Homes demolished for CWG, hundreds still suffer

By Azera Rahman, IANS,

New Delhi : Shanti Devi’s family became homeless on a bitter winter night in 2009 as her shanty was pulled down to make way for a Commonwealth Games parking lot. Her ailing husband, unable to bear the cold, died a few days later. For the 57-year-old, life continues to be a struggle every day and the space, lying unused now, mocks at her existence.

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She is one among hundreds of residents of the Kushak Nallah cluster area behind Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium that was demolished for last year’s mega event.

Ramesh Kumar, who was a resident of the cluster for many years, told IANS: “They have ruined our lives. The bulldozers reduced our houses to rubble without serving any prior notice. It has been two years now and we are still waiting for justice.”

“We are homeless. Like a gypsy I keep shifting from one place to another,” he rued.

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) demolished slums in the Kushak Nallah cluster area, comprising J. Prabhu Market, Prabhu Market Extension, Viklang Camp and Bengali Camp, in January 2009 to construct a 128,000- sq m parking lot for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Commonwealth Games here.

The parking lot can accommodate more than 850 vehicles, but it has not been used ever since the Games concluded in October.

The residents said they have been residing in the slum cluster for the past 40 years. All of them claim to have ration cards or voter ID cards. Either of the two documents makes them eligible for relocation if evicted from their land.

However, they have been running from pillar to post for their rights.

Ironically, in response to a writ petition filed by the slum dwellers, the Delhi High Court in January 2009 had ordered the MCD’s slum and jhuggi jhopari (JJ) department to provide alternative plots to them.

The court instructed the authorities to provide the land only to those who could furnish the relevant documents such as voter identification proof and ration card.

The residents allege that even after producing the required documents, they have not been allotted plots.

“After the court’s judgment, we approached the authorities with all the documents. But they refused to acknowledge it and said our area did not come under the policy of relocation,” said Dinesh Kumar, who lives with his wife and children in a rented accommodation in Trilokpuri.

“It has been two years and we have been longing for justice. We have done several rounds of the authorities but it has been of no use,” said another resident who is currently living in the Sai Baba Temple near the area with his wife and three children.

Ashok Bhatia, director of the Delhi Urban Slum Improvement Board (DUSIB), which was earlier under the MCD’s JJ department, said: “We cannot do anything about this matter.”

“These people had encroached upon government land and were living there illegally; that’s why they were removed,” he said.

“We understand that the high court had given its judgment on humanitarian grounds, but this does not come under the policy of relocation,” he added.

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at [email protected])