Video Editor: Sandeep Suman
Video Producer: Maaz Hasan
Slums and skyscrapers are often used as examples of polarity. Khori Village in Faridabad, near Delhi, is an apt example. There are more than 1,200 houses in the area, situated at the height of the Aravalli hills, yet if one looks over to the expanse of the city from the village, only high-rise buildings are visible.
Classified as illegal encroachments, these small, pucca houses and jhuggis were reduced to rubble on 14 September after the Faridabad Municipal Corporation demolished them in one go.
But, shouldn’t rehabilitation be ensured before eviction? That is the question these low-income families ask. Hopeless, several are now living in tarpaulin tents over the remains of their homes.
Kusum Devi, a 60-year-old daily-wage worker, has lived in the village with her two children for over 50 years. Unable to stop herself from crying, she tell us:
“Did the government not know that we are labourers? I don’t have even a rupee to buy food. I am living without electricity. What do I do now? Why didn’t the government give us some time to collect our belongings?”Kusum Devi
Others like her feel the same. Four years ago, Vishnu Kumar Thapa built a pucca house in the village, but what remains now are broken items, like a refrigerator and a TV.
A small shelter built for his six-member family gave him hope of a better life.
However, with his recent unemployment due to coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown, and now the demolition, things have taken a turn for the worse.
Vishnu and others in the village have to now depend on the forest for defecation and bathing. Some of them have now left to live on rent in nearby colonies.
As far as food and water are concerned, community kitchens and a nearby gurudwara serve as their last hope.
While the land belongs to the state forest department, the tourism department and the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad, local land mafia has duped several of these residents by selling small plots across the village.
Nirmal Gorana, a member of the Working People Charter, criticised the ill-timing of the demolition. He asked pertinent questions regarding accommodation of displaced labourers and their families, as well as their survival amid a pandemic.
He points out that Khori Gaon Colony Kalyan Samiti had also filed a petition in Chandigarh Court with regards to geographical limits of the village and consequent rights and rehabilitation.
“If it is a village in Haryana, then residents should be rehabilitated under the 2004 HUDA Policy (alternative accommodation to unauthorised occupants of government land) and if it is in Delhi, then it should be rehabilitated as per the Supreme Court guidelines in JJ Slum Colony case (Delhi Slum & JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2015),” he says.
(The Quint has reached out to the Faridabad Municipal Corporation. Their response will be added once received.)
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