With no prior notice, according to some activists, the DDA (Delhi Development Authority) and SDMC (South Delhi Municipal Corporation) demolished over 300 shanties in a slum at Dadwal Colony, Mehrauli, New Delhi this past week.
A senior official with the DDA told reporters the demolition was carried out with the authority of the Delhi High Court, according to the Logical Indian. The land belongs to the DDA, and the SDMC is supposed to be maintaining the plot of land, he said. But this is just one of many evictions to come.
The demolition of the decades-old settlement happened so fast that residents were barely able to get out with their lives, leaving behind clothing and personal possessions that ended up buried in the rubble.
One desperate resident, Rakesh Kumar, who is partially disabled, went to Safdarjung Hospital, not because he was ill, but because he was hoping for a temporary roof over his head.
“The hospital authorities told me that I would be offered shelter if I showed them my medical certificate,” Kumar told the Times of India. The man’s family, including a wife and two young children, are camping outside the hospital’s outpatient department.
According to Reuters on Monday, a city official said that 300 to 500 shanties were torn down and hundreds of people were placed in temporary housing. But over 1,500 people, including the elderly, tiny babies and toddlers, have been spending the past few nights in the open in temperatures that have dipped to 11 degrees Celsius (51 degrees Fahrenheit).
“It is a matter of great concern when the government destroys homes that people have built … and renders them homeless without any recourse or access to remedy, especially in the winter,” said Shivani Chaudhry, executive director of the advocacy Housing and Land Rights Network.
On Thursday, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted: “Have directed authorities to continue with tents and food. Manish Sisodia (deputy CM) will visit today. Also will examine why it was demolished at all.” So far, only a dozen tents have been set up, housing eight people each.
The evictions have been going on for some time, as landowners are faced with mandates to clean up the slums and upgrade the cities. But what do you do with thousands of families with nowhere to go and no money to help them in finding proper lodging?
Added to this is that those slum dwellers who do have some meager savings are finding out their money is no good because of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempt to make India a cashless country.