Homeless and Cold

Demolitions violated the law, the Shakur Basti Demolition

Image Courtesy: indiatoday.in
Communalism Combatonline team
Six month old Rukaiyya died as her parents Mohammad Anwar and Safeena Khatoon rushed to save what they could as of their shanty as their home faced demolition by a bulldozer during a drive by the Indian railways on Sunday, December12 at the Shakur basti slum in north west Delhi raising serious questions of the fundamental rights of the homeless in the country. The temperature in the capital had dipped to a bitter 6.8 degrees Celsius on the day the authorities decided turn their lathis and bulldozers on the homeless.
Two demolitions, in the span of a fortnight smack of similar arbitrariness in action. One demolition took place at Belagaon on December 1 (conducted by the DDA), and the second by the Railways on Shakur Basti on December 12, 2015. A question that repeats itself every time such a demolition drive is undertaken is why such brute demolitions of home and hearth take place either during the pouring rain or the bitter cold.
The Railways and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) are the two authorities that carried out this demolition. While the former is under the union government, the second is under the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi. Several judgements of the Delhi High Court including Sudama Singh and Ors.vs. Govt. of NCT Delhi (11 February 2010), have ordered for due process to be followed before any such action is undertaken.
According to these judicial pronouncements, due process includes an adequate survey, notice, and rehabilitation to be carried out before any demolition/eviction in Delhi. The Delhi Housing Rights Task Force (DHRTF)—a collective of individuals and organizations concerned with, and working to protect and promote, the human right to adequate housing in Delhi and across India has strongly condemned this action at the peak of winter. Besides the DHRTF has said that both these demolitions without due process and in violation of the Constitution of India, court judgements, and international human rights standards, including the United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement.

Judiciary to the rescue, again

PIL against demolition

S Muralidhar and Vibhu Bakhru, Delhi High Court:
“What was the tearing hurry to demolish in December? …You really don’t care about the people, you just want to remove them,…There were a number of children suffering out there”

“Was there any survey?..“Railways had no business removing people”. Those who were forcibly evicted were protected from removal under the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) policy and the Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act which provides for protection of jhuggi clusters which existed before 2006.

“You are forgetting what your role as a public authority is. Your role is to ensure that people who satisfy the eligibility criteria don’t get removed. Just because you’re the Railways doesn’t mean the law doesn’t apply to you,” the bench said. The court directed that “responsible senior officials” from the Railways, Delhi Police and DUSIB be present in court Wednesday “with all relevant documents” to answer queries on the demolition drive.
Counsel for the Railways (evicting authorities) Jagjeet Singh: I have not received any briefing from officials except for the information that notices had been issued prior to the demolition.

Jagjeet Singh : Railways “not responsible for rehabilitation” since it did not have alternate land. Singh told the court that Railways had “paid 11 crore to the DUSIB” to remove the jhuggi cluster but the agency failed to do it.

DUSIB counsel: We were not even been informed that the demolition drive was to take place.
Railways Counsel Singh:  The removal of the jhuggi cluster was “necessary” since it was “right next to the railway tracks.” “We had to remove them because they were in the safety zone… they were sitting on the tracks and stopping trains. There were also deaths,” Singh argued.
Bench refused to accept the argument.
Court: “Are they safe now? You have forced them to suffer and shiver in the cold. Every minute that they sped out in the cold counts,” the bench said. The Railways claimed that notices for pending demolitions had been issued in March and again in September, but the drive could not be carried out as Delhi Police delayed providing police personnel to support the demolition drive. “ The bench also refused to accept the argument that the demolition drive was undertaken under orders from the National Green Tribunal which last week imposed a fine of Rs 5 lakh on the Railways, and 1 lakh each on DDA and DUSIB for failing to clear jhuggi clusters near the railways tracks. The bench commented that the government “did not take action” on several orders issued by various courts “till heavy costs were imposed.” “Given the scale of the human tragedy, the court expects all parties to act in coordination to ensure that relief and rehabilitation are given to persons who lost their homes. This should be done without regard to the legality of the Shakurbasti slum as it existed,” the bench said.

