I have an e-mail, 'Stop Evictions at Yamuna Pushta',
This is from Hazard Centre, an NGO around which a
consortium of NGOs called Sajha Manch has come into
being to, among other things, campaign against the
statutory Master Plan for Delhi (mpd). 'An Appeal on
behalf of the residents of the slums of Delhi', the
e-mail provides 'brief facts' about Pushta clearance
and lists four demands to write or e-mail to
As a qualified planner, I have advised several
citizens in slums, including in Pushta, demanding
clearance / resettlement and development in accordance
with mpd on basis of case-specific facts and law. The
'facts' and 'demands' in the Manch's appeal are at
variance from what citizens I know have raised and I
consider a clarification necessary. This is not to
seek or be trapped in discourse, but only to draw
attention to the sharp contrast between the position
of several whom I know and that of a Manch appealing
(also) on their behalf.
First, comments [within square brackets] about the
'brief facts' in the e-mail:
The manufacturers’ associations of two industrial
areas in Delhi, the capital of India, had
petitioned the High Court of Delhi in 1994 and
2002, for the removal of slum clusters from
[This is true. Also true is that industries have
benefited from diverting to slums attention from
themselves for being 'non-conforming', for which they
were at the receiving end in 2000, when this Manch
took up their cause by attacking the mpd].
These slum clusters were, in fact, created to
house the labour working in these industrial areas
because there was no provision for workers’ housing
[This is partly true. Workers' housing has not been
provided in Delhi. But adequate statutory provisions
do exist in mpd, against which this Manch has been
carrying out a sustained campaign].
However, going beyond the ambit of the original
petitions,the Court ruled in November 2002 that
all those who had settled in slums anywhere in the
city after 1990 should be evicted and not given
any “free” land for resettlement.
[This is partly true. However, the Court correctly
observed that the slum resettlement policy, by which
citizens have been systematically short-changed on mpd
housing entitlements, is devoid of basis in law and
called for a legal alternative to it]
This ruling did not consider the available
evidence that the government had provided only
35% of mandated housing, and that each
“resettled” family was paying Rs 7,000 for a
license to a tiny plot of land for 5 years.
[The 35% statistic is incorrect. NO housing has been
developed to solve the slum problem as per mpd
provisions, a neglect that owes largely to demands for
inferior 'alternatives' by NGOs, donors, etc].
Consequently, there was a public uproar after this
ruling and the government was forced to approach
the Supreme Court, which stayed the above order
in March 2003.
[Those making 'public uproar' included this Manch.
Others sought legal alternative as per HC order. The
government, like the 'uproar', was inclined to
reinstate the defunct policy. SC did not relent to
these populist demands, but merely permitted
resettlement to continue subject to SLP outcome].
However, in March 2003 the High Court held another
hearing in the original matter and, frustrated
by the Supreme Court stay, it decided to issue
another order directing the authorities to
remove all unauthorised constructions along the
banks of the river Yamuna that flows through Delhi
[The High Court did not hold a suo-moto hearing out of
frustration. It was approached by the parties after
filing of SLP. The proceedings are not known, but in
other matters of the time authorities were not
informing HC about the SLP].
One of the grounds for the above order was that
the Yamuna bed was being encroached upon, but the
order was selectively directed against the slums
while ignoring the elite (but illegal) structures
such as the Akshardham temple, the Metro Rail
headquarters,and the Commonwealth Games Village
[As also mentioned in this e-mail, the HC order was
for ALL encroachments. Representations were made,
albeit not by this Manch, for clearance priority to
other encroachments - illegal only in terms of mpd -
in view of slum policy being sub-judice].
The other ground was that the slums were polluting
the river. This, again, ignored the available
evidence that the total discharge from all slums
in Delhi is only 0.33% of the sewage being
released into the river.
[This 'evidence' is irrelevant since the flaw is not
in the % but in the assumption. River pollution has
city-wide causality and riverbed uses are worst
affected by it. On the riverbed in Delhi the
environmental issue is ground water, on which slums
are least damaging].
There have been four subsequent appeals against
this order in both the High Court as well as the
Supreme Court and all have been summarily
dismissed by the Courts. In not a single case has
the Court acknowledged the right to be heard
by the slums dwellers as the most affected party
[I am unaware of any appeals against the March 2003,
etc, orders of HC, save one SLP – on grounds primarily
of HC orders having been passed without mpd provisions
having been before it – that I informed as planner.
This came up for hearing on 15.03.04, but SC declined
to interfere. I am aware of 4 Pushta cases filed in
January-February 2004 – not against HC orders but to
seek clemency. 3 were writ petitions - 2 in HC and 1
in SC - and 1 an SLP in one of the two HC matters. HC
order of 31.01.04 and SC order of 03.02.04 cannot be
called unjust or anti-poor and were passed after full
hearing. In the other writ petition also HC asked
authorities to provide evidence of adequacy of
resettlement, but petitioners failed to place in HC or
subsequently in SLP either statutory mpd measures of
adequacy or challenge to legality in terms of mpd of
scheme preferred in HC on 11.02.04 in justification of
pushta clearance. It was the petitions that failed
Pushta in the courts].
