Allege that victims were treated shabbily when they sought temporary shelter, ambulances which “extracted money”

Civil society groups on Saturday demanded that the Delhi Government and the Delhi Development Authority step up efforts to provide relief and rehabilitation to those affected by the major fire that broke out at the Bawana resettlement colony on Friday. The tragedy has left several hundred shanties gutted, two boys dead and six others injured.

The Delhi Jhuggi Jhopri Ekta Manch demanded that the Government announce a compensation package of Rs.5 lakh for families who lost their kin, Rs.2 lakh for those who sustained injuries, and Rs.1 lakh for those whose houses were gutted.

The Bawana Sangharsh Samiti (BSS) and the Hazards Centre alleged that the fire and the resultant damage it caused had become an occasion for public authorities to harass people residing here. They said that women and children were treated shabbily when they sought temporary shelter and that ambulances which arrived at the spot were “extracting money” for services to access hospitals.

Bawana residents also allegedly told the BSS that the fire brigade arrived two hours after the fire had spread. “It has also been observed that electricity supply was cut off in the area half an hour before the fire broke out. The circumstances in which the fire broke out are suspicious and must be examined by independent authorities. While NGOs and civil society are attempting to provide relief, it is not enough and the Government must fulfil its duties towards the people,” the BSS statement said.

Most of the affected people were allegedly evicted from several jhuggi jhopri clusters in and around prime locations in Delhi by the DDA, shifted to Bawana, and have ever since been fighting doggedly for resettlement plots.

The BSS said that the Lieutenant-Governor had on March 7, 2012, directed the DDA to accept either their voter ID card or the ration card, which were verified by the State Election Commission or the Food and Supplies Office (FSO), which showed these persons met the cut-off date for eligibility. However, the verification process was not completed despite a three-month deadline set by the L-G.

“The DDA under the L-G has passed orders in the last 2-4 years as a result of the struggle of people from Bawana to ensure immediate allotment of plots to these families. But the delay which the DDA is responsible for, has led over 500 families to face this day when they have lost their loved ones, their entitlements and all their belongings. People are demanding immediate allocation of plots to affected families and compensation for all loss borne by them. Further, people require relief in terms of clothes, food grains and utensils at the earliest,” the BSS said.

The Aam Aadmi Party in its statement also alluded to the failure of the DDA to allot them the land promised to them in 2006. “The people had even deposited money with the DDA for the same. The papers along with the receipts were burned to ashes in the fire. Those who managed to retrieve their papers have showed them to us. Even though more than six years have passed, no land has been allotted to them forcing them to live in slums. The Delhi Government had been sitting on these applications and poor people’s money for many years. What was it waiting for; were they waiting for a tragedy like this to happen or the next Assembly elections?” the AAP statement said.

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