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'Biased, selective' implementation of SC order to demolish Khori Gaon settlement

Counterview Desk 

In a statement on what it calls "humanitarian crisis", a group of environmentalists, social activists, academics and concerned citizens has said that on June 7, 2021, the Supreme Court passed an order to demolish the informal settlement of Khori Gaon, Haryana, yet, it is "shocking and disheartening to note that evicted residents have not received rehabilitation and justice even after a year since the large-scale demolition was ordered."
Pointing out that the settlement "majorly comprised working-class residents", the statement, issued on the  signatories' behalf by the National Alliance of People's Movements to mark one year of "gross violations by authorities and resistance by Khori Gaon residents", said, "The justification for demolishing Khori Gaon – that it is built on forest land – was questioned in the Supreme Court after the demolitions. No decision has been reached yet regarding the status of the land."

Text:

We are a group of environmentalists, social activists, academics and concerned citizens who have been noting the developments over the past year in Haryana’s Khori Gaon. We express grave concern over the disastrous turn that the situation has taken. On 7th June 2021, the Hon’ble Supreme Court passed an order to demolish the informal settlement of Khori Gaon, which majorly comprised working-class residents.
It is shocking and disheartening to note that evicted residents have not received rehabilitation and justice even after a year since the large-scale demolition was ordered. Hence, 7th June 2022 was observed as a 'Black Day' by Khori Gaon residents affected not only by the Court’s verdict but the unfair and selective implementation of the Court’s orders by the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad.
There has been a clear violation of human rights in the entire process – residents have been treated undemocratically, not as equal citizens in a democracy but as disposable entities receiving no compassion. The SC order uprooted at least 10,000 families in Khori Gaon without offering them alternate rehabilitation. 
Evicted residents had nowhere to seek shelter, food or safety. Since June 2021, the economically and socially marginalised residents have braved harsh weather and diseases, lacking a roof over their heads. We strongly condemn the inhuman treatment, which has left deep scars on the lives of over 1 lakh residents.
The justification for demolishing Khori Gaon – that it is built on forest land – was questioned in the Hon’ble Supreme Court after the demolitions. No decision has been reached yet regarding the status of the land. Our strong point of contention is that the Municipal Corporation Faridabad flouted the Honourable Supreme Court’s order to conduct a ground survey before demolitions.
The residents and civil society members had repeatedly requested the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad to collect all documents and evidence about those occupying the houses so that there would be sufficient proof to rehabilitate the affected families. However, the Municipal Corporation Faridabad only carried out a drone survey that could not identify house numbers or the occupiers of the house.
As a result, there seems to be no record of those residing there for generations, according to Municipal Corporation Faridabad’s own admission in Court. The lack of a survey has pushed the burden of proof on the dispossessed families.
The policy that was finalised after the demolition, with a very restrictive eligibility criteria, excludes a huge number of residents. Even after the SC ordered to include other documents to prove eligibility, the rehabilitation policy was neither updated nor the criteria in the online portal accepting applications. 5011 families had filled their applications for seeking rehabilitation on the e-portal, and around 800 applications were submitted personally to the Municipal Corporation Faridabad (MCF).
Since the majority of the residents were migrants who had settled down here in search of jobs, many possess identity cards from different states. Many falling in this group could not fill the application form as they were ineligible.
The criteria for rehabilitation are so limiting that even families residing for over four generations are finding it difficult to prove their eligibility. Even those families identified as eligible have not been able to move into the Dabua colony rehabilitation flats since they are uninhabitable.
Due to the lack of any other alternative, many families have been forced to live in makeshift houses made with tarpaulin, bricks and bamboo. Disturbingly, the MCF has repeatedly broken down the only roof over the residents’ heads, rendering them homeless multiple times.
Municipal Corporation Faridabad has created this desperate situation that the poor residents find themselves in due to the violation of the due process of rehabilitation. They have also disobeyed the SC order to provide solatium to Khori Gaon residents until the rehabilitation flats are ready. We condemn this biased and selective implementation of the judiciary’s orders in the strongest terms.
We also demand swift and appropriate action against the gangs and the land mafia responsible for selling plots to thousands of innocent residents in Khori Gaon. It is unfair that they have escaped accountability for their shameful actions when the residents have paid a heavy price. They have lost their homes, their belongings and even their dignity. These demolitions have worsened existing inequalities in society and pushed the helpless residents to destitution.
We stand in solidarity with the dispossessed population of Khori Gaon residents, who have been at the receiving end of grave injustice in their long and lonely battle to defend their rights for over a year. We wait and hope for justice to be delivered immediately by the Hon’ble Supreme Court and the Haryana State government. And hope those responsible for this situation are held accountable.
Every citizen has the right to dignified housing, which is integral to the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. MCF should stop using violence and evicting residents of Khori Gaon while the process is still underway. It is essential on humanitarian grounds that these families, who are equal citizens and contributors to our economy, are treated with dignity and compassion.

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