Information about the Issue
The residents of sixty hutments and owners of ten small-scale diaries at Asita East, Delhi were evicted from their homes and places of work by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) through a demolition drive carried out on 10th September, 2020. The DDA deemed these establishments as ‘illegal’, and demolished them as a part of the Yamuna Rejuvenation Project. This was however, not the first instance of large-scale evictions and demolitions undertaken by the authorities under the river rejuvenation project for the Yamuna. A similar anti-encroachment drive was undertaken at Bela Estate, a slum on the western bank of Yamuna, and Yamuna Khadar, in August, 2020. While the authorities quote the NGT’s order to carry out such demolition drives for the purpose of reclaiming the Yamuna floodplains in the NCT of Delhi, increasing number of such evictions without any plan for compensation or rehabilitation, adversely affect the crucial needs of housing and livelihood of the people residing in these areas. Most of the evicted persons have not been provided with adequate rehabilitation through alternate housing and/or employment. It is significant to note that the majority of such demolished establishments belong to economically weaker sections of the Delhi’s population, hence there is a distinct necessity for a comprehensive policy mechanism in this regard which does not violate the rights of the already disadvantaged residents of the city.
Rights of the Evicted Persons
Eviction of people without prior notice or plan for rehabilitation, infringes their right to livelihood and right to housing upheld by the Supreme Court as an indispensable part of Article 21 (Right to Life) in Olga Tellis Mills vs Bombay Municipal Corporation and Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation vs Nawab Khan Gulab Khan. Such lack of rehabilitation and compensation policy also goes against the decision of Delhi High Court in Ajay Maken vs Union of India, which upheld the right to rehabilitation of evicted persons. The Courts have established the principle of “Right to City” and legally justified the city as a common good that all citizens are equally entitled to. The right to housing and livelihood, have been upheld as constitutionally mandated for all citizens, hence the same cannot be undermined by evicting people in an unjust manner. Therefore, the evictions in the absence of a rehabilitation policy are a gross violation of the fundamental rights of the aggrieved population. The evictions are also violative of Articles 38, 39(a) & 41 of Part IV of the Indian Constitution and in complete violation of the principles of natural justice.
Though under Article 48A of the Constitution, the government has a duty to preserve the environment, and the said Yamuna Rejuvenation Project can fall under its purview, it is a constitutional principle that this duty cannot override the fundamental rights. Therefore, in the present matter, the authorities are bound by the Indian Constitution and International Human Rights Mandates to uphold the rights of the evicted persons (residents & small dairy shop owners), who lost their home as well as livelihood as an outcome of the State’s action.
What are we doing in this regard?
We have written to the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, the Chief Minister of Delhi, Chief Executive Officer of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board and Vice Chairman of the Delhi Development Authority, elucidating our concerns with regard to the recent demolitions at Asita East.
While questioning the absence of rehabilitation or compensation policy in the case of these demolitions, we have stated that the said action is not only an abrogation of constitutional and legal provisions, but should not have been permitted to be carried out in the midst of a global pandemic since it adversely affected the already struggling residents of demolished hutments and small dairy establishments. Given the absence of any policy of rehabilitation for the aggrieved persons in this context, while invoking the Government’s duty as per judicial and constitutional principles, we made the following recommendations to be taken cognizance of on an urgent basis:
- Empowering the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), the nodal agency designated with the task of providing civic amenities to and ensuring resettlement of squatter settlements, jhuggies, etc., to adopt and implement a plan to rehabilitate the evicted persons under the Delhi Slum and JJ Relocation and Rehabilitation Policy, 2015.
- As per the provisions of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 street vendors, such as the displaced dairy owners at Asita East, cannot be evicted until a survey is conducted with the purposes of accommodating them in vending zones. Applying this legal obligation, the dairy owners must be compensated and relocated as they lost their livelihood as an outcome of the demolition in question.
- The State Government authorities must align with the Central Government through housing policies such as the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna to receive funds and necessary personnel in order to provide adequate rehabilitation and accommodation to the persons displaced due to the Yamuna Revival Project.
- The Delhi Government, in association with the DDA & DUSIB should develop a comprehensive policy to address the need for compensation, relocation and rehabilitation of those residents of Yamuna floodplains who have been and will be evicted during the Rejuvenation Project in line with the standard principles governing a proper relocation and rehabilitation plan.
- The said scheme should also provide alternate modes of employment to small-business owners, and individuals who will be rendered unemployed in case of eviction and relocation. Before identifying and carrying out relocation or demolition, the concerned parties must be presented with a fair opportunity to exercise their right to a hearing, and constitutionally valid solutions should be devised for restoring the floodplains.
Taking cognizance of the issue and in line with our recommendations, at a meeting chaired by the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, the DDA passed a proposal to make the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna financially viable to provide for alternate housing for residents and evicted inhabitants of slums and JJ clusters in the NCT of Delhi.
How can you help?
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- In case you are a resident of Delhi, and know about any such demolition drives taking place around your place of residence, reach out to us with information about the same.
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