An anti-encroachment drive conducted by the railways to clear squatters left hundreds roofless in the cold winter
New Delhi: Hundreds were rendered homeless in the winter chill and a 6-month-old baby died after the authorities demolished hutments built on railway land in the national capital, witnesses and police said.
Delhi Commission for Women chairperson Swati Maliwal met people affected by the demolition drive. Pic/PTI
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accused the Railways of demolishing some 500 hutments on Saturday, “in such cold”, leaving hundreds of poor — men, women and children — shivering in the open.
The Delhi government said the demolition violated judicial orders, and were carried out without informing it.
Kejriwal, who visited the site at Shakur Basti at 2 am on Sunday, ordered the suspension of two sub divisional magistrates for failing to provide relief to those affected.
Railway officials who met Kejriwal later said the land was cleared as the encroachment was affecting operations and they had an order from the National Green Tribunal. Divisional Railway Manager Arun Arora said the baby died before the drive started.
Kejriwal said when he spoke to Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, “he said he was not aware of this operation. He was also shocked.” The CM pointed out that there were court orders to raze properties of some of the rich and politicians in Delhi but were never implemented.
Kejriwal tweeted: “A child died. God will never forgive them. Heartrending scenes. How (could) our own countrymen do this to our poorest fellow countrymen?”
CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury added: “How can authorities resort to mindless demolition leading to the death of a child, leaving slum dwellers to suffer, roofless in winter?”
The baby’s grandmother Rubiya Khatoon said some objects fell on the girl when they were in a hurry to leave the shanty. “We were asked to vacate. The children were sleeping. In the hurry to leave, some things fell on the baby. We took her to hospital but she did not survive,” she said.
Muhammad Kuddus, a resident of the slum, said he had lived there since 1983. “When we build huts, they break it after 3-4 months. The government had promised to provide us a place to live, but that never happened,” he said. Kuddus said the notice for demolition reached them only the previous evening.
500 No of hutments that were razed on Sunday
A railway official said the hutments were built illegally on railway land and the shanty dwellers had been told to vacate the land. “In Delhi there are 47,000 encroachments on railway land and because of that there are serious problems in operations,” said Arun Arora, DRM. “There are 22,000 encroachments that are in the safety zone, which is 15m on both sides of tracks. There are clear instructions there will be no unauthorised structure.