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Are these children safe now? You have forced them to shiver in the cold: HC slams Delhi demolition drive

“What was the tearing hurry to demolish Shakur Basti JJ cluster in December? You really don’t care about the people, you just want to remove them,” a Delhi HC bench hammered away at the Railways after the death of a six month old baby, reportedly because of "blunt force impact" has gone from human tragedy to political football in 24 hours.

The Delhi High Court on Monday came down heavily on the Railways over the demolition drive in Shakur Basti in Delhi where hundreds are homeless now and one family lost their six month old. “Railways had no business removing people,” the bench of justices S Muralidhar and Vibhu Bakhru told Railways counsel Jagjeet Singh, reports The Indian Express.

Hearing a PIL filed by Congress leader Ajay Maken, the court observed that the Railways was in a hurry to demolish the shanties in Shakur Basti without proper rehab arrangements beforehand. “This court can’t help but observe that this action exposed them to grave risk considering the peak winter season,” the bench said.

This is a "pathetic act" as "peoples' lives are involved and we cannot be so casual. It is dire situation where life and liberty of the people are in grave danger," the bench said, reports DNA.

Singh said demolishing the jhuggi cluster was “necessary” because it was “right next to the railway tracks" but the bench squashed that arguments with plain logic: “Are they safe now? You have forced them to suffer and shiver in the cold. Every minute that they sped out in the cold counts,” the bench said.

“You are forgetting what your role as a public authority is. Your role is to ensure that people who satisfy the eligibility criteria don’t get removed. Just because you’re the Railways doesn’t mean the law doesn’t apply to you,” the bench rapped the Railways.

“Given the scale of the human tragedy, the court expects all parties to act in coordination to ensure that relief and rehabilitation are given to persons who lost their homes. This should be done without regard to the legality of the Shakurbasti slum as it existed,” the bench said.

The court directed “responsible senior officials” from the Railways, Delhi Police and DUSIB be present in court Wednesday “with all relevant documents” to answer questions on the demolition.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday met Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, and announced that there will be no further slum demolition "without rehabilitation."

Delhi demolition drive, the quick fix:

A 6 month old girl child Rukaiya Khatoon died inside shanty number 488 located at the end of the JJ cluster in Delhi on Sunday. The AAP government in Delhi is blaming the tragedy on the Railways demolition drive. Parliament has erupted over this tragedy. Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu claims the 6-month-old girl died before the Delhi slum demolition began. The post mortem report says death was because of shock as a result of chest and head injury by blunt force impact.

Kejriwal versus Rahul Gandhi

Political football is also marking attendance. Rahul Gandhi took aim at both targets - the Centre and Delhi government, for the demolition. "Whenever a slum is demolished, call Rahul Gandhi. He won't let this happen. We will try to help you. As you know we are not in the government, it is AAP's and BJP's government. But we will try to protect you, we will fight your battle," Gandhi said. Kejriwal reacted calling Gandhi a "child" and senior Congress leader Sheila Dikshit has jumped to Gandhi's defence saying governments are not run on ego, in an obvious reference to Kejriwal's put down.

The chronology:

At 8 am on Sunday, residents of the cluster were informed of the proposed slum demolition drive.

Parents of the dead child say she was asleep at 8 am when they went out to speak to the neighbours about the demolition.

They came back at 9:15 am and reportedly found their daughter under a heap of clothes which had been kept on a wooden table. The child had bruises on her face.

Her father Mohammad Anwar rushed her to Bhagwan Mahavir Hospital, Pitampura. Doctors declared Rukaiya dead. By this time, railway officials had arrived at the JJ cluster.

The latest: No demolition without rehab

"In principle, it was decided that there will be no demolition anywhere without rehabilitation in the coming days," Kejriwal said after meeting Prabhu.

The chief minister along with Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and senior Delhi government officials met Prabhu at Rail Bhawan in New Delhi. The meeting lasted for about 30 minutes.

 Are these children safe now? You have forced them to shiver in the cold: HC slams Delhi demolition drive

Arvind Kejriwal in a file photo. AFP

"If any land is required for whichever railways projects, they should give us a schedule and Delhi government will first rehabilitate them before demolition," Kejriwal said.

Railways had undertaken a demolition drive at Shakurbasti on Satuday removing about 1,200 slums and shops in the area. The drive caused a storm after the death of a child in the area.

While Delhi government alleged that the child died during the drive, Railways maintained that the toddler died much before the removal of encroachment.

Describing the meeting with Prabhu as "very good", Delhi CM said, "It was a good discussion. He (Prabhu) had very positive attitude."

Kejriwal noted that Railways will have to provide a list of the city land to be used for rail projects to the government.

"It was decided that railways will give us the schedule in the next three/four years wherever railways wanted land for its development. Delhi government will first rehabilitate them as per its rehabilitation policy. We will give houses to them to shift," he said.

Senior railway officials had met Kejriwal on Sunday explaining the need for the removal of encroachment on railway land.

Railways, on its part, maintained that the removal of "fresh encroachment" was necessary for expanding the infrastructure and that the action was taken in the slum area after sending three notices, the first one with a 14 March, 2015 deadline.

"Currently we have given 594 houses to shift them in a peaceful manner with police. First rehabilitation and then the land will be transferred after being vacated," Kejriwal reiterated.

"I have said, within five years, the government as per the policy, will rehabilitate those vacated, either in the same spot or nearby areas. Then the land will be handed over to Railways," he added.

With Agencies

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Updated Date: Dec 15, 2015 12:21:15 IST