Hundreds rendered homeless as DDA demolishes slum near Dhobi Ghat in Delhi
Hundreds of people living in Jamia Nagar’s Dhobi Ghat slum cluster lost their homes to a demolition drive by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on Thursday.
Residents said around 50 to 70 huts were demolished. Senior DDA officials said there are around 200 temporary structures on DDA land and Thursday’s drive helped free up 2.5 acres.
Nazmi Begum, 26, a widow and mother of two young boys, Friday said the demolition drive was carried out without giving residents time to even remove their money and documents from the tenements.
“I pleaded with officials to at least let me take my documents and my savings of around ₹2,000. They did not heed our pleas. Women police officers hit us when we tried to raise our voice. At least four of us were detained as well,” Begum, who has a bruise at the corner of her right eye, said.
Deputy commissioner of police (southeast) RP Meena said the demolition was an incident-free process.
“Everyone was informed in advance and the drive went smoothly. There was no detention or any manhandling as reported by some slum residents,” Meena said.
“When we went back to take stock of our belongings, I realised that my money had been stolen and now I don’t even have money to buy food or go back to our village in Bihar. I have no idea how I’ll feed my children because I can’t leave them in the open while I go to work during this pandemic,” she said.
Sitting atop the rubble of her house with her five-month-old son, Sajda Parween, 22, questioned the decision to raze the houses during the pandemic. “The government asked us not to step out of our home to restrict the spread of Covid-19 and then they demolished our houses. Where do we go? All our savings are exhausted after the lockdown and we don’t have money to even return to our village or rent a place,” she said, adding that they slept in the open on Thursday night and had no idea how long they would be able to continue like this.
On Friday, residents managed to repair some of the broken cots and arranged makeshift structures near their razed homes to make do till they found a place they could go to.
Rehan Khan, 38, a daily wage earner, said, “There was no work for the past five months and we had just started earning a little. How can we rent homes when we don’t have the money?”
Other residents also alleged that they were not given time to collect their belongings. Fifty-year-old Iqrar Hussain was inside his house when it was demolished. “My wife and daughters kept saying that I was inside and they should stop till I came out. But they continued anyway. The almirah and a mirror in our room fell on me injuring me,” he said, pointing towards his bandaged hand and foot.
DDA said the demolition drive was necessary to remove encroachments from the Yamuna floodplains and that it was done on the directions of the National Green Tribunal. “The DDA has carried out the demolition to remove encroachments in the form of jhuggis on the Yamuna floodplain at Dhobi Ghat. Approximately, 2.5 acres were freed up after the drive. This land is owned by the DDA. The encroachers made jhuggis on government land over the past few months in spite of instructions displayed at the site, prohibiting them from doing so,” a DDA official, on condition of anonymity, said.
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