City Research Team Lead

Researcher

Delhi
Dr. Anindita Datta
Delh2
Dr. Swagata Basu

Sundar Nagri

The Delhi CRT will base its study in Sundar Nagri, a resettlement colony tucked away in the North Eastern part of the capital city. The name of this colony literally translates to “beautiful township”, and the colony was originally a place where members of the weaver community were resettled.

The re-settlement of the urban working class from the central parts of the city to this locality began four decades ago, as a part of a scheme aimed at de-congesting the city. The initial stream of settlers recollect their impression about the area as nothing more than a huge stretch of wilderness, infested with insects and wild animals roaming free. The residents made make-shift hutments and struggled hard to get access to water and other basic amenities. With time, the working-class residents built small pucca brick houses and civic amenities were provided by the government. To meet the rising demand for cheap housing, the original tenements experienced a vertical growth, with more floors being built to accommodate migrants as tenants, and provide a rental income to the working class owners.

Today, bustling markets spill over the main road that leads to the colony; typists punch away on their typewriters for clients waiting to visit the Sunder Nagri District Court, an aroma of fried food from crowded food stalls fills the air along with the cacophony of buyers, haggling over the prices of clothes, vegetables, fruits, utensils, sports goods and other items being vended on the roadside. There is hardly any greenery to be found in the colony, but for one or two tiny parks. The initial residents who settled in the colony now own the residential buildings and commercial spaces, while the subsequent streams of migrants who made the colony their home live in rented accommodations and commute to their workspaces, resulting in a diverse and gentrified community. The houses are mostly windowless and it is common to see women sitting outside their front doors, virtually on the kerbs during the day, while the men have left for work. The colony recently saw the mobilization of its residents for protests against the citizenship act, soon after which the neighborhood was also impacted by the communal riots that erupted over North East Delhi. The site is vibrant, dynamic and pulsating with stories of both resistance and resilience, as the lives of its people are now impacted by a new precarity- the spread of Covid -19.