As bulldozers rolled out of Khori Gaon on Wednesday afternoon, residents left with rubble where their homes once stood began setting up plastic sheet tents over the debris to spend the night at the site.
In one corner of the debris of Lachmi Saha (43) and his family’s home was a mangled popcorn making machine, damaged by the day’s demolition, which his brother used to ply on the street. Saha, his wife, and three children moved bits of rubble to pull out bits of the metal structure, which they hope to sell to scrap dealers later to make some money and buy cooking vessels to prepare their meals. They pulled out metal doors and window frames and set them aside. Saha insisted that his family would be staying put at the site for the night — and for weeks to come.
“Where are we supposed to go? This is the only home we have. It’s raining but we will set up plastic sheets for the night, and we will continue to live here itself. We have been living here for 13 years. A dealer sold us the land for Rs. 1.2 lakh and we had spent another 1 lakh, all our savings, into building the house. And now there’s just dust and stones. For the last many months, we have been struggling to even manage our meals and now there’s this,” he said.
According to residents, police personnel started arriving at the site around 6 am. They said that while they knew that the demolitions were just a matter of time, they did not know it would start on Wednesday. Vimlesh Sharma (45), a resident, said it is because of this her husband was not around when their house was taken down.
“Even when authorities came in the morning, they did not tell us that the demolition would start today, which is why my husband left for his shift as a security guard. When the bulldozers arrived, we got around 15 minutes to save what we could,” she said.
She said their family had bought their plot of 60 square yards for Rs 5,000 per square yard and that they had been living there for 15 years.
“We will be staying here itself, this is all we have. After investing everything we had in our house, the government now wants us to pay Rs. 17,000 in one go and instalments for the next 15 years for a small flat from them. At a time when there isn’t enough to eat, this is a joke,” she said.
Sube Singh, the PRO of Faridabad Police, said the demolition process had been “smooth and peaceful”. “Around 3,000 police personnel, including three DCPs, 12 ACPs, and close to 500 women personnel, were deployed while the demolition was carried out in Khori village as per the Supreme Court’s directions. They reached the village along with 17 JCBs in the morning, and work proceeded smoothly and peacefully.”
Sanjay Kumar Singh, who works as an auto driver and has been living in the village for around 15 years, said: “We waited and watched today, there was nothing we could do to help our neighbours, there were police everywhere. Now it’s just a question of us waiting for our houses to get broken as well. All of us knew demolition was going to happen, but we expected that rehabilitation would take place first.”
Others were proactive in vacating their homes, but with the hope of being able to return there. Rishipal (48), an auto driver, said he rented a house in Lal Kuan where he moved his family in the last month after he learnt of the threat of demolition. His house, he says, has been broken down already, and he has sold the bricks for “Rs 2,000-2500”. His wife and he, however, visit Khori on a daily basis to check on the situation there, and in the hope that they will be able to rebuild on the land. That hope, however, was dwindling on Wednesday afternoon as they watched the homes of other residents being razed.
Rishipal said he does not fit into any of the categories which make people eligible for the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad’s rehabilitation scheme. “I built my home in 2014 at a cost of around Rs 5 lakh after selling land that I owned in my native village in Hathras. It was only last year that I discovered that my land in Khori actually belonged to the government and I had been duped… I don’t even have any identification of Haryana, I got my Aadhaar card made on a Delhi address so that my children could attend schools there,” he said.
The shadow of demolition had been hanging over more than 5,000 homes in Khori since June 7, when the Supreme Court passed directions to clear encroachments from “forest land”.
Authorities say residents will be considered eligible for allotment of EWS flats elsewhere if they have an annual income of up to Rs 3 lakh, and if the “adult earning member/head of the family” fulfils one of three conditions — his or her name is registered in the voter list of Badkhal assembly constituency of Haryana as on January 1, 2021; he or she has an identity card issued by the state of Haryana as on January 1, 2021; and if any member of the family has an electricity collection issued by the Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam.
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