Thousands are on the verge of getting homeless in Delhi, after eviction drives were taken out in various slum areas of the city. Since the past six months various areas of Delhi have witnessed demolitions of jhuggis rendering many homeless without any relief of rehabilitation.

On Friday, amid police security, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) demolished several shanties and some multi-storeyed buildings situated on the border of the Mehrauli Archaeological Park in Ladha Sarai village. According to the DDA, the land in question belongs to the authority and has been encroached on.

The action caused panic among locals living in multi-storey apartments and builder floors near the demolition site, who said the DDA issued notices saying their houses are situated on government land and will be demolished.

The same day, Delhi High Court directed the authorities to maintain the status quo on 400 jhuggis of a slum colony in Mehrauli, which were to be demolished during the day. However, DDA said it will continue its anti-encroachment drive in Mehrauli as the Delhi high court didn't mention to stop demolishing buildings in “all the plots” in its status-quo order.

“In light of the averments made in the petition that Ghosiya Slum Colony is a jhuggi cluster duly enlisted in the list published by DUSIB on its official website, which records 400 jhuggis, as also the 2015 policy and the fact that the respondents do not have instructions in the matter, the respondents are directed to maintain status quo with respect to the 400 jhuggis verified by DUSIB, until the next date of hearing,” Justice Manpreet Pritam Singh Arora said.

Meanwhile, residents of Mehrauli have also alleged lathi-charge by the police. The demolition of jhuggis has engulfed a population as hundreds of houses have been demolished by the DDA and other authorities.

In some places, violence was also reported during several such drives, which were ordered by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the forest department in Khori Village, Shaheen Bagh and Gyaspur Basti.

According to reports, the forest department has drawn up a list of 103 jhuggi jhopri (JJ) clusters (slums), and farmhouses allegedly built on the forestland that would be demolished following an National Green Tribunal (NGT) order which directed the Delhi government to prepare a list of forest encroachments.

The NGT has directed the Delhi government to remove illegal constructions in south Delhi's Jaunapur and Dera Mandi Forest areas, saying no encroachment can be allowed on forest land.

A bench headed by National Green Tribunal (NGT) Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said the monitoring has to be at a higher level so that the encroachments are removed and the land is restored to its original condition.

The tribunal was hearing a plea by south Delhi resident Amarjit Singh Nalwa and others seeking execution of a 2015 NGT order directing the Delhi government to remove encroachments.

The court issued stay orders in both cases and directed the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) to provide proper rehabilitation to the affected residents. However, no relief has been provided to the people.

Demolitions have taken place in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, various parts of Mehrauli, Fatehpur Beri among others. Meanwhile, thousands of residents of the slums near Delhi’s Tughlakabad, Mayur Vihar, Dhaula Kuan, Kashmiri gate, and Subhash camp risk being homeless.

Indian Express reported that ahead of the G20 summit, the Public Works Department (P.W.D) is revamping the stretch around Dhaula Kuan and surrounding areas, as it connects to the airport, to welcome foreign dignitaries. The P.W.D is redeveloping an eight-km-long stretch starting from Dhaula Kuan to N.S.G junction to Airport road.

After a case was filed, demolition stayed at Delhi's Dhaula Kuan slum. The notice said that shelter homes will be provided to them for a duration of three months and after that, they would have to find a place of their own to live.

However, nothing has been done as of now.

“The area falls between the airport from where the G20 dignitaries will come and due to security purposes Lt. Governor is removing them. The people need to be resettled as they have been living here for a long time. Their livelihood comes from around the place. The kids study nearby. They cannot be uprooted and left to fend for themselves,” said Dhaula Kuan M.L.A. Virendar Singh Kadian.

Such drives are also taking place in more locations of Delhi such as Kashmere gate, and Greater Kailash, just a few months before G-20, according to reports.

Meanwhile, some residents whose houses have been demolished, still look for relief as the government ignores their plight.

Speaking to The Citizen, residents of Fatehpur Beri who lost their houses are homeless with no help from the government. “At least 25 houses were demolished by the DDA in October last year. Since then those families have been living under a tent in the same locality. No government or court has come thereafter to provide relief to those families,” said Munni, who is a resident from the same locality.

While the matter is in court, the residents are not expecting any relief.

Speaking to The Citizen, Shweta Raj, Secretary at All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) said in the last six months, the number of demolitions has increased, however no rehabilitation work has started.

“In the last six months, one area has seen a major brunt for demolition or fear of it, and that is South Delhi, where in many areas received notices for the same and demolitions took place. Same happened in some areas of rehabilitation, however, nowhere has the talks of rehabilitation even begun from either the government as well as the court’s side,” she said.

Raj added that most of the places where the demolitions have taken place are Muslim majority areas.

“In those areas we saw people were not allowed to take their things. People were not allowed to even take medicines along with them,” she said. The situation has become tense with passing days, as notices are being sent every day, due to which residents have come on roads in a form of protest.

On February 5, slum dwellers courageously staged a sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar under the banner of Mazdoor Awas Sangharsh Samiti demanding “First Rehabilitation then Displacement”.

