Mid-winter demolitions, 2003: NHRC

Apropos last week's demolitions I have sent the
following to NHRC in continuation of correspondence
about demolitions without notice with reference to
cases of 2000 and to mid-winter demolitions last year.


--------------------------------20 December 2003
Hon?ble Justice Dr A S Anand
Chairperson, NHRC
Sardar Patel Bhawan, Sansad Marg, New Delhi ? 110 001

Sub: Demolitions without notice in inclement weather
Ref: Cases No.1067/30/2000-01 and No.1108/30/2000-01,
subsequent letters and recent events


Respected Sir,

In the cases under reference, the Commission had
established the fact of monsoon-time demolition
without notice in 50-year-old Rangpuri Pahari near
Vasant Kunj in Delhi in July 2000 and closed the cases
on basis of the authorities' claim that there is no
practice to give notice before demolition.

In subsequent letters, summarized in letter of
15.05.03 (Annex.1, with letter of 27.05.03), it was
submitted the authorities' contention is legally
untenable under Delhi Development Act and tantamount
to assuming power to punish people for state failures
and for profiteering on public land.

The said letters refer to WP 4978/2002 (in which
Hon'ble High Court's judgment of 16.09.02 held the
scheme for which Rangpuri Pahari was subjected to
demolition without notice itself illegal) and WP
5007&5009/2002 (in which slum residents in Arjun Camp,
demolished without notice in May 2003 in sub-judice
matter, challenged in August 2002 legality of
resettlement policy and demolition without notice in
context of failure of authorities to develop mandatory
low income housing). In a different matter the Court
quashed illegal resettlement policy on 29.11.02. In WP
5007&5009/2002 it has taken cognizance of low-income
housing failure in its order of 12.11.03 (included as
Encl.1 in Annex.2).

I had written to authorities (cf, Encl.2 in Annex.2)
when mid-winter demolitions without notice were
underway, purportedly pursuant to the Court's order of
November 2002. I have written now the letter at
Annex-2, which I have presumed to endorse to the
Commission, amidst mid-winter demolitions without
notice in disregard of the Court's order of November
2003.

I seek the Commission's urgent intervention to stop
mid-winter demolitions without notice. I also seek the
Commission's favour for an opportunity for a hearing.

Thanking you,
Yours sincerely

Gita Dewan Verma / Planner
B.Arch (SPA, gold medalist); M.Planning (SPA, gold
medalist); PG Dip-Research (IHS-Rotterdam, top rank);
Dip-Training (DoPT)
Formerly: Senior Fellow (HUDCO-HSMI), Visiting Faculty
(SPA, TVB SHS), Consultant (DfID, IHSP, Nuffic,
UNICEF, etc)
Currently: Independent planning researcher and writer
and planner consultant to citizens? groups


Encl

Annex-1: Letters of 15.05.03 and 27.05.03 to the
Commission
Annex-2: Letter of 19.12.03 to Commissioner, Delhi
Police (endorsed to the Commission)
(enclosing order of 12.11.03 and letter of 14.01.03
about mid-winter demolitions without notice
purportedly pursuant to order of 29.11.02)

---------

Text of letter of 19.12.03 to Police Commissioner:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mpisgmedia/message/17

---------

Text of letter of 15.05.03 to NHRC Chairman

Sub: Denial of Master Plan entitlements to spare
public land meant for the poor for profiteering
Ref: My letters of 15.07.02 and 13.09.02 pursuant to
the Commission's letter of 12.06.02 to me re Case
No.1067/30/2000-01 and Samudayik Vikas Samiti's letter
of 04.10.02 pursuant to the Commission's letter of 27
/ 28.08.02 to the Samiti re Case No.1108/30/2000-2001.

Dear Sir,
The Cases under reference pertain to demolition of 45
homes in Rangpuri Pahari on 05.07.2000. Vide the
Commission's letter of 12.06.02 under reference I was
told that the fact of demolition without notice had
been 'fully established', but in view of GoNCTD's
submission that 'no prior notice was given to the
encroachers, as there is no such practice', etc, the
case had been closed. Vide the Commission's letter of
27/28.08.02 the settlement's Samiti was told the
Commission had closed the case as 'the concerned
authority has taken necessary action as prayed for by
the complainant'.

