Delhi: EDMC demolishes encroachments in East Laxmi Market, residents question timing of move
New Delhi: The East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) on Wednesday demolished temporary and permanent encroachments in the East Laxmi Market near Chitra Vihar in the eastern part of the city. Officials of the EDMC said the drive was started Monday in light of directions of the Delhi High Court to remove encroachment on the service road alongside the nullah road, which is also known as the Master Plan Road, in the area.
The action was taken after the high court gave an ultimatum to the civic body to remove encroachment and clear the road’s right of way (ROW) before August 17, 2020. According to EDMC officials, the matter pertaining to construction of houses on the service lane along the nullah road in east Delhi had been going on in the high court since 2011 and those who had encroached upon the service road were also given proper hearing.
Residents — many of them are sanitation workers — however, alleged the demolition was carried out without giving them an opportunity to remove their belongings. They described the move as “inhumane” and tried to stage a protest but the police foiled their bid.
“I had been living here for the past seven years but all this time no one came to tell us about irregularities. Then one fine day, they come with bulldozers and demolish our houses. Where will we go now in times of coronavirus? It is inhumane,” Santoshi Devi, whose house was demolished, alleged.
Jeevanram Valmiki, another person whose accommodation was demolished, questioned the timing of the drive. “Why did the civic body let the service road get encroached in the first place? Why did they not nip it in the bud? The EDMC could have waited for the demolition drive till the pandemic gets over. Forget about social distancing, we are literally on the road. Now we have no other place to go and have no idea how we’ll survive. The government should make some arrangements to rehabilitate us.”
A senior EDMC official said the service road alongside ‘nullah road’— which connects the East Laxmi Market with Pushta Road — converts into a dead-end near Chitra Vihar, hence people “mostly from lower-income groups” encroached upon the stretch and slowly built houses.
“In 2011, residents of the East Laxmi Market area had approached the high court against the encroachment on the service road. In 2015, the court had ordered the demolition of permanent structures on the stretch. Later, in 2016, the other party also approached the high court against the order, after which the court gave them the liberty to prove their ownership to the property in the lower court. The lower court, however, dismissed the case as the encroachers could not prove their point. So again in January 2020, the high court asked the EDMC, the Public Works Department (PWD) and the police to remove this encroachment and submit a report by August 17, 2020. Now we are complying with the order and hence launched the demolition exercise,” an EDMC spokesperson said.
He said nearly 56 houses were to be demolished and that the action has now been completed. He said that prior notices were given to each occupant to vacate houses before the demolition drive.
Sanjay Gehlot, chairman, Delhi Safai Karmachari Ayog, also demanded that the “victims” of the demolition drive be rehabilitated as many of them are sanitation workers. “This was a mixed population area and was majorly a Valmiki Colony. Many residents are sanitation workers. Sanitation workers are playing a major role in fighting Covid-19; the authorities should have waited till the pandemic was over. I have written to the chief minister to rehabilitate these victims of the demolition drive. For the time being, arrangements are being made to shift them to a nearby MCD school,” Gehlot said.
Residents are now planning to move the high court for rehabilitation. “They have no place to live especially in times of Covid-19 crisis. Tomorrow (Thursday) residents will move the high court seeking their rehabilitation,” Dev Pal, a field researcher of housing and land rights network, said. Pal is assisting the residents with legal remedies.