People of the Lakkarpur- khori village face a difficult time after the Faridabad Municipal Corporation demolished around 300 illegal houses rendering the residents homeless
Amid the surging cases of Covid- 19 pandemic and rising temperatures, hundreds of families have been rendered homeless as the Faridabad Municipal Corporation demolished as many as 300 illegal construction in Khori village on Surajkund road in Faridabad. These settlements were located on around 90-acre land of the state forest department, tourist department and Faridabad municipal corporation.
And this is not the first time. In September 2020, when the country was slowly reopening after the stringent lockdowns, civic bodies came into action following the February 2020 direction of the Court. They razed around 1,200 residential constructions in Lakkarpur- khori village located in Aravali forest. Which residents claimed was done without any prior notice.
Now again the municipal corporation has undertaken a demolition drive at the same location. Talking to the Patriot, Manju, a resident of khori gaon said, “Everyone was saying Coronavirus is there, so wash your hands, but the government rubbed us in the soil”. Manju has 2 sons — the elder is in college and the younger one is in 12th standard and a 9-year- old daughter.
“Whatever we had, we invested in re-building a temporary structure, we had no place to go now. They came again and destroyed everything. We are struggling for our expenses.”
Another resident Shanti said, “We don’t have shelter over our head, and this is a forest area. How safe we are here, how long will males of our families stand guard at nights after coming from a long day of their job. TV, cooler, everything is in the open, thieves can easily steal anything.”
Residents claimed that they bought land here and gave money to police and other officers, despite that they are being evicted. “Nobody here came overnight, people are living here for more than 10 years — I have been living here since 2004, some are living here since 2001, 2002. For many years nothing happened, but in the last six month they demolished our basti twice. Where should we go.” said Samsher.
“Government is not listening to us. People lost jobs, pandemic is on. But for the government, evicting us is most important?”
The Supreme court, in February 2020 directed the Municipal corporation to evict land notified under section 4 & 5 of Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA). The law initially applicable in Punjab was later extended to Haryana.
As per the act, “Areas of northern Haryana along the Shivalik hills which are prone to soil erosion due to water flow in the rugged and sloppy terrain and areas of southern and western Haryana which are prone to erosion both by air and water have been put under restriction of certain activities under this law.”
Since land is ecologically sensitive, it is required that no human settlement takes place on that land. However, it is important to note the manner in which eviction was done. Nirmal Gorana, social activist associated with Bandhua Mukti Morcha said “The MC razed another 300 houses of the poor without issuing any notice. The MC demolished these houses in spite of the fact that a case related to it is pending in the High Court.”
As per media reports, so far 17 hundred illegal construction has been razed and it will go on. To make demolition peaceful, around 2,000 police personnel were deployed and the whole area of Khori village was cordoned off while the drive was carried out.
Villagers are protesting against it. They say that “at least let us live here till pandemic ends”. A group of villagers protested on 5 april outside mini-secretariat in Faridabad and demanded that cut off date for rehabilitation under Haryana Government’s own slum rehabilitation act from 2003 to 2015.
An official from the municipal council told us, “many people built houses in recent 5-8 years. Even when they knew land is sensitive.”
However, it is a mystery how thousands of people settled in Khori village over the years — built structures, houses, temples. Residents claim that they bribed police personnels, and other officials for allowing them to build houses. Even when environmental activists were pointing out the illegal settlements occuring in the region from time to time. And now demolition drives make them feel cheated.
But Most importantly, many of these families are labourers and daily wagers.
In September, when a Supreme Court order said to clear 48,000 slums by Delhi tracks, it created huge buzz. Later, the central government interfered and told the top court that no action will be taken. In Faridabad, which comes under NCR region demolition was done, following a separate court order.
“We hoped our village would come in the Delhi region, because their government is not demolishing houses. But here this government is not listening to our plight.” said Anju, wiping her tears.