SC order puts 10,000 families in Faridabad at risk

Housing: A UNSDG goal & Constitutional right

Society

June 21, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

SC order puts 10,000 families in Faridabad at risk

While the land of Khori village officially belongs to government, the residents say they have bought land from dealers through power of attorney (MIG photos/Varsha Singh)

On Thursday, the Supreme Court dashed hopes of nearly 100,000 persons of earning a last-minute reprieve that would keep a roof above their head as it allowed Haryana government to demolish homes allegedly built on forest land.

Colin Gonsalves, head of HRLN, a law firm that fights for right to housing for the poor, expressed disappointment over the latest order of Supreme Court which refused to grant any relief to the over 10,000 families that have lived for decades in Khori village near Surajkund in Faridabad district of Haryana.

Gonsalves said that the court simply said that as the families lived on forest land, they had to be evicted. As far as rehabilitation was concerned, the court left it to the Haryana government as per its rehabilitation policy. “However, the rehabilitation policy of Haryana government is very strange, to say the least. It has a cut-off date of 2003 that determines eligibility for rehabilitation. While Delhi has 2015, Telangana just one year and some states have no cut-off dates, meaning every person is eligible for rehabilitation,” says Gonsalves.

Gonsalves went on to say that the Khori village lies cheek by jowl with over 60 farmhouses as well as several leading hotels, saying that even these appear to be on forest land, but have not been earmarked for demolition.

The residents claim that they were sold plots of land that they bought for anywhere between INR 300,000-500,000 and that they had been provided water and power connections by the government for all this while. They said that over the years, never did the state government or the forest department told them that they were staying illegally on forest land or ask them to leave. Thus, the SC directive has created mass panic in the village, mainly inhabited by daily wagers as well as domestic helps, who migrated to the National Capital Region anywhere between 15-25 years ago.

“Agreed, we are illiterate people and we don’t understand the technicalities like whether this land is legal or not so we got swayed by land mafia. But the same government has provided us water and electricity for so many years. Did they not realise it was supposed to be forest land? And our Justices? They are very well-educated people. Don’t they realise that they are treating the poor like animals, evicting them in this heat and during the pandemic. Where are we suopposed to go and how do I rebuild my life at this age? With what?” asked Razia Begum, a 70-year-old woman who lost the second of her sons earlier in June due to Covid-19.

Medha Patkar visited Khori village last week to express support (MIG photos)

Social activist Medha Patkar, who visited Khori, says that the village was not built in one day. “It is spread over about 170-acres of land and it has schools, churches, temples, mosques and even a bank branch. So, it did not spring up just like that. It must have settled over several years or even decades. Now you are just evicting all the poor, all of a sudden? Ironically, our Prime Minister has promised a house to all by 2022. And here in 2021, thousands are being rendered homeless by government. PM will have to answer next year how many people have been provided homes by him and how many have been rendered homeless?” she said.

HRLN’s Anupradha Singh says that they are in discussions with the Haryana government to ensure that proper steps are taken before eviction, such as a detailed survey of those eligible for rehabilitation, that is people who came before the 2003 cut-off date. Additionally, HRLN is also trying to get the government to amend its cutoff date to 2020 so that a majority of the people to be impacted by eviction can be covered.

“The Haryana government has already demolished over 2000 houses so far, without following due process of law, even though they try to present it like that in front of the court. They have not done any surveys, how will they rehabilitate anyone? Also, the notices pasted on some houses on June 8, 2021 gives them a day to clear out. How is this even possible? Where is natural justice in this?” she asks.

Medha Patkar says that the issue of Khori village once again exposes the development model that India is following. “They want the land back after so many years as they want to may be hand it over to big companies or develop for some other activities. But it will be at the cost of over 100,000 persons being thrown out of their own homes and on the streets. It shows that our entire development paradigm is based on inequity, which has become much more severe in the past seven years,” Patkar tells Media India Group.

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