NEW DELHI: The demolition of 500 jhuggis in Shakur Basti on Saturday, which allegedly led to the death of a six-month-old child, has sparked another row between Delhi government and the Centre. Delhi government has alleged that the Railways decided to go ahead with the demolition without keeping it in the loop.

On Sunday, CM Arvind Kejriwal suspended two SDMs and one superintending engineer for not reacting on time even as the Delhi division of the Northern Railway razed the slums. The CM also apprised Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu of the matter and subsequently met senior railways officials to discuss Saturday night’s action.

“Can Railways deny that the child died of injuries after rods fell on her? The government has ordered an SDM enquiry into the cause of the child’s death, who is responsible for it and also on whose orders the jhuggis were broken,” said AAP MLA and PWD minister Satyendar Jain, responding to the Railways’ claim that the child died on Saturday morning, much before the demolition drive even started.

Kejriwal visited the demolition site around midnight and stayed there till about 2am. His party held the BJP-led central government responsible for selective demolitions, saying that the timing of the drive was questionable. “Railways under Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose one of the coldest days of the season to carry out this illegal demolition drive. AAP holds the Centre responsible for the death of an innocent girl in the drive. The Special Provisions Act makes it mandatory to make rehabilitation arrangements in advance before any such drive, but the Railways did nothing,” said AAP member Kumar Vishwas.

The government put out a letter that the CM had written to the railway minister on December 1, drawing his attention to the need to rehabilitate JJ dwellers on railway land. Criticising the department’s action, a senior government official said, “This is against the provisions of the extant Slum and J J Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy of Delhi government. This demolition is also against the decisions taken in the meetings held under the chairmanship of the Delhi CM in May and September this year. The matter was also taken up with the railway minister through letters written on September 28.”

Drawing attention to his previous letter on the new Delhi Slum Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2015, Arvind Kejriwal said in his December 1 letter: “I would like to bring to your attention that a matter regarding shifting of six JJ clusters falling in the safety zone (15m on both sides of a railway track) in the seven-km seriously affected stretch in Delhi is pending in the green tribunal. Principal secretary Urban development has convened two meetings on the issue to sort out the matter… Accordingly, I would also like to impress upon you to get the matter regarding rehabilitation of JJ dwellers squatting in the safety zone examined on priority.”

Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), which the Railways claimed was aware of the drive, said that it had received no official intimation of the demolition action. “No survey was carried out, no rehabilitation plan was prepared for the JJ dwellers. The Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy envisages that jhuggis will not be demolished without rehabilitation of eligible JJ dwellers. Whether JJ dwellers are eligible for rehabilitation can only be ascertained after the joint survey and eligibility determination by DUSIB and land-owing agency, which in this case is Railways. In this case no such survey was conducted. DUSIB was not even informed about this demolition,” said DUSIB CEO V K Jain.

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Source: TOI-Delhi