“Diwali is a celebration of happiness, but for the people of Khori it was a time when the government pushed them into poverty,” says Vimal bhai, an activist who defends the rights of displaced residents of Khori gaon on the outskirts of Delhi. .
The people here have lit diyas in the ruins of their family homes, which have been reduced to rubble. After the court-ordered demolitions in recent weeks, the displaced have gathered to celebrate Diwali in the spirit of fighting for their rights.
Since the demolitions, contested by the UN, the lives of residents have radically changed for the worse. Former resident SN Khan is a father of two daughters and says the eldest should have been in grade 6 by now, but with the demolition they had to stop her education as they were forced to move out.
“The nearest school is three kilometers from our home. Because there is no school within walking distance, we cannot send him to school, ”says Khan.
Zeba, who is 12, misses school and is with her friends. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my friends. I only see them when I accompany my father to Khori to check our things. I was overcome with emotion when it was demolished before our eyes.
While many are still grappling with the shock of the pandemic and the mismanaged economy, the weight of which has hit the working class, another financial need has arisen for the people of Khori.
They were promised an apartment in Dabua settlement, but to acquire one, each family must pay 3 lakh rupees in installments. Within 15 days of receiving the apartment, a lump sum payment of Rs 17,000 must be made, followed by a monthly payment of Rs 2,500 for a period of 15 years.
The government has promised compensation of 2,000 rupees for renting accommodation while the apartments are being prepared, but no one has yet received this sum. They still live in makeshift camps because they have no other choice.
Meanwhile, the site of their old homes is now cleared of debris, with JCB excavators stationed here every day.
“How could a person who does not have enough money to rent a decent property organize such a large sum in such a short time? Asks Arshad, a resident of Khori and an active member of Team Saathi, a group of activists and lawyers helping dispossessed residents.
Despite the fact that the government has on paper provided another alternative for a living – for a fee – Dabua’s status is appalling. With filth everywhere and animals rummaging around, it’s uninhabitable for a decent standard of living.
Yet, many people began to live in Dabua out of desperation.
“A three-year-old girl recently fell from the balcony of her new home in Dabua. She has passed. This is the true status of the colony. In addition, the government’s temporary housing in Radha Swamy Satsang is uninhabitable. Women and men are forced to reside in the same room, with no privacy for pregnant women or new mothers. Nobody wants to live there, ”Vimal bhai told The Citizen.
People dispossessed by Supreme Court order are also exposed to various scams, under the pretext of helping with paperwork.
“A lot of people are misled by scammers who offer to fill out residents’ forms for a price, as many are uneducated and there is no information desk set up by the government, and many are uneducated. not know that the papers can be filled out for free, ”Arshad says.
The Supreme Court has acknowledged that bogus apps are circulating, but Arshad, who worked with Team Saathi, has a different point of view:
“The online form page is not user-friendly at all – it opens up a lot of tabs, which only serves to confuse users. There was also an option for the state, and many people who had hometowns in other cities added it to their form, making the request incorrect. “
Working on volunteer efforts, the Saathi team has opened camps and assistance desks for the displaced, and tries to offer accurate information in the form of notes and audio clips. They also launched a website to educate Khori neighbors across India.
“We are raising our voices against a number of concerns, the most serious of which are the actions of the government, which have forced people into poverty, and the unethical investigation they have carried out, which led them to to demolish and evict a lakh of people by simply counting 10,000 homes with drones, ”Vimal bhai explains.
With a sigh, he adds: “They have reduced people’s lives to a simple aerial photograph of a drone.
All images are courtesy of Khorigaon.in