New Delhi: Charred tree trunks, planks and remains of personal belongings and Swachh Bharat toilets are all that remain after a demolition drive at Delhi government’s night shelter and slum at Amir Khusro Park on Lodhi Road.
Following the orders of the Delhi High Court on illegal constructions, the night shelter and slum was demolished by the Delhi Development Authority along with the Delhi Police.
Nearly 300 people including include rag pickers, daily wage labourers and domestic workers have been left without a roof.
“They came without warning at 8 am when I was preparing breakfast. They started razing everything with bulldozers,” says Zulekha Khatun, who lived in the slum.
“I am a rickshaw driver. How will I pay Rs 5000 to Rs 7000 as rent?” asked resident Mohd Umar.
The night shelter was used by nearly 60 children and 40 women. Ironically, it was set up following an order of the Delhi High Court in 2010. The action has sparked criticism.
In a tweet, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he was sad to hear the night shelter had been demolished.
“The night shelters were built on the orders of the court. Is it possible that 100 shelters were made and the DDA had no clue? They should have objected earlier,” said Bipin Rai, member of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board.
Sanjeev Sabharwal, the standing counsel for the DDA maintained that the owner of the land is DDA, “The issue is that this is DDA land. This is the green belt area of the DDA which was handed over to us by Land and Development Office, Union of India. We have to maintain it as a green belt.”
According to the activists, it is DDA’s failure to create affordable housing that is responsible for creating slums and the homeless.
“The DDA is supposed to make a master plan every 20 year. Every master plan has said how much housing has to be built and they have never met the target,” said Dunu Roy, Director, Hazards Centre.
“This problem will never be solved unless the courts take up the issue as to why affordable housing is not being made,” he added.