It was a bitterly cold Sunday morning when hundreds of slum dwellers in West Delhi's Shakur Basti got a taste of the government's brute force. Railway police personnel swooped on the slum, demolishing homes to make way for a terminal.
Union Minister for Urban Development and Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Venkaiah Naidu, said the demolition should not have happened during the winter, and has conveyed his displeasure to the railway minister, Suresh Prabhu. Meanwhile, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has assured all kinds of help to the residents.
Proponents of economic development support such demolitions. They can say that most of these slums are illegal. However, they sometimes forget that even their drivers, maids, security guards and garbage collectors may live in such colonies, and an incident like this disrupts everybody's lives.
There are many important sociological questions to be answered: Who are these people? Why did they come here? What are our politicians doing for them?
The answer is that they reside on the margins, have no future plans and live under constant fear of eviction, without basic facilities.
About 217 slums were demolished in Delhi between 1990 and 2007, affecting thousands. The worse part is that there is no record of people being resettled.
In the last few years, there have been major eviction drives, which escalated ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
If governments are serious, then there are enough successful models to follow when it comes to evicting and rehabilitating slum dwellers. They need to look no further than Mumbai's Dharavi for inspiration.
But the trouble is exactly that - can the authorities be relied upon to do a proper job? Slum dwellers certainly don't think so - they will any day trust an NGO rather than the government.
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