The demolition drive carried out by the Delhi government’s Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) over the past two weeks in the national capital has rendered several families with young children homeless.
Ineligible and affected families say that their efforts to get compensation or an alternative accommodation have failed, even after running around several government departments.
At Janpath, behind the uptown Le-Meridian hotel, standing helplessly outside the Jhuggi Jhopri (JJ) cluster camp, which was demolished on Friday, Dhruvi Rani, a young widow with three children, told The Sunday Guardian: “They (DUSIB) are telling us that if we do not vacate our houses by 5 p.m., they will break it down. I have three children and one of my children is also mentally challenged and can barely speak. Where will I go with these small kids?”
“We had been pleading with the officials to give us some more time, but they are saying it’s not in their hands. We had even gone to Arvind Kejriwal’s office, but to no avail. Kejriwal had earlier promised that no jhuggi would be demolished without giving alternative accommodation, but now he has taken a complete U-turn. He does not even want to meet us when we are in problem,” Rani added.
The Janpath camp, housing 35 households, was demolished on Friday by the DUSIB for the construction of the Dr Ambedkar International Centre, by the Ministry of Social Justice, Government of India, and the land here is owned by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD).
The DUSIB is the nodal agency formed by the Delhi government in 2010 for any relocation or rehabilitation of slums and JJ clusters. As there are several land-owning agencies in Delhi, for any eviction, the agency has to contact DUSIB to coordinate efforts, as DUSIB is the only body authorised to demolish any slum or JJ cluster.
The Jawahar Camp at Kirti Nagar, which housed about 150 families, was also demolished on Wednesday by the DUSIB as the land was needed to complete the “Pink corridor” of the Delhi Metro’s phase III project. Out of the 150 households, around 50 households were declared ineligible for any alternative accommodation by Delhi government officials.
Rakesh Kumar, who was evicted from Kirti Nagar’s Jawahar camp and was shifted to Baprola on the outskirts of Delhi, some 15 km from the camp, on payment of Rs 142,000 to the DUSIB for alternative accommodation, said, “Instead of the government paying us compensation, we had to pay to get shelter. I somehow managed to get that amount by taking a loan with a huge interest. The houses allotted to us are so far that there is no means of livelihood there, no schools, no healthcare facilities. My daughters can’t go to school any longer as it is too far. Even I have been left jobless.”
Shivani Chaudhry, executive director of Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), an organisation working for human rights to adequate housing and land, said, “The act of forced eviction violates multiple human rights. The Delhi government has not adhered to the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines for Development-based Evictions and Displacement. After the demolition of Shakur Basti, the Delhi High Court asked DUSIB to prepare a protocol to be followed during eviction, but the draft has not been prepared with adequate consultation with civil society and affected communities.”
“The people being forcefully evicted are from the most marginalised sections of society and they are being asked to pay Rs 142,000 for an alternative flat in the remote site of Baprola, which they cannot afford. We are trying to help in whatever way possible,” Shivani added.
Shivani also criticised the Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015 of the Delhi government. The policy was recently adopted by the DUSIB. She said, “HLRN is concerned that this policy, instead of being inclusive and helping to improve the living conditions of Delhi’s marginalised groups, could actually encourage inequality and result in more evictions, demolitions and exclusions.”
However, Bansh Raj, Principal Director (Rehabilitation), DUSIB, rubbished such allegations, saying, “All the families were informed, notices were pasted in the JJ colonies and we had conducted proper surveys before rejecting anybody. The majority of the JJ dwellers had even vacated their houses on their own.”
About the ineligible families, he said, “We do not have any policy for ineligible families, and they are termed as encroachers.”