In my letter of 15.07.02 I had contended that GoNCTD
and DDA had misled the Commission and their view of a
50-year-old basti as 'encroachment' not worthy of
notice before demolition was untenable. In its letter
of 04.10.02 the Samiti had also pointed out that no
action had been taken on its prayers, viz., (a)
investigation into demolition purpose, (b)
compensation, and (c) action against those
responsible.

In my letter of 13.09.02 I informed the Commission
that in WP 4978/2002 DDA had again labeled the
pre-Plan settlement 'encroachment', to justify its own
illegal scheme for which it had attempted the
demolition. In its letter of 04.10.02 the Samiti
informed the Commission that Hon'ble High Court had
held DDA's scheme to be wholly illegal and ordered it
stopped and enquired into on 16.09.02.

In my letter of 13.09.02 I also mentioned the case of
Arjun Camp in Vasant Kunj that had moved Court praying
to be settled on a Janta Housing site in the vicinity
according to Plan rather than be re-settled far away
in sub-standard housing in violation of the Plan. Here
also DDA, while failing to reply, was repeatedly
attempting demolition without notice by labeling the
settlement 'encroachment'.

The status of 'encroachers' in the area is as follows:
· In Rangpuri Pahari work on DDA's illegal scheme has
not stopped altogether, nor has enquiry started.
Citizens ('encroachers'), seeking since 2000
implementation of their entitlements, have filed 1700
objections against the illegal scheme in response to
Public Notice in 2002 and continue to file complaints
against continuing work, etc, in a bid to safeguard
their rights ? on their own.
· Since August 2002 DDA has not provided
clarifications on entitlements despite court orders in
the Arjun Camp matter. Sahara restaurant, the most
alarming case thus far in CBI's investigations of DDA,
sits on the Janta Housing site to which Arjun Camp has
staked claim. Citizens ('encroachers') have resisted 8
demolition attempts ? all without formal notice ? on
their own.
· On the last demolition attempt, proximous Rajiv
Gandhi Camp (staking claim to the same Sahara site as
per the report sent to DDA on behalf of residents of
Rangpuri Pahari in July 2001 and part of the Arjun
Camp case) was demolished ? without notice ? on
24.03.03. Citizens ('encroachers') have been seeking
clarifications/redress without success from GoNCTD and
DDA ? on their own.

Vasant Kunj is a microcosm of pervasive denial of Plan
entitlements. Census 2001 has counted 4 lakh families
in Delhi slums. (MCD's higher estimates owe mainly to
rackets in resettlement, lately exposed by
Anti-corruption Branch). This is consistent with
shortfall on Master Plan targets for EWS units. In
terms of DDA's Act and objectives of land policy,
slums are, therefore, more accurately described as
DDA's implementation backlog rather than as
encroachments. The same is true for hawkers, about
which I had written to the Commission, as referred to
in my letter of 15.07.02, industries, etc. In all the
'denial scam' adds up to over 5000 hectares or a tenth
of the city, 'spared' for the likes of Sahara.

Work on DDA's illegal scheme (subsequently found by
CVC to be scam-ridden) continuing in contempt of
Court, business as usual at Sahara even after the CBI
expose, failure of public authorities and 'mainstream'
civil society to respond to the Public Notice against
DDA's illegal scheme, etc, are, likewise, mere
manifestations of a much broader 'consensus' ? running
across the political spectrum and deep into civil
society (NGOs and RWAs in 'bhagidari') ? that is
driving 'policy alternatives' in utter disregard of
statutory Plan entitlements. All these 'alternatives'
are serving to short-change the poor and make city
problems intractable and ultimately 'benefit' only the
likes of Sahara.

Dr Ambedkar had said that if rights are opposed by the
community, no Law, Parliament or Judiciary can
guarantee them. And that there is no use giving rights
if the aggrieved have no remedy to resort to when
rights are invaded. I do not presume wisdom in matters
other than plannerly but it appears to me that
all-round acceptance of the premise that those denied
use of land that is theirs by right under the
statutory Master Plan are 'encroachers' is a fitting
and tragic illustration of Dr Ambedkar's concern.

I reiterate my contention, placed before the
Commission vide my letter of 13.09.02, that a 'policy'
of not giving 'encroachers' notice before demolition
amounts to DDA giving itself powers to punish its
victims to profiteer on public land meant for them, no
questions asked.

