Mr Jagmohan's presentation to EC and Ms Dikshit's
so-called protest do call for comment. For whatever it
is worth, I have written yesterday the following
letter. According to today's news reports, names of
those evicted will be retained in voter lists. This is
what Gautam Puri 2 had asked in response to public
notice pasted amidst debris on 03.03.04. It does make
EC directive on slums redundant, except for
endorsements. Congress, of course, is claiming credit
for the EC move, like for the original EC directive.

---letter of 20.03.04 to CEC---

Sub:        Yamuna Pushta / EC directive about slums
Ref:        Previous correspondence (enclosed) and today's
press reports

Dear Sir,
Permit me to start with apologising for a long letter
and requesting indulgence of it being read. I am
enclosing also a copy of my book with parts relevant
to the instant matter flagged. There is also a
chronicle of the Pushta affair, part of which spanning
13.02.04 to 12.03.04 I propose to leave with Pushta
citizens for their use if they desire in case they are
able to press their demand for a public hearing about
the truth about Pushta clearance.

The Hindu today has reported Mr Jagmohan's
presentation to EC about how existence of slums is not
conducive to free and fair polls. Mr Jagmohan
reportedly described slums as 'phenomenon of induced
squatting', which violates civil laws, strangulates
constitutional values, destroys heritage, uglifies
monuments, adds to corruption in the machinery of
governance. He posited that this 'phenomenon' is
designed to create a 'citadel of bonded voters' who
are shareholders of illegal gains that flow from it.
He asked EC, "How can a phenomenon based upon
violation of so many laws and strangulation of so many
positive values find a place in a process which claims
to be fair, free and pure?" He claimed at a media
conference that the full bench of EC appreciated his
observations. The report says EC said afterwards that
the relocation was not a violation of the model code
of conduct.

Mr Jagmohan is contriving an illusion of consistency
between his Pushta clearance drive and EC's
constitutional mandate by portraying slums as
impediment to free and fair polls. As an urban expert
of some standing I state that the premise of his
argument, viz, slums are 'phenomenon of induced
squatting', is devoid of basis in conceptual or
empirical fact. The fact – borne out by Census 2001,
Planning Commission report (2002), and High Court
order (12.11.2003) – is that slums in Delhi are
implementation backlog on explicit targets for
mandatory EWS housing plots. Unlike for certain Latin
American cities, there is no evidence for Delhi of any
slum being politically 'induced squatting'. As such,
what this 'phenomenon' violates, strangulates,
destroys, uglifies, etc, is pure conjecture. What is
being ascribed conjecturally to slum citizens in this
classic motif of culprit slandering the victim,
however, can readily be reconfigured with facts to the
turn the tables, so to speak, as follows:

* Violation of law:
Much is made of the puny amount of marginal land slums
'encroach' (less than 100 Ha in all Pushta) or petty
scamming in remote resettlement (as in about 80 plots,
adding up to princely total of 1000 sqm or 0.1 Ha,
into which DDA VC has lately ordered a probe). The big
violation, however, is on 2000 Ha of public land
earmarked for EWS plots, dispersed all over the city,
to provide the statutory solution to its slum problem.
A substantive part of this violation owes to an
illegal circular issued in Mr Jagmohan's tenure as UDM
through his JS who is now DDA VC to downsize plot
sizes from statutory minimum of 25 sqm to 12.5 sqm.
Linked violations relate to misuse of land meant for
EWS – as in case of infamous Sahara Restaurant exposed
in DDA scam caught by CBI in 2003, reportedly
occupying a site meant for 952 EWS units, about which
DDA has not provided clarification despite stern court
orders since May 2003.

* Strangulation of constitutional values:
High Court order of 03.03.03 that Mr Jagmohan is
implementing was not for his Ministry. Its lawful
compliance requires notification (by due process,
inclusive of opportunity for public objections for 90
days) of riverbed Zonal Plan, and prior order of
29.11.02 by same court in same matters requires legal
slum policy. With neither legal Zonal Plan nor legal
slum policy in place, what Mr Jagmohan is doing in
Pushta in name of a court order that was not for his
ministry is obviously outside the ambit of law and
Constitution and its values. The Tourism Minister /
Ministry ordering public authorities, filing
affidavits in court, making presentations to EC, etc,
in a matter governed by urban development law is
obviously extra-constitutional. And disregard of
citizens' entitlements guaranteed by urban development
law and by the Court in the instant matter (viz, to
resettlement against down payment of 500/-, to
protection of right to education, etc) is, surely,
unconstitutional. And slandering citizens to justify
unjustifiable actions against them is, surely, utterly
without values.

