With the COVID-19 pandemic showing no signs of letting up and the government still issuing ‘stay at home’ advisories, the Centre, through the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), is rendering hundreds homeless without any rehabilitation in the national capital. NewsClick had previously reported on the demolition of houses in the city’s Batla House area, a drive which rendered over 700 homeless.
The initial demolition drive had taken place on September 24, following which the families were occupying the area in make-shift tents, dependent on aid from residents in the locality and civil society groups. After the drive the DDA even collected the rubble which had clothes, documents and other valuables of the residents.
On Thursday, police persons thronged the area yet again in a bid for a complete clear-out. The move resulted in several people being thrashed by the police who allegedly set makeshift tents on fire.
Speaking to NewsClick, Akhtari, one of the residents of the area said: “Hum toh toot gaye hain. (We are completely shattered and heartbroken). The police were saying that they will not even let us put up tents at night, which is why they are digging up the entire place. We did not see this coming, we thought we had time on our hands, but the police did not listen to us. One of the kids was almost hit by the bulldozer and a woman was also thrashed by the police persons. They were not letting anyone record them or stop them,” she added.
“Someone came to give us food but he was shooed away,” she said, sitting on the roadside.
Explaining what transpired this morning, Jahangir, one of the residents said, “We showed the documents to the police, we also asked them to speak to our lawyers once over the phone, but they did not listen. They proceeded to take away all of our things. They have dug up the area to make sure we do not even put makeshift plastic tents there,” he alleged.
The residents are currently fighting a legal battle to ensure rehabilitation or a stay on the demolitions.
Human Rights Law Network, which had filed the case on behalf of the residents of Batla House will now be taking the case to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), said advocate Imsori Amri. “The court had given us ten days time time to either approach the NGT or the Supreme Court. It had also ordered the DDA to conduct a physical survey of the area,” he said.
The residents of the slum colony consist of domestic and daily-wage workers. They have been the worst-hit due to the pandemic and a rapidly contracting economy. The slum clearance procedure began on September 22. However, no notices were served to people and no alternate site was designated for their rehabilitation, the residents of the area claimed. The area had been at the center of the infamous encounter in 2008, following which it has been reduced to a ghetto. Since then, the area has been facing a number of issues, including the lack of basic civic amenities and neglect from the administration.