Civil society groups urge SC to reconsider its slum eviction order
Many members of the civil society, NGOs, and organisations working for the welfare of the poor and their land rights have urged the Supreme Court to reconsider its recent order to evict residents of 48,000 slum settlements on railway land within three months.
In a statement issued on Friday by over 65 organisations, movements and associations of residents of affected slums, the civil society members pointed out that the SC order did not take into account the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) policy on relief and rehabilitation of slums, which was notified in 2015.
They said the apex court also didn’t consider the Delhi high court’s 2019 order in the Ajay Maken vs Union of India case, where it said DUSIB’s policy applied on railway land too.
According to the DUSIB policy, slum residents who have valid documents to prove that they have been living in that place since January 1, 2015, would have to be rehabilitated, even if the settlement is on government land.
In the statement, the organisations raised the following demands:The SC should review its order; the Delhi government should accept and assert its responsibility to apply DUSIB policy on railway land; no demolition during the coronavirus pandemic; railways should work with communities to move these people to safe areas without forced eviction among others.
The statement said the order would have “devastating consequences” for nearly 50,000 households, or over 2.5 lakh people”, during the pandemic.
Some organisations that have come out in support and signed the statement are: Housing and Land Rights Network, Centre for Advocacy and Research, Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform, Delhi Rozi Roti Abhiyan, Railway Basti Jan Sangharsh Morcha, Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action among others.
Gautam Bhan, urban researcher part of the team that drafted the statement, said the apex court had not taken some factors into consideration.
“There is a history of legal right to resettlement and protection against forced eviction. The city has a policy for rehabilitation of slum residents and it is applicable on those living on railway land. This fact, we think, was not placed before the court partly because those affected by the order were not part of the case,” Bhan said.
Bhan said displacing more than 250,000 lakh slum dwellers during a pandemic will only make matters worse for them. “They are already suffering because of the impact of the pandemic on their livelihoods. This forced eviction will condemn a generation to destitution”.
Various organisations working for the welfare of urban poor and their rights are planning protests and events in the days to come to demand a review of the order.
Shakeel Ahmed, convenor of Basti Suraksha Manch, said, “We want their voice to be heard. The order pertains to an old case and the affected parties didn’t even know about it. There is a need to rehabilitate these people. We are against forced eviction. We are planning to protest against it.”
Indu Prakash, facilitator, CityMakers Mission International and member of the SC-appointed committee on monitoring of homeless shelters in Delhi, said, “….It is supreme injustice done to these people, especially at a time when the country is fighting a pandemic.”