Sumdwellers displaced for a cleaner Yamuna
The scorching June heat does not induce even the mildest show of discomfiture from people in the resettlement colony of Bawana. Located along Delhi's northern border, the area is one of the two sites where people evicted as per the Supreme Court's directive from slums in April 2006, have been relocated.
People here have learnt that the harsh sunlight is a far more bearable proposition than the occasional half-hour rain. "The last time it rained, water rushed in through the hutments and the camp was knee-deep in water. People shifted their belongings hurriedly, deposited some of their possessions on beds or any other perch they could find, and sat with legs folded above the floating muck,' says Lakhi Rama. He was relocated here from a Saraswati Vihar slum in North Delhi.
"This low-lying land has more than a foot of clay-heavy unsettled mud. When it rains, water mixes with excreta and it stays,' he explains. Sitting on a bed outside a shop he has recently set up, Lakhi Rama informs us that people had to cajole, threaten and finally gherao Delhi Development Authority (dda) officers to get the muck cleared. It took three days.
The plot Behind Lakhi Rama's shack lies a vast vacant piece of land. People like him were promised plots here, when the authorities shunted them out of slum clusters in places like Moolchand Basti and Yamuna Pushta. All basic utilities were promised to them: habitable plots, water, sanitation, roads and power. The dda committed as much to the Delhi High Court's seven-member Usha Mehra Committee dealing with illegal encroachments along the Yamuna (see box: Roots of eviction). As per dda's commitment, the utilities should have been ready for handover by March 2006, a month before the slumdwellers were evicted.
They are, however, nowhere in sight more than three months after evictions. "And the government is not even providing temporary shelter. This means another expenditure of Rs 3,000 besides the Rs 7,000 for plot allotment,' alleges one slum evictee. And what about the other promises? Only non-potable water is available and that too from private water tanks. The promised sewerage is yet to materialise. Four mobile toilets which are usually without water service over 2,000 newly relocated families. Most thus prefer the outdoors.
Most of these essential supplies are in private hands and residents obviously have to pay for them. It's asking for a lot from the penurious evictees, especially when even getting to work is an expensive proposition. "I used to work in Daryaganj as a mason. Reaching there now means an expenditure of Rs 40,' says one evictee from Moolchand Basti. Pratima, who was moved to Bawana from Yamuna Pushta, adds: "Most families have just one earning member now. The women have had to stop working because commuting requires money'.
For a piece of land Girija Devi, an evictee from Moolchand Basti, clutches a bunch of papers with hope. Amongst the bunch is an affidavit stating she vacated Moolchand Basti of her own volition. "In lieu,' the document mentions, "Girija is entitled to a plot.' But there is no entry besides the column "plot number'. And none besides the column "date', either. Don't consider these omissions for typographical errors. dda officials will fill the blanks, when they actually develop the plots. "We have to wait I guess. But right now it's tough. My children attend school in Delhi, which is quite far and that means huge expenses. I can live without water or sanitation but I can't let my children remain uneducated,' she says. Girija has also heard that some have got possession of plots.
She is mistaken. They have merely got