* Destroying heritage:
Protection of our heritage is guaranteed to us by our
heritage, environment and planning laws. For both the
Walled City and the riverbed special significance
planning through a process that guarantees careful
consideration by multi-disciplinary experts and all
concerned authorities and opportunity for public
scrutiny and comment is our entitlement. Mr Jagmohan
is not free to impose on us his personal plans for our
heritage. His Red Fort scheme is challenged in Supreme
Court for lack of basis in a plan. His illegal scheme
for a part of the riverbed is even more deeply flawed
since the riverbed is far more complex. High Court
order of 03.03.03 was for all encroachments, not just
slums. If Mr Jagmohan were really concerned about the
riverbed as a heritage resource, he would have used
the Court order to put a stop to proposals for
commercial SEZ, ground water damaging Metro Depot,
etc, rather than for clearance that will make illegal
up-market development attractive while there is no
legal Plan to restrict it.

* Corruption in machinery of governance:
If corruption is defined in terms of departure from
statutory / constitutional mandate rather than
pecuniary gains thereby, then it is starkly on display
in the clearance drive underway. Police has not acted
on my complaint against illegalities and contempt of
court in the process and maintains its responsibility
is to give the same protection. MCD declined to act on
Court order about Rs.500/- even after making me get a
copy to the site where demolition was about to start
on 19.03.04 and maintains it is acting as per court
orders. DDA has joined the operation at behest of
Tourism Minister in disregard of its mandate. Tourism
Ministry is acting without jurisdiction. MoUD, GNCT,
MCD and DDA have not responded to representations and
delayed replies in related court matters. All, in any
case, are disregarding all but those court orders that
they like – selectivity now elevated to model conduct
by Mr Jagmohan.

All this may appear irrelevant for the purposes of EC,
but it is only as irrelevant as Mr Jagmohan's
observations, which I consider my right and
responsibility to counter, since they pertain to my
area of expertise, on which Mr Jagmohan is neither
qualified nor charged with constitutional mandate. He
may be free to hold the untenable view that slums are
'citadel of bonded voters... shareholders in illegal
gains'. But I do not see how he is free either to air
it in a manner nothing short of slander against
citizens in my city or use it to influence my EC.

The Hindu has also reported on a letter from Ms Sheila
Dikshit in continuation of her meeting with CEC on
18.03.04. Ms Dikshit seems concerned about impact of
selective clearance on 'fortunes of a particular
political party' and has gone to the extent of
charting an alternative Pushta clearance plan that
might be fairer to all parties. She has made passing
reference to disenfranchisement and to question of
jurisdiction, but from CM that is too little too late.
The fact is that GNCT has identical unlawful position
apropos slums and riverbed as Mr Jagmohan. While
passing the buck to MoUD for non-compliance of order
of 03.03.03, Ms Dikshit has not stated why GNCT did
not approach High Court with the problem then. Nor has
she mentioned that in May 2003 she had, instead,
announced a white paper on slums in two months, even
though the matter of slum policy had been moved in
SLP. She disregarded representations, including from
Pushta citizens, suggesting she press instead for the
statutory solution, including by ensuring all relevant
facts and law are placed before Supreme Court in the
SLP. Ms Dikshit's white paper, expectedly, did not
materialise and, in the run up to Assembly elections,
all she did on the slum issue was oppose those
evictions where her resistance could embarrass her
rivals. In the present round, just before the first
demolition, Ms Dikshit along with her education
minister and others accompanied Ms Sonia Gandhi to the
resettlement site. Amidst campaigning for Lok Sabha
elections, a school building that is not functional
was inaugurated. Later representations about
non-compliance of court order apropos school
facilities evoked no response, just as representation
of 04.02.04 raising points of law pursuant to Supreme
Court proceedings of 03.02.04 in a Pushta matter had
evoked no response. It is striking Ms Dikshit also
reads in the court order of 03.03.03 only slums
(despite a representations made on 07.03.03, etc, to
suggest a plan for all encroachments). In course of
the present drive, she visited the upcoming commercial
SEZ encroachment on riverbed and lauded it and has
lately held a meeting to press for a share of the
proceeds from auction of Delhi's public land.

