This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Down To Earth. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Do You Know How The British Acquired Land For The Rashtrapati Bhavan And Parliament?

More from Down To Earth

By Rajat Ghai:

Note: This article has been republished from Down To Earth.

Rashtrapati Bhavan under construction. Jeet Singh (right). Credit: ‘New Delhi: Making Of A Capital’ (Roli Books).

The suggestion of Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan for a new parliament building has opened a Pandora’s box. The present building is showing signs of “distress”, and will not be able to accommodate members after 2016, when the seats will go up, in line with the Census 2011, she said. The suggestion is not new. A year ago, at a meeting of the Budget Committee of Parliament, members echoed similar sentiments. Former Speaker Meira Kumar had even constituted a committee to look into the matter.

But the story about where land for Rashtrapati Bhavan, the home of India’s first citizen, and the present parliament complex comes from is intriguing. It is said the land was carved out of seven villages—Raisina, Malcha, Kushak, Pelanjee, Dasgarah, Talkatora and Motibagh.

Tracing The Original Residents

Few people are aware of the history of Malcha. An investigation took this reporter to the Grand Trunk Road, north of Delhi, and then to Sonepat district, Haryana, where wheat fields cover the landscape. The road finally led us to the twin villages of Harsana Kalan and Malcha Patti. Malcha Patti is a quintessential Haryana village. Veiled women in salwar kameez walk past hurriedly, avoiding the stares of strangers and onlookers. Buffaloes bellow from the homesteads, and heaps of cow dung cakes lie beside the mud-brick houses. Narrow drains line the peripheries of houses.

In Malcha Patti, we meet Jeet Singh, a 73-year-old man dressed in a white kurta pyjama. Sitting on a manji (bench) on the terrace of his house, he tells us the story of Malcha. “Malcha was the largest and the most prosperous village, where 189 families lived. They belonged to various communities—Sainis, Brahmins, Nais, Kumhars, Dalits, Gujjars and Jats. There was also a sizeable Muslim population, mostly belonging to the Rangarh community,” Singh explains, with the help of photocopies of official Mughal and British records of the era. Known as jemabandhi, the document details the owner of land, the area of the land and its character (whether it is fertile or fallow). The document used to be renewed every four years by the village patwari (accountant) who also recorded changes in landholding patterns.

Singh claims: “The land where New Delhi lies today is my land. It belonged to my forefathers and to the forefathers of the residents of our village. In 1910, Charles Hardinge, the then Viceroy of India, had proposed that the capital of British India be shifted from Calcutta to Delhi. On November 21, 1911, M. W. Fenton, chief secretary of the Government of Punjab (Delhi and Haryana were part of Punjab then), issued an order in the Punjab Gazette to acquire the land,” says Singh.

Parliament complex under construction.

On October 10, 1912, the Government of India issued an order endorsing the Punjab Government, thus paving the way for the formal acquisition of the land. The tracts of land were acquired using the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. The Act was in force till 2013, when The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, took effect on January 1, 2014. The land acquisition process was, however, messier than today. “The British offered us land in lieu of what we had lost,” says Singh. “In 1912, we were offered land in Montgomery district (today’s Sahiwal in Punjab, Pakistan), Karnal district and Rohtak district. But we eventually got nothing.”

Along with jemabandhis, the British also carried on the Mughal tradition of maintaining what are known as Shajra-e-Nasab (Tree of Lineage in Urdu). “I traced my descent to one Ramdatt. He had two sons, Shaadi and Abhay, who were owners of the land in Malcha village in Delhi. Malcha’s residents, including my ancestors, as well as the residents of six other villages, did not get land or money for what they had lost,” says Singh. They, instead, migrated to Sonepat district and founded Harsana and Malcha, which they named after what they had lost.

Singh and his advocate Sanjay Rathi filed an application under the Right to Information Act and got to know that the compensation money had been deposited before the Divisional Judge’s Court in Delhi in 1912-1913. “We asked the Supreme Court, the Delhi High Court, the Ministry of Law and Justice and the District Judge of Delhi as to who is the successor of the Divisional Judge’s Court. But nobody clarified.” Singh says the money may have been deposited in the state treasury. The British started three banks—the Bank of Calcutta, the Bank of Madras and the Bank of Bombay. The Bank of Calcutta later became the Bank of Bengal. It was the national bank of India when the British decided to move the capital from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911. “The money that was deposited in the court of the Divisional Judge of Delhi was thus deposited in the Bank of Bengal by default. In 1923, the Bank of Bengal, Madras and Bombay were merged and renamed as the Imperial Bank of India. After Independence, the Imperial Bank of India was rechristened the State Bank of India (SBI). This means the compensation money is in the SBI,” says Rathi.

Acquisition Processes

But are these claims relevant, especially given that so much time has lapsed? “Everything is time-barred. You cannot demand anything from anybody at any time. If you did not get land at that time, the government cannot be blamed. Where were these people in 1950, when the Supreme Court became a separate entity?” asks Manoj Gorkela, an advocate practising in the Supreme Court. Counters Surat Singh, a lawyer fighting for another litigant, Sajjan Singh, “Section 24 (2) of the new Act makes it clear that if the award (the acquisition of land) has been passed five years or prior to the commencement of the act, the compensation has to be paid. It is not time-barred.”

“Section 5 of the Limitation Act says there is a system in place for everything. If your car is malfunctioning today, you cannot say after 10 years that my car malfunctioned 10 years ago, so give me compensation. The Supreme Court has itself said that you have to file for compensation within two years,” says Gorkela. “This notion of inheriting property and having permanent control over it was introduced by the British. It was not there during the Mughal or the Rajput periods,” says historian Narayani Gupta. “Under the new law, the government has to first conduct a social impact study, which will assess what impact the acquisition will have on the whole area, and not just on people whose land is being taken. The social impact study needs to give the all-clear. If the land is to be used for government purposes, 70 percent consent is needed. If it is for a public-private partnership project, 80 percent consent is needed,” adds Surat Singh.

“Land acquisition is still very messy. The State still has the power to take away the land from those who own it, no matter how strong their claim. I don’t think the scenario is going to change in the future,” says sociologist Ashis Nandy. The Delhi High Court will hear the case on July 25, 2016.

You must be to comment.
  1. Anil2016Ajw

    The author has filed a one sided story and not cross checked the facts . As a local individual and belonging to a farmers family of Delhi , am aware of the facts of the matter . The case was accepted in High Court and then court ordered the New Delhi distt Revenue officials to dig out all relevant Land Acquisition papers . The officials were able to find the relevant papers and presented to the court and the facts are ..That the British followed due process and the land owners of Malcha village had claimed and received compensation ( ranging from 5.50/ Rupees to highest being 15/ Rupees and along with that land was allotted in exchange ( not in Pakistan but the present Malcha village in Haryana ) . Many a times people hide facts from the courts and go to claim …

    Presently also so many frivolous cases for land back ( cancellation of award ) are being filed in the courts ..wherein the ancestors have taken money / compensation and the present generation is going to court without cross checking facts or hiding facts ..

    1. Vikrant Yadav

      Hi Anil,

      Can i get in touch with you, need little more information about this. Please leave your email id or contact details.

More from Down To Earth

Similar Posts

By Abhishek Padiyar

By Down To Earth

By Down To Earth

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below