Delhi's Homeless Fear Displacement As DUSIB Proposes To Raze Six More Shelter Homes

Once again, the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) is poised to raze six more shelter homes. According to residents of these six shelters, the DUSIB has halted the supply of food to them. Most of them work as waiters, E-rickshaw workers, loading- unloading workers or perform construction work

Occupants in shelter homes

Once again, the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) is poised to raze six more shelter homes. This month, DUSIB presented a writ petition to the Supreme Court for the removal of six shelter homes located in Dandi Park-1, Dandi Park-2, Dandi Park-3 (Near Pushta), Yamuna Bazar opposite Hanuman Temple, and Yamuna Bazar near Hanuman Temple. 

The DUSIB is justifying its intent by citing the shelters' proximity to the Yamuna River, claiming they are perpetually at risk from pests like scorpions, rats, and other insects. The petition also highlights the vulnerability of these shelters to flooding in the event of rising Yamuna water levels, potentially necessitating urgent evacuations.

The writ petition filed this month on August 4 comes after the Supreme Court's order in March, which ordered a stay on further demolition of shelters for the urban homeless in Delhi without its permission. The order of the top court came when nine shelter homes for the homeless— one near Sarai Kale Khan and eight along Yamuna Pushta were razed in February and March by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) .

According to residents of these six shelters, the DUSIB has halted the supply of food to them. Most of them work as waiters, E-rickshaw workers, loading- unloading workers or in construction work, with some staying in the shelter for more than a year.  

Indu Prakash Singh, member, State Level Shelter Monitoring Committee (SLSMC), which was constituted on the order of the Supreme Court in 2018, mentioned that the shelters are at the spots of "homeless concentration and hence crucial”. He added, “If the shelter homes are at locations unsafe from flooding, why are they planning to demolish the structures when the floods in the city are over. Flouting human rights and wanting the Supreme Court to support their criminal action, DUSIB seems to be unmindful of the consequences that people have to face.”

Up to this juncture, it holds significant importance to observe the surrounding structures in close proximity to these shelter homes. Adjacent to the homeless shelter in Dandi Park stands the Sant Parmanand Five-star private hospital, a towering building of over nine floors, including a three-to-four-level underground parking basement. This situation prompts a pertinent question, echoing the inquiry posed by Amita Bviskar in her book "Uncivil City". The coexistence of entities like the Parmanand Hospital, expansive ventures such as the Commonwealth Games Village, and iconic landmarks like the Akshardham Temple on the same floodplains raises eyebrows. These floodplain areas, which hold ecological sensitivity for makeshift settlements or shelter homes, seem to grant unhindered approvals to these larger projects. The concept of "planned-ness", hinges on appearances and aesthetics of planning, regardless of their formal standing in planning law.

Baviskar writes. “Projects such as the Akshardham temple and the Commonwealth Games Village has been built consists of multi-storeyed luxury apartments with a captive power plant – illustrate how the new development has been actively fostered by the government with massive subsidies being given to corporate organizations, not only through land being transferred at nominal rates but through interest-free loans and buy-back guarantees. Other capital intensive projects have rapidly flowed in their wake.”

Mansoor Khan, a housing rights activist hailing from the Housing and Land Rights Network, said, "In the contemporary landscape, whenever the government carries out the demolition of a basti, they advise the affected residents to seek refuge in shelter homes. Paradoxically, the government's attention has now turned towards dismantling these very shelter homes. Adding to the complexity, these shelters are already grappling with inadequacy, struggling to accommodate the influx of individuals, ultimately reaching a state of saturation."

Census 2011 pegged the number of homeless individuals in Delhi at 46,724, a figure strongly contested by homeless advocacy groups and activists. Factoring in the Supreme Court committee's guidelines, the count could reach around 200,000, applying the suggested one percent benchmark based on the city's total population. Currently, Delhi can accommodate a mere 10 percent of this homeless population through its existing shelters. 

Moreover, as detailed in the filed writ petition, five out of the six shelter homes currently stand devoid of occupants, with one accommodating only a minimal number of individuals. However, this assertion by the DUSIB appears dubious in light of the observations made during multiple visits by the State Level Shelter Monitoring Committee. During these visits, it was evident that each shelter home hosted upto 50-150 occupants, contradicting the DUSIB's claim. Indu Prakash Singh pointed out, "Their approach involves ceasing attendance records and neglecting to update their portal for these shelter homes. Consequently, the official count appears to be zero, despite the presence of people residing within them."

G20 at core?

Presently, homeless individuals are being forcefully pushed into buses from locations like Yamuna Bazar and Yamuna Pushta, where shelter homes were demolished. They are then left stranded in distant areas like Rohini and Dwarka, with police employing coercion. Mansoor Khan highlighted that the capacity of shelters in these areas is inadequate for accommodating the displaced population from Pushta. He added, “They don’t want the homeless to be on streets, they are even displaced from the shelters, where will the homeless go?”

Moreover, areas of Dwarka or Rohini are farther from the existing sites where these people have their livelihoods. Indu Prakash hinted at a deliberate government plan to clear shelter homes. “Along the Yamuna floodplains, seemingly tied to preparations for the upcoming G20 event and city beautification projects. This reflects the unfortunate reality where the homeless have no place in this proclaimed 'world-class city'."