While the whole country is stuck to their television screens watching the minute details of the Kangana vs. Maharashtra Government tournament, the Supreme Court has ordered the removal of close to 48,000 jhuggis around the 140-km length of the railway tracks in New Delhi within three months and has simultaneously directed that no court should grant any stay on the removal of the slums. While the media is covering the ‘high profile’ demolition in Mumbai, the demolition of these houses in Delhi which will uproot thousands of workers have failed to find any space in today’s ‘journalism’. This is the same country which witnessed a mass exodus of the workers because of the government’s indifference to their safety and welfare. The poor and the marginalised are left to fend for themselves.
In the year was 2015, PM Narendra Modi made a promise to the people of Delhi “jahan jhuggi wahin makan” (houses will be constructed where there are slum dwellings). Like all other election manoeuvres, the promises were forgotten and now in the midst of the pandemic, the residents are left with only meagre means of subsistence and a threat on the roof over their head.
“We have been living here for the past 25 years” says Shakuntala Devi who runs a small shop. “Our entire livelihood is based here and this is our home. The government wants to take our homes and our livelihood. Where will we go? We cannot let the demolition got through; we have no option but to fight”. Another resident Sita says “we left our homes in our village 20 years ago and came here in search of a livelihood. This is our only home since then. Where will we go with our kids?”
Hemanti Devi left her home in Bihar with her family and came to Delhi. Her husband works in the steel factory. She says “since the lockdown, we have earned money with much difficulty and now the government is planning to take away our homes. Both Modi and Kejriwal made promises and now they are hiding their faces. Give us rehabilitation before breaking our homes or else we will have no option but to fight”.
The caretaker of Samudayik Utthan Valwadi School Samiti, Shanti says “this is an Anganwadi school and has been functioning for 35 years. If they demolish this school then where will the kids go to study?” Mukul, a class 10th student says “the government must give us compensation or a roof over our head or else where will we live?”
The Railways have already demolished a part of Keshavpuram Jhuggi, illegally. They were not given any notice for evacuation or demolition even though the court has given an ultimatum of three months. Tasleem, a resident says “we were not given any notice and they did not even let us remove the electricity or our food and things, everything is destroyed. They came during the day when we had gone to our work and only the women and children were at home. Now we are forced to sleep on the railway tracks during this pandemic. What about our health? We also don’t want to live in these conditions. We want rehabilitation. The State government must listen to our concerns”.
CPI-ML has been actively campaigning and leading protest demonstrations in these jhuggies. CPI-ML Delhi State Secretary, Ravi Rai Along With 5 Residents of Slums will start a 48 Hour ‘Warning Hunger Strike’ on 14th September at 5 PM at Wazirpur Slums Beside Railway Tracks. They demand that both the Modi and Kejriwal Governments Must Take Concrete Steps to Provide Immediate Relief to Slum Dwellers and there should not be any forced eviction. Proper housing and land titles must be ensured to all slum dwellers.