Tenements Demolished After NGT Order, Rangpuri Pahari Residents Brave The Chill – Times of India – 27-Nov-2014
December 2, 2014 - Uncategorized
“One day I’ll grow up into a powerful bulldozer and bring down all houses left behind,” says a traumatized six-year-old Ayaan. His face smeared with dust, the boy uses his tender hands to hold a hammer to assist his mother clear away the bricks that once made his home. The settlement, Israeli Camp in Rangpuri Pahari area of south Delhi near Vasant Kunj, was reduced to rubble in a demolition done by the state’s forest department on Tuesday.
Like Ayaan, a student of Class I in a municipal school, nearly 900 other schoolgoing children have been rendered homeless in the demolition justified by the forest department as essential and in compliance with judicial orders to protect the forest area from encroachment.
As the chill worsens, authorities have simply chosen to throw the rule book at this human settlement that now tearfully struggles in the face of uncertainty.
The clean-up is justified by officials citing orders of National Green Tribunal to secure the ridge. The department plans to clean up and secure the space with wires in the days ahead.
Nearly 2,000 residents are now stranded without space to eat, sleep and bathe in the midst of rubble and their belongings in a ditch aligned by thick ridge vegetation. With an estimated 400 tenements made of brick, plastic and tin sheet roofs razed to the ground, residents now fear the biting winter that lies ahead.
The families rendered homeless include daily wagers who had migrated from their villages in UP, Bihar and even Nepal decades ago due to poverty. Many of these also provide services as maids, cleaners, gardeners, etc to the societies in Vasant Kunj.
Most children go to school with meritorious ones like Ayaan’s brother getting enrolled in a prestigious public school under the EWS category. “Agar pedon ke liye humaare ghar todey hain toh humein yahan basney hi kyon diya? Aur agar aisa hai toh mera amrood ka pedh kyon toda? (If our houses have been demolished for trees then why were we allowed to settle here? And if that is true then why did they uproot my guava tree),” Ayaan’s teenaged brother asked.
When the bulldozers came, they rushed out with documents to show how they’ve been living there for decades. Rehaan Raza Khan and his neighbours showed packets full of douments. “I have a PAN card, driving license, ration card, adhaar card, electricity meter and voter ID from the same address. How is it then that my stay here is illegal?” Khan asked. He build his house in 1998. Khan, an auto driver, said he was in tears when he heard PM Narendra Modi’s speech from Jharkhand that no poor man will be deprived of shelter by way of demolition. “Now I want to remind the PM of his promise and seek respite,” he cried.
A mother of four, 30-year-old Naseema was seen struggling to seek privacy under a plastic sheet from the prying eyes of men sitting by the roadside. Her old mother sat by her side in a daze as this was the second demolition they had witnessed since 2011. Naseema was born in this camp and her parents lived here for much longer.
“Children and women are vulnerable in the current circumstances and need protection. No government department has addressed the need for food, water and shelter so far. For now, our volunteers are trying to reach out to everyone with food and asssitance,” said Debendra Kumar Bansal, founder president of NGO Bal Vikas Dhara.