Dinesh Vishwas and his neighbour Naushad, two of the thousands of people who turned up at Rahul Gandhi’s rally at Ramlila Maidan, went there for a very specific reason: The three-month court stay on the demolition of their homes in Tahirpur Leprosy Colony expires next month. “There are 240 families who have been living in Tahirpur for the last 10 years or more. Leprosy-affected beneficiaries sold homes to us and moved out. Now we are being asked to produce certificates to claim ownership. (Congress leader) Salman Khurshid has been fighting our case in court and he got us the stay till April 25. We are grateful to him and the Congress block official,” Vishwas, a mechanic, said.
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Local Congress leaders at the block and ward levels, many hoping for a ticket for MCD polls, led supporters to the rally in buses. Many of them were residents of Shakur Basti, whose homes face imminent demolition. Santosh Devi, who lives in a JJ cluster on railway land, said Congress leaders are the go-to people for residents like them. “AAP has fixed mobile toilets in our JJ clusters. But sewage lines have been done so badly that sewage water drains into our homes. We have had to line the floor with bricks,” Devi said.
Many said they had come because of the Congress’s “years of good work”. “During Congress rule, I used to get pension but that stopped a year ago,” 60-year-old Salma from Narela said. Priya Thakur, a resident of Mangolpuri, rued the lack of toilets, “We go to the fields to relieve ourselves. Otherwise we have to pay Rs 40-100 a month.”