In a written statement issued by the committee, focus was put on rehabilitation. “India is going to organise G20 in Delhi in September in which the President and advisors of many countries will participate, but thousands of labourers are being evicted from their homes, and being deprived of their livelihood without any rehabilitation,” it stated.

The committee also alleged that the government is forcibly seizing the land of poor Dalits and tribals engulfing the entire country and selling it to a handful of capitalists who are terrorising settlements with bulldozers like a storm.

“On one hand, the government is masking itself to be championing the cause of the poor and labourers; on the other hand, it is embarking in the destruction of livelihood and houses. It is organising G20, due to which the campaign of eviction by the government is intensifying with great speed and in this way it is shattering the unity of the working class,” it said.

Without formulating any alternative arrangements for rehabilitation, notices are continuously being issued to demolish all the slums in Delhi. It has placed the poor labourer families in jeopardy, with a housing crisis.

This brings the focus to the rehabilitation policy.

In 2016, the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) introduced and approved Delhi Slum & JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2015.

Approved under the Aam Aadmi Party government, the policy ensured ‘in situ’ rehabilitation of slum dwellers, and said “no new jhuggies" will be allowed in the city.

According to the policy, relocation would be done only if there is any court order or the concerned cluster has encroached a street, road, footpath, park or the encroached land is required by the land-owning agency for a specific public project.

It also said that J.J. clusters that came up before 2006 cannot be removed without providing alternate housing. Besides, a slum eligible for rehabilitation cannot be demolished without a court order.

In its landmark judgement in Sudama Singh & Others vs Government of Delhi, the HC had observed that dignified resettlement is the right of affected citizens before eviction.

“What very often is overlooked is that when a family living in a jhuggi is forcibly evicted, each member loses a ‘bundle’ of rights—the right to livelihood, to shelter, to health, to education, to access to civic amenities and public transport and above all, the right to live with dignity,” the court observed.

However, Raj said that the government has turned a blind eye to the plight of the people. “The government says that the land belongs to the DDA but how was the land sold to people, there is no discussion on this. The government despite the policies is also not doing anything to rehabilitate the people,” she added.

Raj further said that according to the policy, people need to be rehabilitated before the demolition takes place. “There is another provision that the people from South Delhi cannot be rehabilitated in let’s say Narula. They need to be rehabilitated around the area where they work. However, none of this approach is seen by the government,” she added.

In the Tughlaqabad Fort area, where 2000 houses received notices for eviction, tensions remain with no word from the authorities about the rehabilitation.

“We are very tense and everyday is a struggle to go on because we do not know when the bulldozers will come,” Lakshman Singh, the resident of Tughlaqabad said.

Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court has directed the chief secretary, Delhi government, to call a meeting with other authorities to discuss a comprehensive plan for the resettlement of the residents of the Tughlaqabad Fort area, who are facing eviction pursuant to a demolition notice issued by the Archaeological Survey of India (A.S.I) last month.

A single judge bench of Justice Prathiba Singh in its February 1 order directed a meeting by the chief secretary of Government Of National Capital Territory Of Delhi (G.N.C.T.D) with the senior officials from Delhi Development Authority (D.D.A), Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (D.U.S.I.B), Municipal Corporation of Delhi (M.C.D), Archaeological Survey of India (A.S.I), Delhi Police and also the concerned district magistrate on February 20, 2023.

“In the said meeting, a proper comprehensive plan for the resettlement/rehabilitation of the residents of Tughlaqabad Fort area be discussed and the same be placed on record within 4 weeks,” the High Court said. It further directed authorities to ensure that the plan is submitted before the high court “without any delay”, failing which, the “court would have no option but to implement” a February 2016 judgement of the Supreme Court wherein it had unequivocally recognised the “identity of Tughlaqabad Fort” and the requirement to ensure that the said fort “is preserved as a protected monument”. The Supreme Court in that case had asked the ASI to take an action for “removal of unauthorised construction as also the encroachers from the public land”.

The matter is now listed on March 10.

Meanwhile, in 2021, the Central government proposed a draft to formulate a new slum resettlement and rehabilitation policy to ensure that slum dwellers are treated fairly and humanely when they are resettled from objectionable poramboke lands including water courses in a dignified manner, in the budget 2020-21.

The resettlement and rehabilitation process has three phases viz, Pre- Resettlement activities, Resettlement activities and Rehabilitation. (a) Pre-resettlement activities precede the actual Resettlement process. Identification of people for resettlement is the primary objective of Pre- resettlement activities.

(a) Pre-resettlement activities precede the actual Resettlement process. Identification of people for resettlement is the primary objective of Pre-resettlement activities. The intended beneficiaries should be identified in a transparent manner.

(b) During resettlement, the people should be treated humanely. A standard operating procedure (sop) for resettlement is also issued to carry out involuntary resettlement from objectionable poramboke lands and land required for development purposes.

(c) Rehabilitation is a long-term process. The lives of the resettled people should be stabilised with sustainable livelihood opportunities. It needs inter-departmental coordination.

However, this is yet to be passed or implemented.