September 13, 2020

CPI(M) Writes to Railway Minister against Eviction of Slum Dwellers

CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, Brinda Karat, wrote to Piyush Goyal, minister for railways, on September 4, bringing to his notice the potential public health disaster in evicting lakhs of jhuggi dwellers in Delhi during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She reminded the minister that the Delhi High Court in its judgement last year had directed that arrangements for rehabilitation must be made in the event of relocation being required. “It appears that since the jhuggi dwellers were not made parties before the Supreme Court, the bench may not have been aware of this Delhi High Court judgement otherwise it is difficult to understand how a three member bench of the apex court could have given such an inhuman judgement, that too at a time of the pandemic,” she wrote.

Brinda Karat sought the Railway minister to ensure that the jhuggi dwellers are relocated and rehabilitated before the order is implemented. “According to estimates given before the Court, approximately 48,000 jhuggi dwellers are to be evicted which means between 2.5 lakh to 3 lakh people including women and children. At the time of the pandemic, this will lead to a health disaster putting substantial numbers at grave risk,” she wrote.

Brinda added that it will be highly irresponsible of the railway ministry to evict people at a time when Delhi is grappling with a second wave of the spread of the Covid -19.  She reminded the minister that the jhuggi dwellers have faced a huge drop in their meagre income because of the lockdown and are already suffering. She said that it would be an unconscionable act to turn them into homeless citizens at a time like this.

“You are also aware of the various national housing related policy frameworks adopted from time to time which promote in situ rehabilitation of slum dwellers with relocation as the last resort. In this case there is neither in situ development being thought of as an option nor even relocation,” she wrote and requested the minister’s intervention to prevent the eviction without relocation, rehabilitation and compensation.

She reminded the minister that people, families are not homeless or do not live in jhuggis out of choice but because of policies of successive central governments which have pushed them to the margins. “The right to a home is a basic human right, not charity,” she said.