Home » India » Life a struggle, can’t SC rethink decision, ask residents of Delhi slums along railway lines – india news

Life a struggle, can’t SC rethink decision, ask residents of Delhi slums along railway lines – india news

Sunil Kumar and his family — wife and two children — used to live in a south Delhi slum when their home was razed by a bulldozer during a demolition drive in December 2016. Civic authorities gave the family a few hours to pack their belongings and fend for themselves on a winter’s night.

Kumar, a 42-year-old construction worker, and his family moved to his elder brother Anil Kumar’s house in a slum along the railway tracks in west Delhi’s Naraina Vihar where they have lived since.

The family faces the risk of being displaced again after the Supreme Court on Monday ordered the removal of 48,000 slum dwellings situated along railway tracks within three months. And, to ensure compliance with its order, the top court also stopped any other court from passing a stay order on their removal. In case an order is passed, it shall have no effect on the eviction proceedings, the Supreme Court said.

The top court’s order comes at a time when slum dwellers are already hard pressed in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and loss of income during the subsequent 68-day lockdown.

“People everywhere are getting infected. So many have died,” said Anil Kumar, whose family moved to the capital from Bihar’s Darbhanga district around 15 years ago and shifted from one slum to another until they settled in the same Naraina Vihar slum six years ago.

“We have hardly got any work for months now because of the lockdown. The family is struggling to survive. There is no money. Can’t the court reconsider its decision,” asked 47-year-old Kumar.

HT on Thursday visited other slums – in Azadpur, Vihar, Shakur Basti, Mayapuri and Anand Parbat — that are all located alongside railway tracks and densely populated, with open drains and narrow alleys .

Many slum dwellers lost their jobs during the nationwide lockdown that was imposed on March 25 to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease.Some chose to head back to their villages, and others stayed back looking out for daily-wage work, the residents said.

The Supreme Court’s decision came after Indian Railways informed the court that despite a special task force having been formed to remove encroachments, political interference was coming in the way of getting jhuggis (slums) alongside train tracks removed. An order for removal of all such encroachments was passed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on October 1, 2018.

The Court said: “There is predominant presence of jhuggis in Delhi along with 140km route length of railway track in the region of NCT {national capital territory} of Delhi… Out of this, about 70km route length of track is affected by large jhuggi-jhopri clusters existing in close vicinity of the tracks.”

These clusters aggregated to about 48,000 dwellings, according to the affidavit filed by the Delhi division of Northern Railways.

The Supreme Court also involved the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board to prepare an action plan to enable rehabilitation of people who face eviction.

A senior Delhi government official saidon condition of anonymity that the Capital has around 750 slum clusters, of which around 52 prominent ones are located close to railway tracks. The precise population of these slums isn’t known because surveys planned to ascertain the number are still pending.

“If we are rehabilitated in packed rooms with others, can the government agencies assure that none of the residents would get the coronavirus disease? In the slum, we at least have the safety of our homes. We are poor, but we can at least isolate ourselves to some extent,” said Rajan Jha, resident of a slum cluster along the rail tracks near the Mayapuri industrial area.

The fear of infection by the coronavirus of losing their livelihood if they are relocated are among the top concerns of the slum dwellers.

“Most residents here work in nearby factories, nearby streets where they set up their shops, neighbourhood localities where they work as domestic help. Work is slowly picking up pace now. Relocation shall leave us jobless and hungry again,” said Kamla Devi, resident of a slum along the railway tracks in Anand Parbat.

On Thursday, Delhi recorded 2,737 new Covid-19 cases, taking the total number of infected individuals to 182,306. Also, 19 new deaths were recorded on Thursday, taking the toll to 4,500, even as 160,114 people have so far recovered from the disease, the government’s health bulletin said.

“To evict people from their homes during this pandemic, when they have been asked by the government to stay at home to stay safe, would greatly amplify the risk to their health and lives,” said Shivani Chaudhry, executive director of Housing and Land Rights Network,which works among marginaliszed communities. “The United Nations has also warned that no one should be evicted and deprived of housing during this time, as losing one’s home could mean losing one’s life.”

“The government should first conduct a comprehensive and inclusive survey, and then undertake a consultative and participatory exercise to develop a human rights-based rehabilitation plan, which ensures adequate housing with basic services and security of tenure in the vicinity of where people presently live, to protect their livelihoods. Given the public health and economic emergency and the high incidence of Covid-19 cases in India, no eviction or relocation should be carried out,” said Chaudhry.

Sunil Kumar Aledia of the Centre for Holistic Development, a think-tank based in Delhi, said the group was seeking legal help to stop the eviction.

“The plan is to file a review petition soon. The Covid-19 situation is bad and the slum residents are the poor people who have been the worst hit. At this juncture, they are struggling to live. Life will be no different in another three months. An eviction at this stage is a livelihood concern and also a major health concern,” Aledia said.

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