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‘They Demolished our Identity, our Future’, Say Slum Residents in Sanjay Nagar, Faridabad

Ravi Kaushal |
Already reeling under pandemic-induced income and job losses, the homeless residents accuse Railway authorities of not even giving them time to collect their documents.
Slum Residents in Sanjay Nagar

Gulshan looks at the heap of rubbish which she once called home. “Where should I go now,” she says, after the railway authorities, along with local police in Faridabad, razed about 418 homes in Sanjay Nagar. Gulshan’s home was one among these.

Homeless for three days now, Gulshan says hardship seems eternal in her life with no relief in sight. “We were already broken after the lockdown followed by deadly coronavirus wave. This drained all my savings. I just joined my work. Now, they have demolished my home. I earn Rs 9,000 per month. When I look for rented homes, people demand Rs 5,000 per month plus electricity charges. How can I afford it? This has really brought us on the roads. Who will be responsible if something happens to us,” she says, narrating her woes to NewsClick.

Visibly enraged and anguished, Gulshan says her children are studying in class X and Class V and will be the biggest casualty of the demolition. “Their future is simply destroyed. How will they study now?” she adds.

Residents of the Sanjay Nagar say they never thought they will be removed in this manner. Anwar, another resident, says the railway authorities pasted a notice two weeks ago which had no sign or seal.

“We thought it was one of those intimidating tactics. On the day of the demolition, they came with an army of policemen and eight bulldozers. We requested them for some time as the matter was listed in the Supreme Court, but they did not budge. By afternoon, when the Supreme Court order was uploaded on the website, they had already razed half the colony. We have been living here for half a century but no compensation or rehabilitation has been promised. If the colony was illegal, why did they issue electricity and water connections?” he adds.

Rajni and Nisha, both ragpickers, blast out when asked about the demolition. The sisters say the authorities were “so brazen in their contempt” that they did not give them time to take out necessary documents.

Slum Residents in Sanjay Nagar 1

“My Aadhaar card, voter ID, everything is under this heap now. So are food items and utensils. Today, a gentleman gave us some ration. I was about to cook when it started raining. How do I feed my children?”, says Rajni.

Nisha shows the wounds of the children after they fell on the debris. “They have threatened us with action if we do not leave the site. They said they will clear the land soon. They are least concerned if we will live or die,” she says.

The residents say they never expected the Railways to deprive them of their homes. Gulshan says the neighbouring railway station was built by them. They contributed in construction of the every public and private property in the area. “I wish to ask the state and Modi government, what happened to their promise of “Jahan jhuggi wahin makan” (We will replace slums with houses.)

Meanwhile, activists working for rehabilitation of these displaced people claim that the brazenness in the Railways’ action stems from the fact that the Railways has no rehabilitation policy even when thousands are living in slums and bastis.

Normal Gorana from Majdoor Awas Sangharsh Samiti told NewsClick that the demolition spree by the Railways ensured that there are low compensation and literally no rehabilitation to the affected victims. “The Railway officials do the demolition deliberately because Railways do not have a rehabilitation policy. The victims approach the court where there is a strict criterion for rehabilitation. Only a small section of victims get compensation and rehabilitation after long legal fight. We have been demanding that the Railways should opt for zero eviction until it comes up with a rehabilitation policy. It is already embroiled in many cases in Haryana, Delhi and other states where thousands live in anxiety over the prospect of losing their homes,” he said.

Notably, recently the Haryana government drew flak from the apex court after it went ahead with the demolition of workers’ homes in Khori village without any rehabilitation plan. “We were under the impression that the structures are ready, and they need minor repairs. And now you are asking for time to hand over possession till April 2022,” remarked the bench of justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari.

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