A Slumming Victory For Delhi’s Slum Dwellers

A new order was announced by the Delhi government stopping the demolishing of 48,000 slum dwellings in the city until alternate housing is provided to the dwellers. The decision brings to light the darker side of India’s capital.

File Photo of a slum in Delhi | Pinterest

Amidst a global pandemic, life becomes a little more tedious with people having to stay indoors most days. In such a situation, the place you’d be most comfortable in is your home. But what if what you call home is a 14sq.ft jhuggi (slum) on the brink of being demolished?


On August 31st, the Supreme Court ordered the demolition of 48,000 slum dwellings along the railway tracks of Delhi. This decision was to be enforced within three months of its announcement. However, on Monday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that he would not let dwellers of slums encroaching on railway land in Delhi be displaced. He went on to say that his government would work with the center to provide houses to them. This came after the Supreme Court was informed on the same day that the Delhi Government and the Centre are in discussion of the future of the 48,000 dwellings.


The applications to prevent the demolition were filed by senior Congress leader Ajay Maken and 11 slum dwellers. The proposal was passed in the house by voice vote. During the one day session of the Delhi Assembly, Kejriwal said,

“I believe that in this pandemic removing 48,000 jhuggis is not correct. What if the place becomes a coronavirus hotspot? Law says slum dwellers should not be removed before rehabilitation. It is the legal right of every slum dweller to have a house."

To understand the standards of living, we take the example of Kidwai Nagar, a slum that houses 289 families and lies next to an open drain. Residents of this slum have been waiting for long periods to get rehabilitated with some as long as 8 years. To make matters worse, despite multiple complaints, the drain water continues to overflow and enter the dwellings when it floods each monsoon. Add to this the fact that most of the dwellers work as labourers and house-help and you realize, not only are these dwellers extremely prone to disease but are very likely to unknowingly spread pathogens to others.


It is estimated that more than 2.4 lakh people live in slums all over Delhi. Some of these include slums like Naraina Vihar, Azadpur, Vihar, Shakur Basti, Mayapuri, Sriniwaspuri, Anand Parbat and Okhla. While rehabilitation efforts have been made in slums such as Arjun Das Camp and Bangali Camp where a small number of families were shifted to accommodations in Bawana, the efforts have only been semi-successful if not completely inadequate. Administrative and jurisdiction conflicts have forced a large number of slum dwellers to continue living by the railway tracks.


While it is understandable that the relief effort by the government may be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an 8 year long delay to the promised rehabilitation reflects poorly on the government. Given the times we live in, it would only be wise for the government to fast track a viable solution saving the large population of slum dwellers from disease while providing them with healthier and sanitized living conditions.


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