July 18, 2021

Plan to uproot Khori village: Court-Government decision threatens Homes of the Poor

Jai Bhagwan

A VILLAGE in Faridabad, Haryana on the outskirts of Delhi has been in news. Houses here, constructed by workers with great difficulties, are being demolished by bulldozers. What is the issue?

In the middle of skyscrapers, flats, hotels and marriage palaces constructed by big business people, nearly 150 acres of land can be called a village or a basti. This basti was developed in the last 30-35 years, and there are around 10,000-12,000 houses. These are all pucca houses.

Recently, on June 7, Supreme Court ordered the demolition of the village and ordered the unauthorised houses to be vacated. The order has been given to Faridabad Municipal Corporation, which was a party to the matter. This order came right after a PIL was filed by five people, and given by a holiday bench of the Supreme Court. When the aggrieved party asked for reconsideration, the court replied on June 17 in a strongly worded letter and once again ordered demolition within six weeks. Thousands were turned homeless.

The site of Khori village used to be a mining site till the 80s, where crushers were used. In 1992, the crusher zone was shifted to Pali and Mohtababad. The area is connected to Pahladpur and Lal Kuan in Delhi. The land mafia told people the land belonged to Delhi and all facilities would be provided. Mining stopped in the year 2000. People of Khori village say those who owned the land and crushers started selling the land to labourers who were working thereafter mining was stopped. The land was cheap, and so the workers bought it. This went on for decades. Even though it is true that the land was not registered, the land mafia was running a full-fledged business, it is not possible for the authorities to be unaware of it.

A plaque announcing the inauguration of Dr Ambedkar Park in the village by a minister of the present government is still there. There are government schools and anganwadis in the village, there is also a water supply, ration cards and voter identity cards. There are also plaques mentioning roads constructed in 2018-19 by the MPLAD fund of present MP from Faridabad, a BJP leader and union minister - Krishan Pal Gurjar.

Is it possible without the knowledge of government and administration? Is it correct to call it illegal? In 2010, Faridabad Municipal Corporation had appealed in Punjab and Haryana High Court to vacate Khori village as the construction is illegal under Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) regulations. Two associations from Khori village appealed to the High Court in 2016, that the village should not be vacated without full resettlement. After this, the Supreme Court gave two orders, one suggesting that the central government formulate law on right to housing, and the other order was for the residents to be resettled by HUDA under its 2010 policy. However, resettlement was not done. In 2017, Faridabad Municipal Corporation appealed in the Supreme Court against the High Court order. On February 19, 2019, court-ordered demolition of illegal construction. However, it was not clear what is illegal construction, nor any survey was done. In March 2020, the state administration ordered vacating the village, and filed an appeal in the Supreme Court. On June 7, an order was given to demolish the 'íllegal construction'.

Sadly, even after the high court order, the Haryana government did not resettle the residents. There are affidavits by the government promising resettlement of residents of the village in Punjab-Haryana High Court, and Supreme Court as well. On the contrary, in between the pandemic, in 2020 and 2021, around 2000 houses were illegally demolished. After the June 7 order, there is a sense of fear in the locals. Water and electricity have been disconnected for a month. The government's actions are inhuman and condemnable. There are reports of suicide and health issues being faced by locals because of the mental stress the situation has caused. This act of making people homeless is illegal and inhuman.  The court has been silent on the resettlement issue.

Even after 74 years of independence, housing the working class is not an issue for the government. There is a board for the development of the National Capital Region that includes chief ministers of four states, chief secretaries, and central ministers, there are meetings at regular intervals and a huge budget. However, it is shameful that it has no housing policy for crores of migrant workers and labourers. Fourteen districts of Haryana are a part of NCR, thousands of workers, including migrant workers, live here. Many of them work in the construction industry, yet their own homes are demolished.

The intentions of the BJP government are clear. This village is in Aravalli region where many big properties, hotels and residential complexes have come up and have been declared illegal by the green tribunal. Government is ready to amend environmental laws in the state to help these constructions by capitalists, and wants to demolish residential quarters of the poor, without resettling them.

After the Supreme Court order, CITU and other organisations visited the area and demanded their demotion should not take place without resettlement. There was a lathi charge on June 30, on July 3, CITU Haryana general secretary Jai Bhagwan, JanwadiMahila Samiti state general secretary Savita, CITU Delhi state incharge Virendra and other leaders met locals. They also met local authorities and demanded the restoration of water and electricity and requested demolitions to not be carried on without resettlement.
On July 7, they went to the deputy commissioner's office and staged a protest. CPI(M) state secretary Surendra Singh, district secretary Shiv Prasad, district president Nirant Parashar, secretary Lal Babu, Virendra Dangwal, state president of People's Women Committee Usha Saroha, district president of Sarvakarmi Sangh Ashok Kumar and secretary Balbir Singh Balguher, Jai Bhagwan and others addressed.

Physical force was used against protesters, and a demand letter was handed over. The letter demanded –

No demolitions are carried out; Water and electricity supply is restored; Resettlement of the locals as per the orders of the High Court and Supreme Court; No demolition without respectable resettlement; Steps to provide cheap accommodation to labourers and migrant workers in Faridabad.

The struggle continues and the demolition plans remained unchanged when this article was written. People who were organising locals have been arrested and cases filed against them.