Over 200 shanties on the Yamuna floodplains near Batla House in Delhi were razed to the ground a few weeks ago, rendering hundreds homeless. The move was part of a demolition drive by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), citing the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) law against construction on river embankments. The 2.5 acres of land cleared will now be used to construct a water plant.
At around noon on September 24, the DDA arrived at the location along with a small police force to evacuate the area. The authorities claim that the encroachers were given plenty of warnings and notices to vacate the land. However, the residents, some of which have lived in the jhuggis for over two decades, claim otherwise. Mainly consisting of daily wage workers, the inhabitants say they were neither given prior notice nor enough time to collect their belongings before the demolition began. Several locals were reportedly injured in a lathi-charge when they tried to intervene and were forced to watch their homes being torn down before their eyes.
The slums in the Dhobi Ghat cluster of the capital are infamous for the lack of basic civic amenities. Unemployed and already struggling to survive amidst the pandemic, and now with no food, water, shelter or sanitation facilities, the center has left the residents to fend for themselves. They have no means to return to their villages or rent elsewhere. The months of unemployment during lockdown has depleted their meager savings. Their only belongings are the clothes on their back and whatever little they could salvage from the rubble that they once called home.
Unlike the uproar caused over Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut’s office demolition by the BMC in Mumbai just two weeks earlier, the upheaval of hundreds of socio-economically challenged slum-dwellers did not elicit a shred of sympathy or even a perfunctory tut-tut from citizens.
This article has been written by Shazia Farooqui for The Paradigm
See you next time...