National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) on January 12, 2021 condemned the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for denying rehabilitation to more than 700 people whose homes at Dhobi Ghat, Jamia Nagar were demolished in September and October 2020.
The organisation said that the DDA demonstrated disregard for human life by abandoning residents, amidst precarious conditions and increased risk for over four months during the Covid-19 pandemic.
NAPM demanded that concerned authorities:
ensure full rehabilitation and fair compensation to all residents of Dhobi Ghat, Batla House
extend interim monetary grant and relief support by way of food grains, domestic materials and necessary supplies
attend to nutritional, educational and health needs of children and women
investigate against police personnel who used undue force against senior citizens, women, children and suppressed their right to dissent as part of the Jahan Jhuggi Wahan Makan Andolan
investigate actual motives for demolition considering the history of ‘disruptions’ in the area including the fire in 2019.
“We stand in solidarity with the affected people, in particular the women of Jhuggi Adhikar Manch, who have strongly organized themselves and are leading a valiant struggle amidst the crisis. The women’s andolan in the area requires widespread solidarity and support from all of us to end the abuse and harassment the community faces every day,” said the NAPM in a press release.
The displaced residents were living in Dhobi Ghat for nearly two decades and suffered massive economic losses. People working in neighbouring areas were already losing jobs due to unfounded concerns of sanitation by employers. However, the situation worsened when residents in neighbouring buildings subjected them to further loss of livelihood, discrimination due to poor harassment.
“Aged people, sick people, pregnant women and young children continue to live in the open on few spare acres of land which is not under water. Frequent rain often causes the swamp to overflow, flooding the jhuggis of residents in the middle of an already harsh Delhi winter,” said the NAPM.
In December 2020, the DDA dug up the land to construct huge boundaries and elevated structures resulting in deep swamps where people’s homes once stood.
It pointed out that people suffered food shortage and irregular dry ration from the government at a time when a new strain of the Coronavirus has been detected. Electricity too is cut off in the area during the evening which compounds the problem of cooking the minimal ration.
Moreover, the NAPM said that every time residents have attempted to rebuild temporary settlements for shelter, these are destroyed and they are subsequently intimidated by the authorities.
The organisation said that the DDA’s actions violate natural justice and residents’ right to live with dignity. They claimed the DDA in its action has not taken into account or addressed established policy protection for the residents under Delhi Urban Shelter Board (DUSIB) policy 2015 – on procedures to be followed in case of forced eviction including adequate notice and clear rehabilitation arrangements.
“The DDA also remains in violation of their own state governments demand promised in the 2020 Delhi election for basti dwellers “Jaha juggi waha makan”(where the dwelling, there itself the house). A promise made for the Jhuggis (JJ clusters) in securing tenureship and protecting themselves from forced evictions,” it said.
NAPM demands Delhi govt follow Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act and rehabilitate over 700 Dhobi Ghat residents.