Occupants of a hostel for visually impaired students in Janakpuri’s Virender Nagar have been sleeping in the open for almost a week now, after the DDA demolished their hostel on December 15. The hostel, Louis Welfare Progressive Association of the Blind, has been running for the last 17 years. Around 20 people, mostly students of Delhi University or the nearby Sarvodaya school, stay there.
Hostel caretaker Kamlesh Kumar, 32, who is also visually impaired, said that around 11 am on December 15, DDA officials and police arrived at the hostel, built near a DDA park, and demolished it.
Occupants alleged they were given no information about the demolition — or even ample time to gather their belongings.
Aryan Kumar, 21, an occupant of the hostel who studies in Delhi University’s School of Open Learning, said, “The building had been razed when I returned from college. I lost my admission slip and some books… Many others lost their notes, marksheets and gadgets.”
Kamlesh alleged that the officials only took out heavy things, such as beds, refrigerator and gas cylinder, and left the rest inside before demolishing the structure.
DDA, however, maintained the occupants were informed well in advance. “We have been making correspondence with the hostel management since April this year. They have been informed four times since then. A day before the demolition, they were informed verbally. We did not inform them in writing as they could procure a stay order from the court and it becomes very difficult for the DDA to clear encroachments then,” an official said. He said the DDA has “sympathy” for the children, but the action was directed at the management. “Students can live in several government hostels. Why were they running a private hostel on encroached land?”
Area councillor Narendra Chawla said the hostel was being run by visually impaired students themselves. “It was not a hostel from which people were earning profit. It was run by the students. The DDA has shown insensitivity by carrying out a demolition in such cold,” Chawla said.
Mohit Rana, 18, said the hostel’s occupants “haven’t washed clothes in a week and are sleeping and defecating in the open”.
“Just recently, our gas stove was stolen. The DDA could have rehabilitated us before the demolition.” Another occupant rued the fact that “colonies after colonies have come up illegally on DDA land, but action is never taken against the rich”.
The hostel came up in 2010 after the building, earlier used as an anganwadi centre, was vacated. The caretaker said, “It used to be an anganwadi for slum children, but that was relocated in 2010. The area councillor then gave this building for us to live in,” said Kumar. “This hostel has produced civil servants, and clerks.”
The occupants alleged officials are now asking them to vacate the open space and go to either tents put up by DUSIB or a night shelter. “Blind people are inter-dependent on each other, so it is difficult for them to survive in a night shelter. The temporary arrangement by DUSIB, in the park next to the demolished building, has dirt and filth and sewage water from nearby houses,” said Deepak Kumar, a Class XII student.