majority is part of the racket. In fact, this kind of majority which threatens others is a kind of gang.

The truth is that majority in group housing societies cannot decide to begin extended construction projects or even expansive building repairs when even a single person’s health or life is at risk. The planned construction in group housing societies will put to risk many lives and even the building safety will be under risk.

People are participating enthusiastically in the signature campaign to stop construction -related dust and noise pollution in Dwarka, New Delhi
People are participating enthusiastically in the signature campaign to stop construction -related dust and noise pollution in Dwarka, New Delhi

As their eyes are on making easy money from high-value construction projects, the MCs of group housing societies are misleading the residents by saying that government has allowed extended construction.

But the government had clearly stated that extended construction under floor area ratio (FAR) rules is not allowed in already constructed and occupied group housing societies.

A government notification from the office of the Lt. Governor of Delhi states that “it has been decided in public interest that increased FAR should not be permitted in respect of already constructed and occupied CGHS (cooperative group housing societies).” [ Click here to read the government notification. ]

Many MCs baselessly argue that it is an old rule, but the point is that this rule was made keeping in view the “public interest” because extended construction will be harmful in occupied housing complexes. Then how can the “public interest” concern suddenly change after a couple of years?

Moreover, the Article 21 of Indian Constitution assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy, pollution-free environment – which is also a basic human right. If the extended construction is carried out in the group housing complexes where people – men, women, and children – are already living, it will deprive them of their right to live in a clean environment.

The managing committees (MCs) of housing societies are using a ridiculous street-level majority norm to circumvent the Indian Constitution, as the corrupt MCs are trying to indulge in corruption under the garb of construction.

The government must initiate criminal proceedings against such wild MC members who are leaving no stone unturned to break the law and harm others – including senior citizens who are the revered members of our society – with harmful building construction and pollution.

The government must clarify its stand on extended construction through advertisements in leading newspapers and information on government’s own websites.

Moreover, the Delhi Government must also change the Cooperative Societies Rules so that the MCs should be allowed to use the majority vote only for non-financial decisions, and not to impose their ill will on others.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a government’s National award-winning journalist and runs free school for deserving children under his NGO – RMN Foundation.

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