Silkyara tunnel rescuer sits with family by his razed house in protest

Was unaware of Hassan’s role in rescue mission, says DDA, offers him an EWS house; Atishi attacks Centre over ‘bulldozer drives against the poor’

March 01, 2024 01:09 am | Updated 01:15 am IST - NEW DELHI:

A file photo of Vakeel Hassan, a member of the rescue team that brought out 41 workers trapped in the collapsed Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi last year.

A file photo of Vakeel Hassan, a member of the rescue team that brought out 41 workers trapped in the collapsed Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi last year.

A day after the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) demolished his house in an anti-encroachment drive, Vakeel Hassan, a member of the rescue team that brought out 41 workers trapped in the collapsed Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi in November last year, sat near the remains of his house on Thursday, along with family members, in protest.

In a statement on Thursday, the DDA said, “At no point during the demolition exercise were we aware of Vakeel’s recent contribution to the rescue operation in Uttarkashi.”

However, it added that Mr. Hassan had knowingly encroached upon public land to build his house.

The urban body said an anti-encroachment drive was conducted in the same area in 2016 when a house built illegally by Mr. Hassan was razed.

However, in 2017, the DDA found that he had reconstructed the house in the same area, following which multiple attempts were made to demolish the encroachment in 2018 and 2022, but each time Mr. Hassan’s family members prevented the demolition through the use of force.

An official said the DDA had offered Mr. Hassan a flat built for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in Narela on the instructions of Lieutenant-Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena, along with an offer of employment. However, Mr. Hassan had refused both.

‘Didn’t deserve this’

While speaking to The Hindu, he said, “I had spent my entire life’s savings and put in a lot of work to build this house. My children grew up here. This was our home. I don’t deserve this.”

He demanded that the land over which he had built his house be returned to him. “I had bought this plot in 2012 for over ₹33 lakh. I still have to pay ₹12 lakh on the loan.”

Revenue Minister Atishi took on the Central government for demolishing several slum colonies in the national capital.

‘Many such cases’

“I appreciate the help that the L-G has offered to Mr. Hassan, but his was not the only house demolished by the DDA and other Central government agencies in Delhi. For the past few months, bulldozers have been run over many homes belonging to poor people,” the Minister said.

In a statement issued a day earlier, the DDA said it had conducted the demolition drive to remove encroachments from the land it had acquired for some development project in Khajuri Khas village in north-east Delhi.

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