In Madanpur-Khadar, a suburb in New Delhi where South Delhi Municipal Corporation(SDMC) recently launched a demolition drive, a Jhuggi-Jhopdi cluster belongs to dozens of families resettled from Kalkaji two decades ago with a promise to ensure better living conditions.
But their life in the new location has been a nightmare since the beginning. The resettlement that happened in the year 1999, has not seen any on-ground change in its condition.
“We don’t have clean water, there are no sewer lines here, we’ve lived here for 21 years now, we haven’t even been given ownership of our lands,” says SK Shukla, the Block Pradhan of the Madanpur-Khadar area.
The recent anti-encroachment demolition drive and heated protests against it all over Delhi have made it increasingly important to scrutinize the process of relocation and rehabilitation for those evicted.
The residents say that they were given only 6 months to leave their Jhuggis at Kalkaji while and noted that their Jhuggis had better public amenities than the reallocated place at Madanpur-Khadar.
“There were 12 government-provided taps installed at our Jhuggis in Kalkaji. We do not have any water supply here,” adds SK Shukla.
Another resident at Madanpur-Khadar, Nagina Begum, adding to the woes of not having clean water says,” We have to buy water to drink and bathe, we’re a family of 6, including two kids. Water costs Rs.20 a can which we have to buy every two days. It’s a lot of money to spend on something that the government should provide us for free.”
The lanes of Madanpur-Khadar are poorly built, with pigs and other stray animals roaming about the colony. With roads overflowing with garbage and sewers full of debris and rubbish, living in Madanpur-Khadar has become a health hazard.
“I clean the area however much I can. But I want the parks to be cleaned up. At least our kids could play in it. All the piled-up garbage breeds mosquitos during the rainy season. It’s harmful to the kids,” Nagina Begum told Maktoob.
The problem of garbage doesn’t end here. The residents claim that the authorities almost never come to clean the colony. With heaps of garbage existing in all parts of the colony, the sewers at Madanpur-Khadar are always overflowing.
During the monsoons, the residents have to clean the overflowing muck of the sewers by themselves to stop the sewage water from entering their houses.
Last week, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal slammed the BJP ruled civic bodies, describing the anti-encroachment drive as the “biggest destruction” in Independent India. He said 63 lakh people will be rendered homeless in the city through the exercise.
“Even the school building is surrounded by garbage, how would we send our kids to study when the environment itself is so dirty,” says Jagdish Pradhan, a resident of Madanpur-Khadar JJ Colony.
“The houses that you see here are all constructed by the residents themselves, no government aid was given to build them. The roofs of the thatch houses start to leak in the monsoon season,” adds SK Shukla while pointing towards the residents’ houses.
Pant Nagar, a Jhuggi settlement, located a few kilometres away from Madanpur-Khadar, shares the same woes as Madanpur-Khadar. Surrounded by a posh DDA colony, Pant Nagar shanties are characterised by narrow lanes, low hanging electricity wires, poor hygiene and newspaper roofs that leak whenever it rains.
While the laws demarcate Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) as the only coordinating body to look over the eviction and rehabilitation of Jhuggi-Jhopdi residents, it is not mandatory for Municipal Corporations of Delhi(MCD) and the Delhi Development Authority(DDA) to inform the DUSIB before serving an eviction notice to slum dwellers.
This is what becomes the root cause for all miseries for the shanties of Pant Nagar.
In September 2020, the residents of Pant Nagar Camp were asked to leave their shanties by the SDMC without any prior notice. The residents also claim that they were not provided with any other land for resettlement.
“In the 60 years we have lived here, we arranged a house for ourselves, water and electricity, they ask us to raze our home to the ground and take the land, where will we go?” asks Pushpa, a resident of Pant Nagar South Indian Camp.
There is not enough water supply in the colony to suffice nearly 65 Jhuggis, each with 5-6 members. Women have to queue up in front of the two taps that are available at one end of the camp. The washrooms at the camp are not properly covered, the women either bathe at night or have to create curtain walls to use the washroom.
The residents are also sceptical of ever getting the compensation money that is being promised to them. Fearing corruption by authorities, they only want reallocation to a new land. While the residents claim harassment from DUSIB by threatening to evict them, they have filed a court case against their eviction.
“We have made a life for ourselves here. Our kids go to school, they study Hindi and English. We won’t be able to go back to our village in Chennai. We have no money, no land, no jobs there, we don’t want to go. We’re also Indians,” declares Pushpa as she looks over at her babbling grandchild.
The condition of the Jhuggi-Jhopdi settlements in Delhi is abysmal. Neither the resettled colonies nor the ones that are being evicted are proving inhabitable for their residents.