In Razed Delhi Slum, A Baby Was Born Hours After the Bulldozers Left

A baby girl was born in Shakur Basti hours after 1,000 homes were razed in a demolition drive

New Delhi: Hours after a demolition squad razed 1,000 homes in a west Delhi slum, leaving families in the open in the rising cold, a baby was born under a tarpaulin sheet.

"She came into the world without a roof over her head...There were no clothes to swaddle her in," said a woman who helped her mother with the birth. An elderly woman was paid around Rs 3,000 to act as midwife.

The baby was born at around 1 am on Sunday, in a tent shared by five people, her parents and their two older sons, both below 5.

Hundreds at the slums in Shakur Basti are living practically in the open since Saturday, when the railway police razed their homes to make way for the construction of a terminal. Families only have plastic sheets and tarpaulin for protection.

The demolition in the middle of winter has triggered a massive controversy, with Delhi's Aam Aadmi Party government accusing the union railway ministry of launching a demolition drive without a warning.

Not far from where the baby was born, another family was mourning the death of a six-month-old baby, allegedly in the demolition chaos.

Little Rukaiya died when a bundle fell on her and smothered her when the family was trying to pack up their belongings before the demolition, says her father Anwar.

"There was a lot of confusion. My baby was sleeping. We packed our clothes in bundles and went into the other room. A bundle fell on her," said her father Mohammad Anwar, who has two more children, a daughter, 5, and son, 3.

Several families spent two nights in bitter cold before blankets were distributed this morning by an NGO.

On Monday, the Delhi High Court used strong words as it asked the railways, Centre and Delhi to explain the demolition and the measures taken to help the families left homeless.

"You really don't care about people, you just want to remove them. What was the tearing hurry to demolish the cluster in December?" the court asked the railways. The court has asked all senior officials of departments concerned to be present at the next hearing on Wednesday.

Among high profile visits to the razed colony were those of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

"Whenever a slum is about to be destroyed here, call Rahul Gandhi, he won't let this happen," Mr Gandhi told the residents.