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DDA Evicts Hundreds of Slumdwellers for Recreational Park

Neelam Gaur |
Hundreds of residents of Gyaspur Basti are staying under tarpaulin tents after their houses were demolished.
2. Heera Devi, outside the temporary tent shed. Her 2 room house was destroyed on 8th August’s demolition drive
Heera Devi, outside the temporary tent shed. Her 2 room house was destroyed on 8th August’s demolition drive. Image Courtesy: Neelam Gaur

New Delhi: Sitting under a tarpaulin tent at Gyaspur Basti, in Sarai Kale Khan, a visibly worried and disturbed Deepu (16) is continuously trying to call a number. A few yards away under a tree, her equally distressed father, mother and brother are discussing something urgent. The family has been staying under the tent since their house was bulldozed by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on August 8.

Deepu, who completed her 10+2 this year, is frantically calling the advocate that helped them get a stay from the Delhi High Court (HC) on the DDA demolition drive in the slums on June 28 following a plea filed by her family and 10 other families. According to the DDA, the slums on the Yamuna floodplains are part of its eco-restoration plantation drive under a rejuvenation project.

Deepu’s family believes that the lawyer has “ditched” them. Despite the HC ordering the DDA to maintain status quo till July 11 “considering the long possession of the parties and their assertions that it is a jhuggi cluster having more than 100 jhuggis” and the “documents filed by the petitioners prima facie show that they are occupying the premises since 1995, the bulldozers returned on July 6 morning and started razing more houses, according to an Indian Express report.

The DDA denied flouring the court order. “The court’s order is for a limited number of jhuggis. The DDA has not conducted demolition exercise on those,” a DDA told The Indian Express referring to the houses of the 11 families who had petitioned the HC.

More than 200 families at Gyaspur Basti, one of the several slums scattered across the Yamuna floodplains, fear getting evicted. A muddy road lined with trees connects this green cluster to the Sarai Kale Khan Road.

All are living under the temporary shed.

All are living under the temporary shed. Image Courtesy: Neelam Gaur

All that remains of the dwellings are scattered stones, bricks and personal belongings of the families lying on the roadside. “I don’t care about studying anymore. We only talk about where to live,” a frustrated Deepu, who missed the August 10 deadline for applying in colleges during the commotion caused by the demolition, tells Newsclick.

The slumdwellers vividly remember June 27, when the bulldozers first rolled in. Since the slum is spread into three parts, the demolition took place in phases. More than 100 dwellings were razed in the second and the third phase between July 6 and July 16.

On the evening of August 6, the DDA put up a notice at the slum asking the residents to leave the area. “They put up the notice on Saturday evening. We did not get time to even appeal in court as the next day was Sunday. Is it justice? They are shifting us to Rain Baseras in Dwarka but what about our belongings? I have buffalos worth thousands of rupees. Where do I keep them? The government is not only taking our homes but our livelihood as well,” gram pradhan Ajab Singh tells Newsclick.

Notice sent by DDA, just two days before the drive took place.

Notice sent by DDA, just two days before the drive took place. Image Courtesy: Neelam Gaur

In 2010, in the well-known Sudama Singh & Others vs Government Of Delhi & Anr judgement, the HC had ordered the Delhi government to conduct a survey that included the affected people, make them aware of the government’s plan to use the land, rehabilitate them and consult with each one of them in a dignified manner before demolition.

Gyaspur Basti residents allege that the DDA has not followed the 2010 court order. “This is a clear violation of Article 21, which provides the right to dignity to Indians. The government is treating these people in the worst way possible. Their houses were destroyed without providing them rehabilitation. This behaviour in itself calls for a criminal case against DDA officials who were a part of the demolition drive,” Nirmal Gorana, convener, Majdoor Awaz Sangharsh Samiti, tells Newsclick.

However, a DDA official told Newsclick that “appropriate action” is taken “whenever it comes to our notice that encroachments” have come up on the Yamuna floodplain. “This is in according to the guidelines of NGT and commitment of DDA to removing encroachments from the floodplain.” The official refused to answer specific questions on the mandatory rehabilitation and survey required prior to a demolition drive.

The demolition also goes against the Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2015, which states that any cluster set up before January 1, 2006, shall not be removed without proper rehabilitation.

On August 10, the Dhobighat Jhuggi Adhikar Manch, Jhuggi Adhikar Manch, AICCTU, AILAJ, AISA, Kasturba Nagar Buland Awaz, BSCEM, Collective, Disha, PUCL and SFI protested against the demolition drive in front of the DDA head office.

Apart from Gyaspur Basti, demolition notices have been sent to the slums of Kasturba Nagar, Laxmi Nagar and Dhobighat. AISA member Neha Bora alleged that the “more than 500 dwellings in the area have been razed in the name of beautification. These people have been living here for the last 40-50 years. Not only houses, the government has also destroyed their personal belongings”. 

This is the true face of the BJP’s ‘Jahan Jhuggi Vahan Makan’ scheme, which is an absolute failure,” Baru told Newsclick.

The DDA plans to construct a recreational park in the area after removing the slums. Gautam Gambhir, the BJP MP from East Delhi, and Delhi lieutenant governor V.K Saxena laid the foundation stone of the park on August 9, just a day after demolition drive.

Plantation was done by the MP Gautam Gambhir by uprooting old green trees

Plantation was done by the MP Gautam Gambhir by uprooting old green trees. Image Courtesy: Neelam Gaur

Residents said that they felt cheated after hearing about Gambhir’s involvement in the project. His brother Sagar Gambhir had come to the area, according to the residents, to ask for votes for Gambhir just before the 2019 Lok Sabha Election and reiterated the ‘Jahan Jhuggi Vahan Makan’ scheme. After voting for him, the residents feel betrayed.” 

Most of the residents are daily wagers, street vendors and domestic help. Their future looks bleak. Heera Devi (40) has been staying here since she came to Delhi after her marriage. Making tea outside her tarpaulin tent, she is worried about the education of her two sons and daughter. “It’s the middle of the year. My sons are in class 11 and 12, respectively. Where will they study in the middle of the year?” a worried Heera asks.

Heera is also worried about the family’s finances as her husband sells water at the nearby railway station. “He earns Rs 15,000 a month. If we pay a rent of Rs 12,000, what will we eat and how will we afford our children’s education?”

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