SEPTEMBER 3, 2023
NEW DELHI: For Surendar Kumar, 72, going for a doctor’s appointment is a nightmare. He has to climb down from his fourth-floor flat at Vandana Apartment in Rohini and climb up once again.
Kumar, who suffered a heart attack around a year ago, knows the exact count of stairs he has to climb to reach his house. “It is 65. I count each step to make this dreadful task easy,” he says. His wife, Sangeeta, 63, says when she was younger, she used to go out a lot but age and health issues have now confined her to her house. It would be different if they had an elevator.
The elderly couple are not alone. Many people around the city are discovering that it’s one thing for the government to formulate a policy and another to get its benefit. Despite DDA and MCD having relaxed norms for installing elevators in residential buildings, scores of families in the city are being forced to fight it out in court for years to get the lifts installed. Many elders, handicapped people and patients living on the upper floors of old buildings in Delhi claim that those who stay on the ground floor put a foot in the door by getting stays from courts.
“We bought this house more than 10 years ago after saving money for many years. Now, we can’t afford to move into a new house on the ground floor, which is why we want a lift to be installed in our building. However, the ground-floor people always object,” he says.
DDA had in 2011 eased the norms for installing lifts in apartment blocks. The new norm laid down that a lift could be installed once most flat owners in a block agreed. The consent of the ground-floor owners – which was earlier a stumbling block – was done away with. Later, in 2017, Delhi High Court ruled that installing lifts in service lanes or common areas of housing societies was not illegal. The court observed that lifts allowed residents of multi-storeyed buildings, including the aged and sick, to use their flats to the fullest.
The cost of installing a lift is Rs 15-18 lakh, which the flat owners have to bear, besides the cost involved in shifting or removing any utilities.
Sarabjit Kaur, 68, who is a cancer survivor, stays in the same apartment. Since she was diagnosed with cancer in her right leg, mobility has been a major issue for her.
“While the law lets us install a lift, it’s not easy. The ground-floor owners usually get stay orders due to which the fight becomes a legal battle that goes on for years. So, what is the point of these new laws? We have been fighting to get a lift for our building since 2019 without any success,” she rues.
Her son, Mandeep Singh, 35, recalled the traumatic period of the Covid pandemic. “My parents got infected and taking them for any check-up became a huge task. It was extremely difficult for me to climb down the stairs carrying my father and oxygen cylinders. I am worried that if some medical emergency happens, it could be difficult to get them medical help on time.”
Hernia patient Suneel Vats, 62, who is at the forefront of the battle to get a lift installed in his complex, says, “Ground-floor residents have vague reasons for not letting an elevator be installed. They claim that there will be noise outside their house or the walls of their house will get affected or that there will be less space for them to move around. There is no humanity left.”
“When India has set foot on the moon, we all are just hoping our journey from our homes becomes less painful and comfortable,” he says.
Lawyer Rajiv Nanda says he has been getting many requests from several other complexes for his advice on this issue. “People are scared that despite there being a law, ground-floor residents will create legal bottlenecks. Several cases are pending in court,” he claims.
Speaking about possible solutions, he says, “The government should intervene and make lifts mandatory for buildings which go above the third floor. Further, many of these pending cases should be combined so that there is a quicker resolution for people, especially the elderly. Why should they suffer!”