A six-month old child died and hundreds of 'slum dwellers in the Shakur Basti area in west Delhi were rendered homeless after the Railways carried out a demolition drive. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal slammed the railways for carrying out the drive in peak winter and also suspended three senior officials for failing to provide relief material to those who were evicted.
The residents of the slum cluster, situated close to the Shakur Basti railway station, said that the six-month old child died during the drive after a piece of furniture fell on her head, the railways contended that the child had passed away more than one hour before the drive had begun. The railways also claimed that the 1,200 'temporary' structures they had removed were fresh constructions, while residents of the area said that they have been living in the area since 1996.
Mr. Kejriwal, who visited the spot late on Saturday night, tweeted that he spoke to Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, who he said was 'shocked' and not aware of the operations. 'Coming back from the demolition site. Heart rending scenes. How cud our own countrymen do this to our poorest fellow countrymen', he tweeted. The Chief Minister also suspended two District Magistrates and a Superintending Engineer for providing relief material to the evicted people and ordered officials to provide blankets and food to those who have been evicted.
The BJP and Congress, on the other hand, criticised the Aam Aadmi Party led Delhi government for not making alternate arrangements for the slum dwellers for their rehabilitation.
In its defence, the Railways said in a statement that it had issued eviction notices to the slum dwellers in March and September, 2015 and the final notice had given a deadline of December 12, 2015 for vacating the premises.
It said that the encroachments were hindering the work of expansion of the terminal building of Shaur Basti railway station as the slum dwellers were in occupation of the land earmarked for the project. It also said that land grabbing was increasing every day and fresh encroachments had come up in the area, which were removed.