Resolving tousled threads of Kathputli Colony

Even with alarming increase in population, beautification remains prime concern, neglecting issues of higher priority

Vishal Dhingra | July 5, 2014




Many slums in Delhi are skilled in various art forms. One such slum is Kathputli Colony, which is said to be the biggest single concentration of traditional street artists in the world spanning in 5.22 hectares (12.89) in an impoverished northern pocket of Shadipur. It accommodates 3,000 families of dancers, musicians, acrobats, puppeteers, crafts men and embroiders. The Delhi government, in 2007, launched a proposal of In-situ rehabilitation in Kathputli Colony under PPP which had similar issues under its purview. This PPP proposal is another hazard which would result in an annihilation of this age-old vibrant culture.

Delhi is growing at a rapid rate. Even with the alarming increase in population, beautification remains the prime concern, neglecting the issues of higher priority.


The Government’s efforts to rebuild living conditions of the colony have gone futile. Even in the age of advanced cities, rehabilitation of these artists has taken a back-seat. Most of the government proposals promise to provide better dwellings but neglect practical issues such as source of income and employment opportunities, which would enable the dwellers to pay for basic living expenses. Lack of income compels the slum dwellers to revert back to their original roots — renting out houses that have been allotted to them — for an additional income source. The superficial layout of Delhi expresses slums as insects but deep down they form the backbone of a city, as these slums account for most of the labourers in the city. A platform to showcase their skills could act as a way out for better and sustainable livelihood.


An alternative proposal

After six months of community participation with Kathputli dwellers, a solution to the problem transpires with the proposal of retail-cum-cultural space on the area of land allotted to Raheja Developers by DDA for revenue generation. Applicability of this structure not only promises to sustain an income source, it also unveils Kathputli Colony as a brand augmenting the handful spots of crafts market, cultural places and theater in the city. Direct and easy proximity to main road, metros and railway station, fabricate it as a suitable space to create buzz in the public realm. However, expenditure of construction is a big issue but it can be collected later through the revenue generated from retail. Even though it is a slow pace process, it could be seen as the pilot project to benefit culture and humanity. 


Vishal Dhingra has completed B-arch programme from Gateway College of Architecture 

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