Aravalli encroachment in Faridabad: Residents seek rehabilitation, action against those responsible
After the Supreme Court on Monday ordered the eviction of thousands of slum dwellers encroaching on the Aravalli forest area in Faridabad district, residents are demanding temporary rehabilitation and action against those who sold land to them decades ago
After the Supreme Court on Monday ordered the eviction of thousands of slum dwellers encroaching on the Aravalli forest area in Faridabad district, residents are demanding temporary rehabilitation and action against those who sold land to them decades ago. As many as 10,000 houses are set to be demolished following the order, said residents.
Biram Kumar, a resident of the village, said, “The authorities conducted demolition drives in September last year and April this year too, but the people living here are mostly those who used to work in mines and have nowhere else to go. After mining was stopped, they started working as daily wage labourers and construction workers, bought small plots here and built houses.”
“If the whole process was illegal, then the land should not have been sold to them. Now, these residents do not have any savings and will soon be rendered homeless. The authorities should take action against those who were involved in duping the slum dwellers,” said Kumar.
After the demolition of 300 houses in April, the dwellers of Khori village had approached the Supreme Court for protection, seeking rehabilitation before the demolition of their houses. On April 6, the Khori Gaon Residents’ Welfare Association had also organised a one-day peaceful protest outside the office of the commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad and the deputy commissioner.
The land in question is notified under special sections 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), which extends protection against land-use change to certain specified Aravalli areas, forests and trees. According to directives of the Supreme Court, the PLPA attracts protection under the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, which states that “no state government or other authority shall make, except with the prior approval of the central government, any order directing that any forest land or any portion thereof may be used for any non-forest purpose.”
Nirmal Gorana, the general secretary of Bandhu Mukti Morcha, an organisation that is taking up the cause of the residents, said, “The orders of the Supreme Court must be complied with by the state government, but they should first understand its responsibility and provide temporary rehabilitation within two weeks, before demolishing their (villagers’) houses.”
“These people are already facing the brunt of Covid-19 second wave with many losing their jobs and now, with this order, they will have no place to live. We appeal to the state government to provide rehabilitation to all families from Khori village,” said Gorana.
When asked about whether rehabilitation will be provided to the dwellers, Garima Mittal, commissioner of Municipal Corporation of Faridabad said, “We will be following the orders of the Supreme Court. We are going through the details of it and take action accordingly.”
The official did not clearly state if the authorities are planning to rehabilitate the residents.
Meanwhile, environmentalists welcomed the decision and said that even if on small scale, encroachments from the Aravallis must be removed.
Sunil Harsana, a wildlife researcher and resident of Faridabad, said, “All encroachments from the Aravalli should be removed as they are harming the ecology. We cannot look into whether this will affect the poor or the rich, as the degradation of the environment is the cost that we are paying here.”