In the meantime, demolitions and ruthless evictions
of the slums from the banks of the Yamuna have
begun and almost 3,000 families have already been
displaced. At least 16,000 more families have
been targeted for eviction before the elections
[The first demolition took place not 'in the meantime'
but after the HC matters had been dismissed. The drive
started in earnest a month later with demolition of
17.03.04. On the same day, CEO equivalent of this
Manch gave a talk on 'aesthetics of the informal'. On
12.04.04, 3:44 PM, when this e-mail was posted the
Vijayghat Pushta fire had happened to take the number
of families cleared to 4000 and a meeting to discuss
tactic, called mainly by this Manch, had yet to start.
Till then, the Manch seems to have been preoccupied
with reorganizing itself, taking stock of WSF, etc.].
Of these families, less than half are eligible for
“resettlement”. The rest are cast out on the
streets, while voluntary groups have documented
that even those who are resettled have been
denied the fundamental Rights to Livelihood,
Shelter,Education, and Health.
[A fourth are being offered resettlement, which
violates not fundamental rights in general terms but
statutory mpd provisions very specifically. When HC
quashed the illegal policy that allows this illegal
resettlement and called for a legal alternative, this
Manch launched a vicious attack against the court].
Appeals to the National Human Rights Commission
against forcible eviction have been registered
in February 2004 and the Commission has issued
notice to the government and the police,but no
further action has been taken.
[In February 2004 only the first demolition had been
effected. And violations of human rights owe in this
case to violations of citizens' rights under planning
law against which this Manch campaigns].
The Election Commission had stayed demolitions in
all slums until the elections were over, but it
has now selectively permitted them to be removed
from the Yamuna banks. The Commission has not
responded to appeals to restore the status quo
even though documented evidence of violation of
electoral rights has been presented before it.
[EC responded promptly to representations, in response
to Public Notice from Pushta citizens evicted from
demolition on 13.02.04 and about abuse of its
clearance from citizens in settlements demolished on
17.03.04 and 19.03.04, to freeze voter lists rather
than endorse evictions. Subsequent representations
have been made to it in specific matters, including
loss of voter IDs in the fire on 12.04.04. What
'documented evidence' this Manch has placed before EC
is not known, but the allegation of non-response by EC
is false and the claim that EC has 'selectively
permitted' clearance of Pushta is ludicrous, as EC has
no powers to stay or permit demolitions].
The hurry to vacate the land along the river is
being ascribed to a prestigious project that
the Union Minister of Culture has revealed of a
national tourism-cum-cultural complex in the area.
This Minister in his previous incarnation was
responsible for the displacement of almost a
million people during the National Emergency of
1975-76 when all civil liberties were suspended.
This “national complex” actually appears
to be part of a Rs18 billion development project
proposed by the same gentleman, when he was
Minister of Urban Development, to channelise the
river and convert the entire flood plain into a
recreational-cum-commercial area similar to the
“South Bank of the Thames”.
[The project is illegal under mpd and seeks to bestow
on the city a willful favour, exactly like the
'rights', etc, that this Manch seeks to bestow on
citizens. And the Tourism Minister looking west for
ideas is just as objectionable as NGOs, including
those on this Manch, looking that-a-way for funding].
This e-mail is a typical tirade against something that
occupies the same anarchist 'endowment' position that
presumes to rise above, rather stoop too abysmal
depths to undermine, law and institutions to deny
existence of lawful solutions and entitlements to
suggest these await willful favour.
'Demands' that arise from such a position can only be
a.. Due process of law should be followed by the
courts to give a fair hearing to the affected
[Those affected have sought hearing by authorities and
for authorities to place relevant facts in courts.
Their demand should not be modified to beggarly appeal
for the court to hear them rather than facts]
b.. Forcible eviction should be immediately
[Forcible evictions are illegal and those affected
have demanded they be stopped for that reason. Their
demand should not be modified to beggarly appeal for
favour to them rather than action against illegality]
c.. Full resettlement facilities should be made
available to all those whose huts have been
[Those evicted have demanded housing according to mpd.
Their demand should not be reduced to beggarly appeal
for shoddy resettlement under a defunct and illegal
policy that was quashed by HC and is sub-judice in SC]
d.. The government should fulfill its
constitutional responsibilities to provide
livelihood, shelter, and services to all the
[This is basis of democracy, not demand to be made on
appeal at instance of those undermining the framework
of law and justice required for enforcement of
constitutional responsibilities vis-à-vis rights].
The time for us to 'help' Pushta citizens has passed
and what we owe them is profound apology, not
patronising response to shoddy appeals made on their
behalf to make us feel-good at click-of-mouse. 'Help'
we might ourselves -- by protesting lawlessness
instead of tolerating it with indifference. After all,
what can happen to thousands in Pushta can happen to
anyone anywhere. And what is poised to happen to our
riverbed concerns directly each one of us and our
children and grandchildren. It is no favour to Pushta
citizens if we worry about that. Favour they have done
us - favour of tragedy to make us snap out of the haze
of dopey discourse to which we have become addicted.
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