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‘Stop Bulldozer Raj’ Slogan Echoes at Jantar Mantar

Protesters alleged that not even a single family evicted in demolition drives since the onset of pandemic has been rehabilitated in the capital.
‘Stop Bulldozer Raj’ Slogan Echoes at Jantar Mantar

Tuesday's demonstration was jointly called by multiple organisations including Mazdoor Awas Sangharsh Samiti. | Image by Ronak Chhabra.

New Delhi: Land-owning agencies have come under fire for failing to design a uniform rehabilitation policy and finding a solution to the vexed issue of slum resettlement in the city even as unabated anti-encroachment drives are pushing the affected families to the margin.

Hundreds of people evicted in the recent demolition drives in the capital staged a demonstration at Jantar Mantar on Tuesday  and rued that no serious efforts have been made to rehabilitate the aggrieved families months after their houses were razed.

The protesters, including from Gyaspur Basti, in Sarai Kale Khan, and Jahangirpuri, were joined by the inhabitants of other slums in the city who stare at a bleak future after receiving demolition notices ordering them to clear the land of any “unauthorised encroachment”.

Affordable housing for the poor has been on the agenda of almost all political parties—the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre wants to make Delhi slum-free while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi runs one of its flagship policy to provide shelter to people under the name of ‘Jahan Jhuggi Wahin Makaan’.

Despite this, however, slum resettlement in the capital remains an elusive quest as social activists accuse both the Centre and the Delhi government of making half-hearted efforts at rehabilitating evicted families. 

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA), an autonomous body under Union ministry of housing and urban affairs, owns 80% of land housing slums while the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), which is under the Delhi government’s control own the rest.

During the demonstration, jointly staged by the Mazdoor Awas Sangharsh Samiti (MWWS) and the All India Central Council of Trade Unions, the protestors slammed the DDA and the DUSIB for the “forced displacement” of thousands of families. 

In a press statement released after the demonstration, the protesting organisations demanded that there should be no eviction without complete rehabilitation and that legal action must be taken against “erring” officers. The statement condemned the “growing trend of dispensing justice using bulldozers rather than the procedure established by law”.

Nirmal Gorana of MWWS told Newsclick that “not even a single evicted family since the onset of the pandemic has been rehabilitated”. “There are different policies under which different land-owing agencies in the city operate. While all of them talk about rehabilitation, no serious efforts are made by to ensure resettlement of the evicted families,” he said.

Currently, slumdwellers are rehabilitated under land laws which deal with encroachment of public property, according to a report by the Hindustan Times. The rehabilitation exercise, initiated by the DDA, is guided by its ‘in-situ’ redevelopment scheme under its master plan. 

Similarly, eligible slum clusters—around 700—are also entitled for rehabilitation and relocation in accordance to DUSIB’s Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2015.

These policies, however, don’t mean much for 55-year-old Surjit Kaur, whose life turned upside down after receiving a DDA demolition notice in July ordering her family and others in east Delhi’s Kasturba Nagar to remove “unauthorised encroachment”—which in this case means her house.

The said land is “required for public purpose for the construction of a proposed road”, as per the notice, viewed by Newsclick. The cluster, which houses more than 100-150 families, is not notified by DUSIB and hence, not entitled for rehabilitation, the notice added.

“My family has been residing in this house for the last several years. Where will we go after leaving this place?” a worried Kaur told Newsclick. Driven by similar concerns, several of the aggrieved residents staged a demonstration in the locality while others approached the Delhi High Court for relief. The next date of hearing is on September 13.

Gorana demanded that the DUSIB must carry out fresh surveys to identify eligible slums for rehabilitation under its 2015 policy. The multiple organisations that have come together under the slogan of “Housing for all” are also pressing for a uniform rehabilitation policy framed on the principle of “zero-eviction”.

Recently, anti-encroachment drives in Delhi have also taken a political and communal hue ever since the erstwhile North Delhi Municipal Corporation carried out an anti-encroachment demolition drive in Jahangirpuri in April days after the locality witnessed communal violence following a Hanuman Jayanti procession.

The “Bulldozer raj band karo (Stop Bulldozer Raj) ” slogan echoed at Jantar Mantar as activists flayed the BJP for also creating an “environment of hate” in the name of encroachment and “breaking the unity of the working class”.

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