NEW DELHI, April 19, 2011
Slum dwellers accuse DDA, police of taking bribe
A public hearing on Monday into the demolition of jhuggis at Baljeet Nagar near West Patel Nagar by the Delhi Development Authority on March 23 and 24 drew attention to the role of lower-level DDA officials and policemen in extracting bribes from slum-dwellers to construct houses on public land.
The demolition, which left an estimated 4,000 people homeless, was stayed by the Delhi High Court on March 24. The Court also ordered the DDA to carry out a number of mitigating measures including provision of water, mobile toilets, electricity and temporary shelter until the next hearing on the matter on April 27.
Former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court A. P. Shah, whose last order before retiring on February 11 was a landmark ruling said that every eligible slum dweller had to be relocated with proper civic amenities before being evicted from public land, was part of the panel that presided over the public hearing.
To a poser from Justice Shah whether the residents were willing to give in writing the names of DDA and police officers who had fleeced money from them, almost all the residents raised their hands.
Several men, women and children came forward to implicate DDA and Anand Parbat police station officers for their actions before, during and after the demolitions. The residents alleged that tankers brought water only rarely as a result of which their drinking water, cooking, toilet and laundry needs suffered. Sleeping in the open at night with their belongings outside had left them at the mercy of mosquitoes, rain, thieves and ill-health, they said.
“The DDA only makes houses that cost lakhs. Nobody makes houses for you people. They did not have any right to demolish your houses without issuing notice. It was a travesty of your human rights. When your jhuggis are destroyed, your work and your children are affected. You are not raising your voice enough. It was your weak position that made you pay bribes to the DDA and police officers to make a house. It should be the DDA and police which should be punished, not you all, for claiming your right to shelter,” Justice Shah remarked.
Among the victims included five-year-old Anish who was blinded when he fell while fleeing from a bulldozer and eight-year-old Kavita who sustained a deep wound when a stone flew off a jhuggi being razed by a bulldozer and hit her on her head.
Pushpa, a domestic help living there since 2003, said a DDA officials had taken money from her just a day before the demolition. Poonam and Anu, two Class XII students, said their public examinations were ruined and they and several other children had to miss exams because the demolition took place then.
Kamlesh, a mother of three, said her children had returned from school with tears in their eyes as the teacher had scolded them for wearing dirty uniforms to school. “When there is no water, how can I wash my children’s clothes,” she asked. Anu, a pregnant woman, worried that her health was worsening, as she has not been able to eat or sleep properly. The hearing was organised by a coalition of civil society organisations comprising Human Rights Law Network, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, Housing and Land Rights Network and Indo-Global Social Service Society.
- Slum demolition left 4,000 homeless
- Was stayed by Delhi High Court on March 24