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With powerful resilience people demonstrated unity against Delhi's bulldozer tyranny

By Harsh Thakor 

The plight of slum dwellers is aggravating day by day with the advent of Bulldozer Raj, with their lives literally placed at a razors edge. Without formulating any alternative arrangements for rehabilitation, notices are continuously being issued to demolish all the slums in Delhi. It has placed the poor labourer families in jeopardy, with a housing crisis. Path has been paved for bulldozers to launch a combing operation, razing 63 houses to the ground, with no rehabilitation.
This step is part and parcel of the overall objective of globalisation, placing one sided emphasis on interests of the corporate classes or the rich. A mass protracted resistance has to be built against Bulldozer tyranny engulfing areas all over India, projecting the nexus between corporate Raj and the Hindutva fascist agenda. The movement should be linked with the workers movement as a whole.
In fact, a few days ago the Archaeological Survey of India had issued a notice to demolish the slums in Tughlakabad. Since then the families living there have been continuously demanding rehabilitation. On 5th February, slum dwellers most courageously staged a sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar under the banner of Mazdoor Awas Sangharsh Samiti demanding “First Rehabilitation then Displacement”.
It is written in the release issued by the committee that today when India is going to organize G20 in Delhi in September in which President and advisors of many countries will participate, but Thousands of labourers are being evicted from their homes, and being deprived of their livelihood without any rehabilitation, The committee alleged that the government is forcibly seizing the land of poor Dalits and tribals engulfing the entire country and selling it to a handful of capitalists who are terrorising settlements with bulldozers like a storm.
On one hand, the government is masking itself to be championing cause of poor and labourers; on the other hand, it is embarking in the destruction of livelihood and houses. It is organizing G20, due to which the campaign of eviction by the government is intensifying with great speed and in this way it is shattering the unity of the working class.
Members of the Mazdoor Awas Sangharsh Samiti asserted that there is a rising trend to deliver "justice" deploying bulldozers instead of the legal process. The Delhi Development Authority declared the eviction of lakhs of houses in Delhi-NCR, but not a single word was mentioned about rehabilitation. Additionally, there is no statutory provision for 50,000 workers in the unorganized sector, nor is there a law by the government to protect their housing, while 28,000 houses are lying vacant in Delhi.
The ground reality also contradicts the claim that houses have been given to all by March 2022 under the Pradhan Mantri Awaaz Yojana. The release also notes that the DUSIB policy 2015 guarantees rehabilitation of residents of 676 identified slums though remains silent on the hundreds of slums/habitations that have not even been surveyed. A similar situation is simmering in many other states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu.
Recently, the Forest Department in Delhi has identified 103 slums which are on forest land and the government is talking about demolishing these slums anytime within three months after obtaining permission from the police force and the ground situation. Lakhs families are likely to be rendered homeless in that eviction. Zero eviction policy has been made in Delhi but it seems to be failing completely in enforcement.
The committee believes that the government has become so obsessed in the recognition of the eviction campaign of “bulldozer rule" that it is unable to gauge the problems of housing and employment of the poor. The labour colony of Dhaula Kuan has just got three months time from the Delhi High Court, but the PWD has again put up notices for the eviction of the labour families. Here, DDA has said in the Delhi High Court that it will not demolish Subhash Camp, Badarpur and then handed over notices to them.
In the case of Tughlakabad, under the guise of the order of the Supreme Court, a conspiracy was lodged to destroy thousands of families without awarding them rehabilitation. However with powerful resilience people demonstrated unity and approached the Delhi High Court for rehabilitation. In this case, the Archaeological Survey of India intends to operate bulldozers on the settlements without rehabilitation, which the Mazdoor Awas Sangharsh Samiti is tooth and nail opposing.
In the case of Princes Park township, the government, which had promised houses before the elections, is now playing a dirty trick with the poor labourers. Now the Ministry of Defence is showing complete apathy to their institutional rehabilitation.
The people of Yamuna Khadar Basti have been protesting continuously over the last one year demanding rehabilitation in the Basti itself, but the LG of Delhi did not give a single hearing to the affected families. The families of the slums which were demolished in Delhi are struggling to the last straw for rehabilitation.
The affected families with relentless spirit organised a sit-in at Jantar Mantar on the call of Mazdoor Awas Sangharsh Samiti and raised vociferous slogans and testimonies demanding that the government should not demolish even a single slum without rehabilitation and that the government should enact a housing law to protect the homes of poor labourers. Raised: No Displacement Give Housing – Give Us Right to Live” “Guarantee Housing” “Stop Bulldozer Raj”, “Give Rights to Urban Poor”, “Stop Displacement without Rehabilitation”, “The Land on which Buses Stand” , The land which is government, that land is ours!”
In order to eradicate this tyranny crystallising in the form of these forced displacements, a memorandum was given to the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Urban Poor with the following demands, to provide complete rehabilitation before displacement and to provide adequate notice to those who are to be evicted.
  • Immediately stop forced displacement (eviction).
  • No displacement before full rehabilitation.
  • Survey the deprived settlements and ensure their rehabilitation.
  • Legal action should be taken against the officials who forcibly eviction.
  • Every state should have a rehabilitation policy whose cut off date should be 2022.
  • 20-30% of urban area should be reserved for workers in every master plan.

Attack again on February 10th

Bulldozers again inflicted wreckage on the slum dwellings of the poor in Mehrauli, the capital of Delhi. An attempt was made to demolish three storey buildings here. The slum dwellers tooth and nail opposed this.
Delhi Development Authority has deployed a heavy police force to avoid any obstruction in its proceedings. During this, a clash broke out between the people opposing the demolition and the police. Women living in slums protested strongly on the road against the DDA. At around 12 noon on February 10th, some DDA officials reached the slums with bulldozers and started vandalizing them. The people defiantly opposed this action of DDA. During this some people were taken into custody.
During this time the policemen misbehaved with the women. A girl who attempted to stop the bulldozer was taken into custody by the police. A petition has been filed in the Delhi High Court, on which the hearing is still going on. They estimate that the HC may stay the demolition till February 16.
DDA has booked a heavy police force for the next 1 month to take forward the action of this sabotage. It may be noted that the slum dwellers living in the Tughlaqabad Fort area in the southern district have been directed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to vacate the slums. In protest against which the slum dwellers are continuously protesting and demanding that the slums should not be demolished without providing rehabilitation.
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Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has covered mass movements

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