Questions challenging the view of citizens denied
their entitlements as 'encroachers' ? placed before
the Commission vide my letter of 15.07.02 with copy to
MoUD have not been answered. MoUD forwarded my
'representation' to DDA, which sent me a copy of its
letter of 29.08.02 to MoUD enclosing in 'reply' a
previous letter stating what I was objecting to, viz,
there is no practice of giving notice for demolition
of encroachments. (Incidentally, on 22.08.02 the same
officer who signed this letter had signed a
hand-written demolition notice on blank paper for
Arjun Camp). DDA, while referring to 'encroachments'
in its counter-affidavit of 09.09.02 did not mention
the case in the Commission or the questions raised in
July 2002. Nor have the same questions been answered
in the Arjun Camp case filed in August 2002 or in
response to citizens' ('encroachers') objections filed
on the PIL-precipitated Public Notice in
September/October 2002 and 'heard' in January 2003.

And questions about profiteering on land meant for
those labeled 'encroachers' have not been asked. This
was the first prayer in the complaint by the
'encroachers' to the Commission in July 2000. In
June-July 2002 I repeatedly wrote to MoUD to
investigate/stop DDA's illegal scheme, which had
started in March 2002. It was only after MoUD did not
respond that the last of these letters (enclosed in my
letter of 15.07.02 to the Commission) was converted to
a PIL. MoUD, which did not file a counter-affidavit in
the case and only submitted a 'purported fax message'
on the day of final hearing, entirely skirted the fact
of these letters. The court ordered an enquiry on
16.09.02, which has not materialized. Citizens'
requests for vigilance enquiry as work continued in
contempt of court also went unanswered. Clarifications
sought about a press report quoting DDA Chairman as
saying no enquiry was needed, also went unanswered,
also at the Public Hearing in January 2003. Letters
about the hearing also remain unanswered. CVC
conducted an enquiry, at the instance of some
builders, into tendering irregularities but seems not
to have taken cognizance of the Court's order for
substantive enquiry. And CBI's expose of the Sahara
restaurant matter also stops short of connecting
culprit misuser to victim 'encroachers' and, in my
plannerly opinion, misses the seriousness of its
import.

I am convinced that both the foregoing questions must
be answered ? for justice, for a solution to the slum
problem, for much else. Even if no one is prepared to
accept that Plan entitlements exist it remains my
plannerly responsibility towards my profession and to
my clients to keep pointing out they do. I request the
Commission to kindly provide me information about:
(a) basis on which DDA and GoNCTD contended before the
Commission that no notice is necessary for slum
demolitions, and
(b) supporting evidence with which concerned
authorities contended they had taken necessary action
on my clients' prayers, especially the first prayer
seeking investigation into purpose of demolition.

I wish to advise my Arjun Camp clients to place the
former in Court in view of recent local and policy
developments, perhaps in their rejoinder if and when
DDA replies, and to include the latter in the basis on
which all my clients in the area need to decide on a
course of action about non-compliance of the Court's
orders in the matter of DDA's illegal scheme in
Rangpuri Pahari. I also request the Commission to
kindly let me know details of any procedural
pre-requisites for obtaining the above information.

Thanking you and hoping to hear from you,
Yours sincerely

Gita Dewan Verma
B.Arch (SPA, gold medalist); M.Planning (SPA, gold
medalist); PG Dip-Research (IHS-Rotterdam, top rank);
Dip-Training (DoPT)
Formerly: Senior Fellow (HUDCO-HSMI), Visiting Faculty
(SPA, TVB SHS), Consultant (DfID, IHSP, Nuffic,
UNICEF, etc)
Currently: Independent planning researcher and writer
and planner consultant to citizens? groups

encl.
1. My letter of 15.07.2002 to the Commission
2. My letter of 13.09.2002 to the Commission
3. Samudayik Vikas Samiti's letter of 04.10.2002 to
the Commission
4. Master Plan Implementation Support Group's letter
of 02.05.2003 to DDA (illustrative)





__________________________________
Do you Yahoo!?
New Yahoo! Photos - easier uploading and sharing.
http://photos.yahoo.com/


Partial thread listing: