Hundreds of shanties that were bulldozed in Shakurbasti on December 12, rendering over 4,000 people homeless in the biting cold, were a part of 56 jhuggi-jhopri (JJ) clusters in Delhi on railway land. Of the 675 JJ clusters all over the city, 56 are on land owned by the Railways, which also partially owns the land on which eight other clusters stand.
The Delhi High Court recently observed that landowning agencies “can’t just swoop down on a population and demolish everything”. The following day, the court directed that a protocol for demolition of encroachments on government land be created.
Although a survey is needed to assess the number of slum dwellers in Shakurbasti prior to 2006, the Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2015, which was finalised last week, states that slums in existence prior to January 1, 2006 “shall not be removed without rehabilitation”.
The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) will plan and implement in situ (in the natural or original position or place) rehabilitation/redevelopment of JJ clusters wherever it is technically feasible. In other cases, DUSIB will resort to the nearest possible relocation.
Rehabilitation of slum dwellers living on land abutting railway lines, however, is ‘tricky’, said DUSIB CEO V K Jain. Last week, DUSIB officials met the district magistrate (West District) and functionaries of government departments to chalk out a plan to rehabilitate the residents of Shakurbasti.
The board, in-charge of the rehabilitation, faces two challenges, said officials. There cannot be in situ rehabilitation of slum dwellers living on land abutting tracks because it is a safety hazard. This means they will have to be relocated to the nearest plot of land, added the officials. “Most of them are cement workers and they offload cement brought in trains. They earn their livelihood here and it will not be easy to convince them to move,” said a government official.
The other challenge will be the cost of relocating people, which, according to DUSIB officials, will have to be borne by the Railways. “Until these modalities are worked out, there can be no decision… ,” said an official.
Meanwhile, the DUSIB has provided temporary shelter to Shakurbasti residents who lost their home. The district administration has supplied relief material such as food, blankets, lights and water.
“… The district administration made immediate arrangement of food for the affected persons by midnight and it also started erecting tents by around 3 am,” said Amit Satija, district magistrate (West).
The district administration has also supplied atta, rice, moong dal, onions and potatoes to all the families. They have also been provided mobile toilets, inflatable emergency lighting systems and torches.