Portal to map evictions in Delhi since 1990
New Delhi: Hundreds of families reportedly lost their homes in 13 slum clusters in Delhi during the coronavirus outbreak last year, as per the Missing Basti project--a web portal launched on Wednesday for mapping evictions in the national capital.
The Missing Basti project--started by a group of civil society members and land rights activists--is an initiative to archive past and ongoing evictions in Delhi to “question as well as mobilize action for the prevention of further evictions,” said members.
Gautam Bhan, urban researcher and member of the Missing Basti project, said, “This is an attempt to put all the data available on eviction in one place. Close to 300 evictions have happened in the city since 1990. How can you build an inclusive city by evicting the workers who run the city? All the new highways, roads, buildings which have come up in the city are built on the back of evictions. On one side, we have the narrative for housing for all and inclusive city, but on the other side, there are evictors who have destroyed the homes of people who have spent years constructing them...This is the beginning of asking questions about the city.”
Shakeel Ahmed, convener of Basti Suraksha Manch, and a member of the project, said, “It is unfortunate that people were rendered homeless during the pandemic, which was a tough period for everyone. These people didn’t even have a place to go.”
As per information available on the website, people from at least 280 slum clusters have been evicted since 1990. Members of the project said information about future evictions will be updated on the portal on a regular basis.
Swati Janu, architect and founder of Social Design Collaborative, said, “It (the portal) is a repository of evictions in Delhi since 1990. The data has been provided by various academics and housing rights organisations, who have been closely working with people living in slum clusters or JJ clusters.”
Land rights activists said government agencies evict people from slums without rehabilitating them despite there being a policy for the same.
Mukta Naik, a fellow member at Centre for Policy Research, said, “The idea is to show what is usually not seen. You hear of evictions in the city, but people don’t realise the scale of it. We wanted to create a visual archive to help the general public, who are not working on urban issues, get an idea about the scale of the eviction and where it has happened. Though there is a policy in place for rehabilitation in Delhi, it has not been very successful.”
Janu said while some evictions, such as the one in Kathputli Colony, were widely reported, there are many which don’t get the due attention due to various reasons. “Our attempt has been to record all the evictions. We don’t always know the exact number of people impacted by these evictions, but we are working on adding more information so that the general public can get an idea about the severity of the problem.”
Janu added, “There are many similar initiatives world over such as Just Space and Living Maps in London or the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project in San Francisco.”