Illegal structures razed; 3,000 homeless

Leaving 3,000 people without roofs over their heads and out in the cold, nearly 500 houses in Rangpuri Pahadi near Vasant Kunj were demolished on Tuesday as they were illegally constructed on Forest Department land.

The residents of Israil Camp, most of whom have odd jobs, had constructed single-storey buildings on this land several years ago. Though many of them admitted that they were staying there illegally, there were others who said that their housing was legitimate and even produced electricity bills, Aadhar cards and other proofs of identity with the Israil Camp address. “Look at our electricity meters and water pipelines. Why were we given these connections if we were living here illegally,” asked Sunita Yadav.

All the residents, however, said that the demolition was unexpected and they were not given any warning or enough time to remove their belongings from their homes. Residents were seen digging out household items, most of them damaged, from under the rubble on Wednesday.

The Forest Department, accompanied by a team of local police, had arrived with bulldozers on Tuesday afternoon and brought down the illegal buildings one after the other. A team representing affected residents on Wednesday accompanied Congress leader Sajjan Kumar and former legislator from the area Vijay Lochav to meet Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung over the issue.

Mohd Arif Saifi, one of the representatives, claimed that Jung had promised that there would be no nore eviction from the land till a plan for alternate residence was chalked out.

Some women and children, however, have not moved away from the land, hoping that intervention from political parties would enable them to continue staying there. BJP’s Sat Prakash Rana, the ex-MLA from the Bijwasan constituency under which the camp falls, was blamed by several affected residents for their plight.

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