A section of the so-called Third Front was having on
18.03.04 at Embassy Restaurant one of those luncheon
press conferences that many politicians have. They
had, like others I am told, copies of my complaint to
Police, etc, which I had left with Pushta citizens
with the suggestion to give to politicians. To make
sure, I went to the restaurant with two persons who
were not being issued slips because of not having
7000/- to ask media to talk to them. The reporters
expressed no interest. And on 19.03.04 the politicos
were having a do about Pushta at Jantar Mantar while
the third demolition, before which citizens tried to
at least raise the issue of contempt of court, was
underway. Today Left activists, who seem to have taken
no stand on Pushta, are having a march to mark 365
days since the occupation of Iraq, while the Pushta
occupation – which is what it is – goes unheeded. And
any possibility of community leadership for engaging
on local crises rather than global discourse has been
systematically wiped out by years of NGO activity in
slums.

I mention all this to underscore the fact that the
discourse stands hijacked by those reducing citizens'
entitlements to their favour. The so-called truth that
comes out of it is not logical truth since contrived
rather than rigorous arguments are constructed (as in
case of Mr Jagmohan's latest observations). Nor is it
experiential truth since those in the discourse are
too busy trying to score over one another to have time
to touch base with reality (as in case of Ms Dikshit's
letter that misses facts visible from the windows of
the Secretariat). It is not microscopic truth since
representations are not even read. And it is not
dialogic truth since the discourse is exclusionary. It
is, in fact, not truth but impression that fails to
capture and tends to distort reality, in the instant
case to the point of surreality – violations of law
and contempt of court being justified in name of
court, designed disenfranchisement of over 1 lakh
electors being justified in name of EC, a war-like
operation inclusive of deployment of troops, coercive
tactics, propaganda, diplomacy, etc, being justified
in name of good governance. But it survives, and it
prevails, by shutting out any other truth.

That EC should grant Mr Jagmohan time for a
presentation on slums, different from his brochure and
media presentations only to extent of addition of
contrived connection with EC mandate, while not
granting me audience as an independent expert, or meet
with Ms Dikshit, who has not responded to citizens'
representations in the matter, while not granting
audience to citizens who have sought a public hearing,
strikes me as unfortunate indifference to truth.
Without truth there can be no justice. Without justice
rights do not count. Without rights democracy becomes
irrelevant. If democracy becomes irrelevant, electoral
process becomes meaningless. I think this makes a
connection from Pushta to EC's mandate that is far
less tenuous than the one contrived by Mr Jagmohan.

I reiterate the contents of the enclosed letters and
hope EC will seek the truth about Pushta in
particular, slums in general and the politics of urban
development if it wishes to continue intervening in it
with its endorsements.

Yours sincerely

Gita Dewan Verma / Planner
B.Arch (SPA, gold medalist); M.Planning (SPA, gold
medalist); PG Dip-Research (IHS-Rotterdam, top rank);
Dip-Training (DoPT)
Formerly: Senior Fellow (HUDCO-HSMI), Visiting Faculty
(SPA, TVB SHS), Consultant (DfID, IHSP, Nuffic,
UNICEF, etc)
Currently: Independent researcher / writer and
consultant to citizens’ groups synergising on Master
Plan Implementation Support Group


Encl:

* Letters of 19.02.04, 04.03.04, 06.03.04, 08.03.04
(copy of letter to DDA VC), 12.03.04, 16.03.04 to CEC
and of 17.03.04 (copy of complaint to Police
Commissioner) and 19.03.04 (most urgent fax) to
Secy(AK)

* A copy of my book, Slumming India (Penguin,
2001), with sections relevant to the instant clearance
drive flagged, along with section on the industries
affair of 2000 that demonstrated identical patterns as
the present Pushta affair.

 

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