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Evicted, seeking rehabilitation, thousands raise their voice against 'bulldozer raj'

By Nirmal Gorana Agni* 

As we mark #75thIndependenceDay & #AzadiKaAmritMahotsav, thousands of people who have been evicted from their homes in slums, Jhuggies, settlement colonies and informal sector workers who have been denied their livelihood without any rehabilitation gathered at Jantar Mantar to raise their voice against the “Bulldozer Raj”. 
The government is forcibly snatching the land of poor Dalits and tribals from across the country and selling them to a handful of capitalists, and continues to vandalize the settlements by bulldozers like a storm.
On one hand the government is pretending to be the well-wisher of the poor and labourers, on other hand is celebrating destruction of livelihood and housing. These demolition/eviction drives are being fuelled with the communal agenda by creating an environment of hate in the name of encroachments in Delhi and thus trying to break the unity of the working class.
From the on-set of COVID-19 pandemic to till date, more than 6 lakhs people have been evicted from their homes and around 1.6 crore of people are now faced with the threat and uncertainty of being displaced. 
There is a growing trend of dispensing “justice” using bulldozers rather than the procedure established by law. The Delhi Development Authority announced eviction of 63 lakhs houses in Delhi-NCR however there was not a single word about rehabilitation. 
Additionally, of the 50,000 labourers in the informal sector, there is no statutory provision, nor planning for their housing by the government, while in Delhi, 28,000 houses are lying vacant. Ground realities also contradicts the claim that under the Pradhan Mantri Awaaz Yojana about 123 lakh houses have been sanctioned till March, 2022. The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) Policy 2015 guarantees rehabilitation to the residents of the 676 recognised slums however it is silent on the hundreds of slums/bastis that have not even been surveyed. Similar situations prevails in many other states such as Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu.
People from Gyaspur Basti, Khori Gaon Faridabad, Haryana, Ghaziabad, Agra, Dhobi Ghat Camp, Kasturba Nagar, Bela Ghat etc. have gathered who have faced forced eviction and demolition, despite having Delhi High Court stay order in some cases. These demolitions/evictions have violated the many “alternative shelter” provisions that both the executive and judiciary have guaranteed to the urban poor and inconsistent with the rights to life, livelihood and dignity” of the affected people.
While the unemployment in the country is rising day by day, hawkers, street vendors, waste segregation & sanitation workers are being evicted from their place of work. The government itself is not allowing the law made to protect the work of the labourers. Report by the National Crime Research Bureau (NCRB), “Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India”, shows that daily wage earners remained the largest profession-wise group among suicide victims in 2021, accounting for one in four of the recorded 1,64,033 suicide victims. 
Those organizations or activists who raise their voice are being put in jail by putting false cases on them. Neither survey nor relocation nor certificate allotment, only deprivation of livelihood and consequently to the deprivation of life.
The protest was marked by various testimonies and enthusiastic sloganeering of “Bulldozer raj band karo”, “Shahri gareebon ko adhikaar dena hoga”, “bina punarvaas visthapan band karo”, “jis zameen par basein hain, jo zameen sarkari hai, wo zameen humari hai!”
The memorandum with the following demands were given to the Prime Minister and the Urban Poor Minister to stop this modern day slavery in form of forcible displacements, to provide complete rehabilitation before displacements and to provide adequate notice to those that are to be evicted.
  • Immediately halt forced displacement.
  • No eviction before complete rehabilitation.
  • All the jhuggis/slums should be surveyed and eligible bastis be notified for rehabilitation.
  • Legal action be taken against erring officers who forcefully evict jhuggi dwellers.
  • Every state should have a rehabilitation policy whose cut-off date should be 2021.
  • Immediately complete the survey of street vendors, hawkers etc. and issue certificates of vending.
  • Regulate unorganized workers and provide social protection.
  • 20-30% urban area should be reserved for workers.
On behalf of all residence of slum and workers colonies, representatives from unions and organisations that participated in the protest were: Mazdur Awas Sangharsh Samiti, Hawkers Joint Action Committee, Working Peoples' Coalition, AICCTU, Dhobighat Jhuggi Adhikari Manch Faridabad RWA, Rehdi Patari Vikas Sangh, Basti Suraksha Manch, Samajik Nyaay evam Adhikar Samiti, RWA Dayal Nagar, Krishna Nagar Gram Vikas Samiti, Agra Awas Sangharsh Samiti, Ashray Abhiyan Bihar, Bela state Awas Sangharsh Samiti, Delhi Domestic Workers Union, Delhi Shahri Mahila Kamgar Union, Sangrami Gharelu Kamgar Union, Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikaar Abhiyaan.
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*Convenor, Mazdoor Awas Sangharsh Samiti

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