On January 8, one of the coldest days this season, 28-year-old Jitendra Shrivastava was busy collecting his belongings after his house in the Yamuna Khadar of Mayur Vihar was demolished by Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and police on January 5.
“We have been living here since 1997 and cultivating the land on lease. We didn’t receive any notice prior to the demolition. We have suffered a loss of Rs 3-4 lakh,” Jitendra, who is paying a rent of Rs 20,000 per bigha, told Patriot.
He is now staying with wife and two children in a temporary structure covered by a tarpaulin sheet, exposed to the harsh weather.
“We had invested all our savings on this land but they have destroyed everything. But there is little hope from the nursery in Geeta Colony,” said the native of Uttar Pradesh’s Pratapgarh.
“We cultivated this land and nurtured it like it was our kid. We start cultivating the land in August-September and sell the produce after December 25,” he added.
Shrivastava was trying to recover some money since the market was down already but even that hope is dashed following the demolition.
Shrivastava is not alone suffering the harsh winter.
Since January 5, Delhi has been experiencing cold chills as the minimum temperature continues to hover between 4 to 8 degrees. Despite that, the authorities are continuing to demolish houses across the national capital forcing people to live in the open.
Naresh Pal, 45, and his wife have returned to their hometown in UP with their belongings following demolition of their house and are looking to vacate the land over the next few days.
“He wants to vacate the land in a day or two, so we have already sent our belongings to village. They (officials) demanded Rs 5,000 in bribe, but we don’t have that much. When we couldn’t pay, they destroyed everything. Whoever managed to pay the bribe survived,” said Vishnu, Naresh’s son, to Patriot.
“The authorities not only demolished their house but buried many belongings in a pit. They also destroyed his agricultural land, where he had cultivated spinach and coriander. The sale of the produce was his only sole source of income over the last two-and-a-half decades,” Vishnu alleged.
“We have been living here for the last 25 years and do agriculture on the land we have taken on lease. We never faced any problem until now,” Vishnu said, indicating towards the land. “They have destroyed the produce and left us exposed to the weather.”
Vishnu and the remaining members of the family have been forced to live under the open sky in these bone-chilling days.
“They did not provide any alternate place to stay; there is no rain basera (night shelter). We manage during the day somehow, but it is very difficult to spend the night. It is tough in winters. We could have managed it in the summers somehow,” added Vishnu, a class 11 student of a school in Mayur Vihar-1, Pocket-4.
Tenants alone are not suffering; even those who own land haven’t been spared.
Baljeet Singh inherited the land his family has been cultivating for close to 7-8 decades. The standing crop of spinach and cauliflower was destroyed by JCB on January 5.
“This was the only source of income for me. This too has been taken away,” Baljeet told Patriot in a sad tone.
“The cauliflower would have been ready for sale in 15 days. I lost around Rs 25,000. Before this, we had suffered during floods. We had hopes pinned on this crop but now that is also lost.”
Baljeet complained that their requests to police fell on deaf ears.
“The police don’t listen. If we oppose, they take us to thana. This kind of action did not happen under the previous government. So many people have returned to their hometown.”
He is, however, not giving up even though the borewell and the accompanying paraphernalia too was also removed.
“We will try to prepare again. Now we have to depend on rain-water because they have removed the borewell,” said Baljeet, a father of two.
“Modi ji had promised development and replace every kuchcha house with a pucca house. We have already lost a house due to the highway, now they have destroyed this hut too.”
On January 5, authorities came to the khadar area with diggers and excavators and destroyed the standing crop as well as houses. They also threatened to return.
Hundreds of migrant families from UP and Bengal among other places have been living and farming in the Yamuna Khadar area for decades.
A woman, who was preparing to cook rice near her demolished hut and nursery, complained that the authorities even destroyed the handpump, their only source of water.
“We have lived here for around two decades and grow flowers. They destroyed our huts and destroyed the handpump too. Now we are dependent on the water tanker,” she said.
“We have to look at some other source of income.”
Another family, whose cultivation on 2.5 bigha land and handpump were destroyed, is planning to return to their hometown.
“We have lived here due to better prospects of our children. But now we will return to our hometown in UP,” said one of the ladies of the family.
Her husband had gone out to sell vegetables.
“We had lost Rs 30,000-40,000 in floods, now we lost around 50,000 rupees due to the demolition. They are threatening that if we don’t vacate this land, they will return on the 10th,” added the mother of five who has lived here for many decades.
Since there is no night shelter, the farmers and their families have been left in the lurch.
An NGO called Aastha has set up a shelter in Mayur Vihar – 1 (Extension) but that is restricted only to men.
The caretaker of the 13-bed shelter said, “The men coming over here often misbehave after getting drunk. When we ask for documents, they misbehave.”
There is another shelter nearby but it has been running without electricity for the last two months.
The caretaker added, “There are two shelters here while another two are in Geeta Colony and Akshardham. We allow entry to people from anywhere provided they can produce an Aadhar card. We serve food two times a day as well as tea. People go out to work during day-time but return at night.”