Demolition drive victims stage protest against Delhi govt, Centre

Eviction-drive victims of Priyanka Gandhi Camp, Tughlaqabad, Bela Estate, Dhobi Ghat, Mehrauli and Kalkaji march to DDA HQ

Protestors at Vikas Sadan (Photo: National Herald)
Protestors at Vikas Sadan (Photo: National Herald)

Kushan Niyogi

Over 100 former residents, who are victims of central government-ordained eviction drives in Delhi are gearing up for another protest on July 3, Monday as the 'promised' rehabilitation continues to evade them.

A protest march outside the Delhi Development Authority headquarters, Vikas Sadan, on June 28, Tuesday saw a turnout of women and children from the area. The residents — now dispossessed of the addresses on their actual Aadhaar cards and electricity bills — hailed from Priyanka Gandhi Camp in Vasant Vihar, Tughlaqabad, Bela Estate on the Yamuna floodplains, Dhobi Ghat in Okhla, Mehrauli and Kalkaji.

Their protest was coordinated by the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) as most of the residents are domestic workers, contract labourers, guards with security agencies and the like.

Under the scorching heat of the afternoon sun, the victims of these demolition drives joined activists outside the gates of the Dilli Haat metro station. The echoed a single objective—to get both Arvind Kejriwal’s Delhi state government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s central government to follow through on their promise of rehabilitation.

Protesting residents at Dilli Haat metro station (Photo: National Herald)
Protesting residents at Dilli Haat metro station (Photo: National Herald)
National Herald

The Delhi government had declared on March 22, 2022, at a Secretariat meeting that they will be providing 89,400 families with tenements according to the Jahan Jhuggi Wahan Makan Yojana, a scheme promising resettlement of slum-dwellers in the same residential area. This scheme had later been piggybacked upon by the Narendra Modi Central government on June 20, 2023.

On June 16, residents of Priyanka Gandhi Camp, Vasant Vihar, had become the most recent victims of eviction drives which had taken a hold of Delhi since the first COVID lockdown. The National Disaster Relief Force (under the central government) had decided to set up their headquarters in March 15, 2022, at this address. The construction is underway as of now while the residents remain without a shelter during Delhi’s monsoon.

“We do not have a place to stay and we keep roaming about through the day looking for a place to rest our heads at night,” said Sonia, a former resident of the camp. She added that the residents just want the government to fulfil their promise of Jaha Jhuggi Wahan Makan.

On the other hand, the residents of Govindpuri had become victims to the DDA’s demolition drive on June 6, 2023.

“Over 3,000 people used to stay here when they started their demolition drive. They had announced that they had provided tenements to 3,024 people when the ground reality was that they had only allocated homes to 1,862 residents,” said Satish, a displaced Govindpuri resident, “Baaki jo hai unka stay order laga hua hai. DDA-waalein bol rahen hain ki un logon ke paas proof nahi hai toh ghar nahi denge (The others who are staying there have a stay order on the demolition of their jhuggis since they are not providing them with tenements. DDA officials have been saying it is because they do not have proof of residence).”

The stay order is regarding the rehabilitation of residents that the DDA has deemed as illegal encroachers. The next hearing date is on August 8,2023, as directed by the Delhi High Court.

According to Satish, the DDA are allegedly still breaking down these houses — despite the stay orders — by getting contractors to break them down brick by brick, minus the bulldozers. They still do not know what the DDA is planning to build at this place.

Former residents of Bela Estate, however, have been some of the worst hit. Claiming that they had been living there for the past four generations, they were handed a demolition notice by the DDA literally 30 minutes before the bulldozers moved in, they say. Rekha, a member of Anna Data Kisaan Union who used to live there, said, “They started demolishing when nobody was home since we had pucca houses and you cannot demolish 800 legitimate houses without notice, especially when [residents] are already there.” They have been without permanent homes since May 2019.

Representatives of each protesting community marched to the DDA office and went inside to meet the chairperson, placing their demand of including the Priyanka Gandhi Camp and the other 81 jhuggis to the main list of the Delhi chief minister’s Jhuggi Jhopri Awas Yojana (Slum-dwellers’ Rehabilitation Scheme). They also put forward a demand that the DDA follow through on the Delhi High Court’s order passed on May 30 to get the residents permanent housing within two weeks of the order’s passing.

Priyanka Gandhi Camp had initially been ascribed this name in its initial days by the Congress government, so that nobody would raze these residences to the ground. However, the ground reality is that the label seems to have turned into a stigma instead as the government changed hands.

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Published: 30 Jun 2023, 5:34 PM