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Friday, July 30, 2021

No water, electricity but residents of Khori Gaon stay put: ‘Spent lakhs to buy this land’

On Thursday, the temperature in Faridabad rose to 43 degrees but there was no respite through fans or desert coolers at Khori Gaon.

Written by Sukrita Baruah | Faridabad |
Updated: July 2, 2021 10:02:01 am
Municipal Corporation of Faridabad, Faridabad news, Manohar Lal Khattar, Khori Gaon, Khori Gaon news, Delhi news, Delhi latest news, indian expressThere are approximately 6,500 houses in the Khori Gaon basti constructed as part of the encroachment on the forest land. (Express File)

Living without electricity and water for weeks but determined to hold on to their homes – the lines are being drawn deeper into the ground in Faridabad’s tense Khori Gaon as residents refuse to budge despite eviction orders.

The Supreme Court, in an order on June 7, had directed the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad (MCF) to “take all essential measures to remove encroachments on the subject forest land without any exception”, giving the civic body six weeks to complete the task.

On Thursday, the temperature in Faridabad rose to 43 degrees but there was no respite through fans or desert coolers at Khori Gaon. According to residents, both electricity and water supply have been cut off for over two weeks now.

Ten-year-old Aamna wiped the sweat off her mother Razia’s forehead with a dupatta and fanned her vigorously with a bamboo hand fan as they sat on the floor of a dark room in their home. Razia’s knee had been injured on Wednesday when residents and police clashed after people were stopped from holding a meeting in the village’s Ambedkar Park.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar announced Wednesday that the government had identified 1,400 families in the village, where members are voters in Haryana, and that it will relocate them to vacant flats in Dabua Colony in Faridabad at prescribed rates and easy access to loans.

But Razia says that is not an option she is willing to reconsider: “Our family sold its land in Moradabad to buy this land for Rs 12 lakh around 12 years ago. If this was the government’s forest land, why were there facilities of water and electricity here for residents? How were we to know? If our living here had to be stopped, why wasn’t it stopped then? Why are our lives being turned upside down? I don’t want anything from the government, I insist on being able to live in this home my family built.” She lives in their home with her three children.

Many residents across the sprawling settlement similarly argue that they had spent lakhs of rupees to buy the land their homes are on from ‘builders’.

According to Fatima (55), the homes they built also accommodate their future plans. “We sold our land in Badaun to buy 100 square yards of land here 15 years ago. We have a house with three rooms where my husband and I live with our four sons, two daughters-in-law and two grandchildren. We thought that when our third son gets married, we’ll expand our house with two more rooms on another floor. How will we all live in a small flat?” she said.

At the same time, the living conditions, without electricity and water, are almost unlivable during the current heat wave. Women and children go to nearby residential areas with buckets which they fill from borewells and carry back for their use multiple times a day. Families are also buying 20 litre canisters of drinking water, which they say is a financial strain.

Deputy Commissioner of Faridabad Yashpal said, “There was no water supply that this area was receiving from the Government of Haryana. Whatever was being provided may have been from Delhi, so officials there would be the right people to speak more on this…”

Regarding allegations of electricity to the village being disconnected, an official from Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitaran Nigam (DHBVN), speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, “We had only 46 registered connections from there, but there are thousands of homes in the village. The others were, as far as we can tell, getting electricity through illegal means or maybe from Delhi. The connections that were taken through us have also now been disconnected since the Supreme Court has found that people have settled there illegally and directed the land be cleared.”

According to DM South East Vishwendra, “There are some households which were electrified from Delhi through Faridabad, those have been discontinued.” He said Delhi Jal Board tankers continue to be supplied on the ‘Delhi side’ of the settlement.

Meanwhile, personnel from Suraj Kund police station took rounds of the settlement during the day and asked residents to fill a form requesting information such as when residents bought land, from whom, and how much. “We are requesting cooperation from the residents so that we can identify those who have tricked them so that action can be taken against them,” said a police officer as they went around.

While many were wary of speaking to the police, some said they were not among those who had bought land there, staking their claim to reside there. “My parents came here around 60 years back from Bharatpur in Rajasthan to work, and they built a home here. I was born here and this is our home. The Faridabad Municipal Corporation was created in 1993 and we were here long before that,” said Raju (65).

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