Pushta, river and city betrayed

Delhi High Court on its own motion (presumably
responding to media hype) has directed clearance of
Yamuna Pushta slums ? in the cold, weeks away from
school examinations. This is in continuation of its
order of 13.03.2003 for removal of encroachments in
two months, given in matters filed by Okhla and
Wazirpur industrialists, same that led to order of
29.11.2002 quashing Delhi's illegal slum resettlement
policy ? after the Supreme Court had been approached
in appeal. The Okhla and Wazirpur matters continued to
be heard in High Court and orders were also given on
29.10.2003, also referring to Pushta.

The view in support of clearance of Pushta slums
(righteously presented on media by Jagmohan against
backdrop of exhibition panels that, by his account,
demonstrate Pushta has electro-plating units, etc)
relies on, besides 'schemes' that Jagmohan, Vijay
Goel, Vijay Kapur, E Sreedharan, etc, jointly and
severally have ideas for, 'contempt of court'
argument, thus far with reference to order of

Assuming that PIL filed from Wazirpur and Okhla do not
suffer from petitioner-respondent nexus (since the
industries case in Supreme Court is connected to the
Maili Yamuna case) and that the order of 13.03.2003
for removal of all riverbed encroachments was not
itself in disregard of Supreme Court proceedings (in
slum and river matters), 'contempt' of it should have
been evoked on 14.05.2003, the deadline prescribed for
its compliance, in terms of:
(a) failure of authorities to even draw up, on basis
of extent of encroachment and pollution, priorities
for removal of not only Pushta slums on about 100
hectares, but also, say, Metro Depot (where trains are
washed) and its appurtenances (including Police
station) on 50 hectares, as repeatedly requested of
the authorities at the time.
(b) defiant (besides illegal in terms of violation of
CGWA notification and Delhi Development Act, 1957)
'schemes' for further encroachment ? including Metro
SEZ (commercial use), Commonwealth Games village
(residential use, like Pushta), etc, that are all
footloose uses far better suited in other locations in
the city, as suggested to authorities.

If anything, Pushta slums are protected against
arbitrary sudden clearance by:
(a) Slum policy issue being sub-judice in Supreme
Court (with, perhaps, 'contempt' evokable for failure
to come out with an alternative unconnected to
encroachments, land acquisition for resettlement
despite no leave from court, etc)
(b) High Court interim order of 12.11.2003 in my
clients' matter that connects the slum 'problem' to
backlog on low-income housing provision according to
the statutory Master Plan (for South Delhi, extendable
to all in view also of Planning Commission report)
(c) High court order in matter of an unauthorized
colony, also clients, restraining authorities from
'pick-and-chose' demolition while policy is awaited on
account of court intervention
(d) High Court order on free seats in schools that
will become impossible to comply with, except through
subsidy for the rich, if all the poor are thrown out
of the city (and the fact of the broader legal context
of the free seats condition being still sub-judice in
High Court in a matter of my clients)
(e) Authorities' submission to High Court that Sainik
Farms cannot be demolished since J-Zone Plan is not
approved ? O-zone plan (covering area of Pushta) is
also not approved and Sainik Farms (due to ground
water withdrawal in CGWA notified area) is also matter
of environmental concern, raised by my clients
including vide Public Notice process.

'Contempt' was not evoked even against Pushta slums in
2003 presumably because of Assembly elections ? fought
and won by Congress with feel-good-and-shining
propaganda. The lesson seems to be that
good-and-shining electoral arithmetic can be
fabricated if 75000 Pushta people are sacrificed (with
illegal resettlement favour) for lying promise of
clean river with icon-class gifts for 14 million
citizens who might drop return gifts into ballot

And where do leading NGO/PIL lights figure in this?
The green brigade sticks to fretting about green in
parks (even parking lots) and avoids protesting
ground-water depleting up-market development in ridge
and riverbed, except weakly on rare occasions. And
housing rights walas ? led by multinational giants
Action Aid, Care, etc ? discourse to deny and downsize
rights. In the current round, one of their weak cases
has returned for Lajpat Nagar orders that one
newspaper has connected (perhaps with their help) to
Pushta orders ? very different cases in law. Out of
the blue another newspaper has an entirely false
report (from Action Aid propaganda) on lack of land
for (even?) night shelters.

The connection (on reducing rights to favours through
obfuscation) between Action Aid / Care cadres and
Sheila Dikshit's government, currently putting up
widely reported high-drama weak protest against Pushta
relocation. And just before the Court's own motion,
Parliamentary Standing Committee for Urban Development
(of which at least one member-till-lately, Shabana
Azmi, seems well connected with Action Aid cadres and
was also photographed saving slums with Sheila Dikshit
in 2003) visited the riverbed ? while visiting Metro.
This Committee had invited on 22.06.2003 public
opinion on functioning of DDA and it ? or at least its
Secretariat ? is seized of most of the foregoing.
While it made time for a guided tour of razzmatazz
gifted to us in name of metro, it has not had time to
hear public views it had invited, just as 13th Lok
Sabha has not had time to debate the DDA scam, which
lies at the bottom of the Pushta problem and what ails
Yamuna and indeed the city and what is being done to
in the anarchist endowment paradigm.

The big guys are all playing from the same side on
Pushta. Their play is not going to benefit the river
or the city. What citizens in Pushta are facing may
appear to be 'their' crisis, but it is actually a
crisis of all, betrayed by all in charge. Now we all
may well be witness to a particularly shameful Act of
the unending drama in which we are all cast ? to be

And no, I am not over-reacting. Tracking accounts
posted over recent years provide supporting arguments
and 'evidence'. For the 29.11.2002 order I had said
what the city does with it will decide in large
measure whether or not it will be able to solve its
slum problem. What the city does about Pushta now will
decide in large measure whether or not it will be able
to solve its river's problem ? and below that, lest it
be forgotten, is where the solution to its water
problem lies and water, not pollution, is what rivers
are really all about.

And no, I do not know how to do what needs doing. I
don't really have clients in Pushta and, in any case,
the first step for serious substantive engagement that
this needs has yet to be taken ? drawing the battle
line between those interested in the problem and those
interested in the solution. Most seem to consider this
unnecessary, to believe in a middle ground and in
niceties. I believe there is neither middle ground nor
room for niceties in war zone, and war zone this is. I
am not inclined to view violent rape as right to
sexual preference in a free country, nor my city as a
whore whose consent may be bought with world-class

And no, I am not apologizing for intemperate prose,
nor seeking favour of reply or anything else. The
bullet points at the beginning are for information
since dominant discourse-walas seem not to have raised
them ? or the court's own motion might well have not
played out or played out differently ? and the rest is
just the bother that drives posting to the black hole.

Gita Dewan Verma / Planner / 01.02.04

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