(The PIL has been filed by Congress leader Ajay Maken through advocate Aman Panwar who sought court orders to “ensure” rehabilitation of the displaced residents of the jhuggi cluster)

People in Belagaon and Shakur Basti, however, were not even given sufficient time to remove their belongings before their homes were demolished. Affected families have been left out in the cold with no provisions for alternative housing or compensation for the loss of their homes and belongings.
Through this brazen action carried out on a cold winter’s day when the temperature was at 6.8 degrees Celsius, the state authorities have been in contempt of these judgements of the High Court. Besides these actions have violated, the human rights to adequate housing, information, security of the person and home, food, water and sanitation, health, education, work/livelihood, the right to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India, and most importantly, the right to life.
While a six-month-old baby girl was killed while the demolition was in progress, another young girl suffered serious injuries, as a result of which she has had to miss her school examinations. After the outcry, the police has registered a case under section 304 A (causing death due to negligence) at Punjabi Bagh police station. Anwar, the father of the small child has, in a statement said a tied bundle of clothes fell down on the girl sleeping on the floor as the family was in a hurry to vacate their shanty.
Delhi has a population of over 150,000 homeless people, only about two per cent of who are accommodated in shelters. It is a cruel irony that the central government is demolishing homes and rendering more people homeless despite its claims to provide ‘Housing for All.’
In a press release issued yesterday, the DHRTF has said that while the Delhi government has condemned this act of the Railways, and DDA has agreed to stall evictions during the winter, DHRTF believes that concerned officials of both agencies must be held accountable for the grave violations of human rights, and tried according to the law. This is especially important given the refusal of the Railways to accept responsibility for the death of the baby. Members of DHRTF also object to the statement made by the Minister for Railways in Parliament on December 14, 2015 that, “Such encroachments are the main source of garbage and open defecation, etc.” This reflects a very strong prejudice against the marginalised and homeless population of the city.
The Delhi Housing Rights Task Force had, in fact, written a letter to DDA on 1 October 2015, requesting the authority not to carry out any demolitions in Delhi. In particular, the letter stated: “Impose an immediate moratorium on all demolitions of existing settlements on all DDA land. The winter season is approaching and any further demolitions at this stage will result in thousands of people being left homeless on the streets of Delhi in the intense cold weather, exposing them to the risk of death, which is in violation of directives issued by the Supreme Court of India.”
Given the recent demolitions in Delhi, the DHRTF has submitted a list of the following demands to the Government of India:
1. Impose a moratorium on evictions in Delhi on all central government land (in accordance with the directive of the Delhi government).
2. Provide immediate relief, including accommodation, food, water, medical supplies, and healthcare to all evicted families.
3. Compensate the affected families for loss of their homes and belongings, and provide immediate assistance to help families rebuild their homes at the same site.
4. Provide alternative uniforms, books, and other educational material to children and ensure that they are able to resume school and appear in their examinations.
5. Give special attention to pregnant and lactating women, infants, children, older persons, persons with disabilities, and persons with illness/health concerns, Dalits, and minorities.
6. Coordinate with the Delhi government and the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), and provide all the necessary information and support to the affected families.
7. Ensure that all officials responsible for the demolition and loss of homes and life are investigated and tried according to due process of the law.
8. Ensure that provisions of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Housing for All by 2022) and the National Urban Livelihoods Mission – Scheme of Shelters for Urban Homeless are implemented in Delhi.
9. Make adequate budgetary provisions for low-cost housing, especially for in situ upgrading and construction of housing for the homeless. This should include hostels, women’s homes and shelters, family shelters, short-stay homes, rehabilitation centres, special homes for destitute and    marginalised groups, which are linked to livelihoods of the urban poor.
10. Ensure reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) housing in all real estate/housing projects and develop a human rights-based law to provide affordable adequate housing for EWS and Low Income Groups.
11. Implement orders of the High Court of Delhi and Supreme Court of India.
12. Implement international law and guidelines, including the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement.
Members of the Task Force have also called upon the government to ensure that it meets its commitment to protecting the human rights of all residents and takes immediate steps to provide restitution for the human rights violations resulting from its act of commission and omission.


  1. Shakur Basti demolition drive: Children suffering in cold, you don’t care, Delhi High Court tells Railways. http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/shakur-basti-demolition-drive-what-was-the-tearing-hurry-delhi-high-court-raps-railways/
  2. Shakur Basti dwellers freeze in open after slum demolition http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Shakur-Basti-dwellers-freeze-in-open-after-slum-demolition/articleshow/50167165.cms 
  3. Shakur Basti demolition: Case lodged in toddler's death; slugfest between political parties  http://zeenews.india.com/news/delhi/shakur-basti-demolition-case-lodged-in-toddlers-death-slugfest-between-political-parties-intensifies_1834522.html




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