Academics, activists, policy advisors write to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to compensate the victims of the Jahangirpuri demolitions and ensure their losses are covered, and their profound suffering is alleviated to some extent. The full text of the letter is as below:

Dear Shri Kejriwal:

We the undersigned academics, policy advisors, and civil society practitioners, all working on aspects of Gender and the Economy in India, are deeply shocked by the spate of demolitions carried out by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation in the Jahangirpuri resettlement colony on April 20, 2022.

The most tragic victims of this targeted demolition are extremely poor working women, many are widows, who had barely begun to eke out a living again after facing severe economic and personal losses under COVID-19.

The bulldozers did not simply destroy these women’s meagre tenaments; they destroyed even the small assets they used for their livelihoods. Handcarts, cycle carts, fruit stalls, gumtis, even makeshift wooden tables on which some displayed minor items for sale were not spared. Most

of the women here work in the kabaadi chain - rag-picking, sorting or selling. They collect waste from nearby colonies, transport it on thelas, sort it, and pack it in boris. Their hazardous work of garbage disposal is essential for Delhi’s health and survival. Even their boris and thelas were crushed. How can movable thelas parked on the road be termed ‘encroachment’?

Over 90% of India’s women workers are in the informal sector and most have precarious incomes. Instead of protecting their jobs, the government has bulldozed these women’s livelihoods without mercy, causing profound suffering. The wonton and brutal destruction of the belongings of some of Delhi’s poorest residents is unprecedented in the city’s recent history.

Moreover, there is no reasonable justification for MCD’s action. Jahangirpuri is not an illegal or unauthorised colony. It is an officially recognised resettlement colony established by the government. Its residents have followed due process for resettlement and possess the necessary papers for their homes and property.

Even the rights of citizens living in unauthorised colonies are protected by The National Capital Territory of Delhi (Recognition of Property Rights of Residents of Unauthorised Colonies) Act, 2019. The MCD Act of 1957, the DDA Act of 1957, and many Supreme Court judgments also seek to provide legal protection to Delhi’s residents.

The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 in Delhi, requires civic authorities to survey street vendors and provide them with licences and allot sites. Legally, therefore, demolitions can only be a last resort, following a proper survey, and after giving notice to the residents or vendors, allowing them time to respond. In this case, all due processes were ignored.

We understand that similar demolitions are likely to take place following surveys in other parts of Delhi, including Sarita Vihar, Jaitpur, Shaheen Bagh, Jasola, and Madanpur Khadar.

We call upon you as Delhi’s Chief Minister to take serious note of this gross violation of citizens’ rights, and compensate all the women and men so affected, for their losses. We would also like you to ensure that this is not repeated in any other part of Delhi.

We await your response,

With kind regards,

Cover Photograph Danish Pandit