Housing rights expert group submits report, recommends in-situ rehabilitation of railway slum residents
The report has also stressed on the need to survey all affected residents and said no resident should be displaced during the ongoing Coivd-19 pandemic.Updated: Oct 22, 2020, 07:31 IST
As uncertainty continues over the fate of nearly 250,000 residents of slum clusters on railway land in Delhi, the Delhi Housing Rights Task Force (DHRT), a group of experts on housing rights, has come out with a comprehensive rehabilitation plan, after consultation with the affected residents, and recommended in-stu rehabilitation to prevent loss of livelihoods.
The report has also stressed on the need to survey all affected residents and said no resident should be displaced during the ongoing Coivd-19 pandemic.
The DHRFT has submitted the plan to the Delhi government and the Railways, which are working on a plan to remove nearly 48,000 slum dwellings erected on railway land in Delhi.
A senior official of the Delhi government’s Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), aware of the development, said, “We have got the report from DHRTF in which they have given their point of view and made a few suggestions. But a final decision has to be taken by the Railways as it is the land owning agency. We have offered our flats. We have already started the maintenance work on these flats.”
The Supreme Court, in an order on August 31, had directed the removal of 48,000 slums along railway tracks in the national capital within three months. But in September, the Centre told the apex court that discussions were underway to implement the order and ruled out immediate evictions of residents from these clusters. The court was to hear the matter after four weeks—a date is to be fixed yet.
Land rights activists say the Railways has not held any meetings with residents. Shakeel Ahmed, member of DHRFT, said, “We are not aware what the Railways is planning to do. It has not contacted the residents of these clusters so far. We want the government to hear the residents before deciding their fate.”
DUSIB, the nodal agency for slum redevelopment, said it has sent a letter to the Railways regarding vacant houses available with the board. Bipin Rai, member, DUSIB, said, “We have written to the Railways saying we can provide housing for 45,000 families by next year. We have some flats vacant that can be provided to displaced residents on payment. But there is no response from the Railways so far.”
When contacted, the Northern Railway spokesperson said, “The work is in progress. All stakeholders are being consulted while drawing up of the plan.” When asked about the plan submitted by DHRTF and the Delhi government’s letter, the spokesperson refused comment on both matters.
Shivani Chaudhry, executive director, Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), an organisation that works with housing and land rights of marginalised communities, said, “The DHRTF proposal has been submitted to the Railways and the Delhi government. In-situ rehabilitation must be prioritised. Moving people to remote resettlement sites will only adversely impact their access to livelihood and education, and result in increased distress and human rights violations.”
Subodh Bind, a resident of a slum cluster near Old Delhi Railway station, said, “The biggest worry is of losing our livelihood. We currently work at the nearby market. If we are forced to leave this place and shifted to Bawana or Narela, how will we earn a livelihood? Although we live near the tracks, a wall separates our houses from the tracks.”
The 11-page DHRTF report states that “a comprehensive survey must be done to see how many households fall in the safety zone (the area within 30 metres of the track), and in how many are outside the safety zone. This survey must have the active participation of all affected residents.”
Chaudhry said the government agencies should map vacant land available nearby. “There is a need to work together to map vacant land in the vicinity of affected settlements to determine where alternative housing can be provided. No one should be forced to move against their will, and no relocation should be carried out during the pandemic,” she said.