Jahan Jhuggi, Wahan Makaan: Assessing the Viability and Parameters of a Delhi Government JJ Cluster Improvement Scheme
Several manifestos leading up to the February 2020 elections in the National Capital Territory of Delhi (hereafter, NCT or Delhi) promised a provision for low income housing: jahan jhuggi, vahan makaan, or “where the shack, there itself the house.”1 The promise is one of in-situ improvement of existing, inadequate housing (jhuggis, JJ Clusters2) for income-poor residents of the city. Implicit in the promise is not just a material improvement but a legal one:improved houses would come with secure tenure giving residents both protections against forced evictions as well as possible rights to use housing as an economic and developmental asset. This is a significant opportunity to impact and improve the lives of many Delhi residents, one that extends the promise of “regularisation” beyond just unauthorised colonies to JJ Clusters in the city.3 This is fitting since JJ Clusters are affordable housing that residents have themselves built, often brick by brick, against great odds, over years of labour and personal investment. That they have had to do so in tension with law and formal property rights is a testament to the failure of urban planning and governance to make access to legal, adequate and affordable housing a genuine possibility for many. Regularising and improving self-built homes is a long overdue attempt to acknowledge the labour of Delhi’s residents and translate it into a rightful entitlement.