The poor turns homeless after demolition drive at Khori Basti

“We are not going to leave this place, not until the government makes an arrangement for us. We have lost all our savings and now have nowhere to go,” says Vijay Prajapati, 35, a daily wager, staying at Khori Basti for over a decade.

The local municipal body, following the directions of the Supreme Court a month ago, has razed a majority of the houses on this 170-acre colony spread across Delhi and Haryana on the forest land. Most of its inhabitants — the migrants from across the country engaged in menial jobs — have covered the remnants of their partially demolished homes with plastic covers to continue to live in them and are reluctant to leave.

Families with elderly members, pregnant women and even newborns are determined to stay put under the open sky with the intermittent rain leaving their clothes and beddings drenched and power and water supply snapped for almost a month now.

“We have a little choice,” says Raman Chaudhary, a native of Bihar, who too lost his home in the demolition drive four days ago, but decided to stay back with his family, including aged parents, wife and two children. He says he had bought the plot for ₹1.5 lakh more than two decades ago, and now staying in tents on the same plot.

Chander Shah, a painter, says that most of the people in this colony have been jobless for over a year due to the pandemic and are on the verge of starvation. “We would prefer to die here than to move out. Had we encroached upon the land, we would not have felt the pain. But we had bought it with our hard-earned money,” he adds.

Habiba Parvin, 27, alleges that the police did not even allow them enough time to remove their belongings and demolished their home and shop. She says that her husband, when protested, was arrested on charges of preventing the government officials from discharging their duty. Her family has been staying in the colony for two decades now and recently bought another 120 sq m plot for ₹5 lakh. “My husband is in jail. I have all my belongings. I am the most unfortunate,” says Habiba.

Many have rented rooms in the neighbouring colonies to shift their expensive belongings, such as television and refrigerators, but continue to stay in the colony with bare minimum essentials.

Sitting amid the rubble of her home with her belongings pushed under a plastic cover hung across a wooden plank to resemble an improvised tent, Bimlesh breaks down and says that the trees that they had planted and raised are their only companions in this time of adversity. “No one has come to help us. Neither the administration nor the netas [politicians]. These trees are our lone companions offering us shelter and shade,” says the 48-year-old, adding that they had been surviving only on tea and bread for a couple of days.

Her husband Bhola Singh, a private security guard, adds that at least one member of the family would continue to stay at the site of their demolished home even after they move to a rented room.

The couple had gone to the camp to apply for the government’s rehabilitation policy for the Haryana residents but did not have the requisite documents. Bimlesh holds a voter identity card for Haryana, but her husband and son have identity proofs for Delhi. “The staff at the camp told us that the entire family should have the identity cards for Haryana. I don’t think the government will find more than 700-800 people eligible for the policy after the scrutiny,” says Bhola.

But not many seem enthusiastic about the government’s rehabilitation policy for different reasons. Though Bimlesh and her husband went to apply for the flats offered under the policy, the couple said that it was difficult to find any work in its neighbourhood. “The Dabua colony, where the flats are located, is around 15 km from here. There are no jobs for daily-wagers in that area. You need to have a two-wheeler to commute for work,” says Bhola.

Chander says the rehabilitation policy is nothing but an attempt by the government to “loot” them by offering more than a decade old flats in ruins. He says the government is trying to “extort” money from the poor by selling off its flats in the name of rehabilitation and make them tenants for another 15 years. “Instead of the flats, we would prefer the government to compensate us monetarily for our loss,” suggests Bhola.

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2021 10:10:01 PM |

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