CPI(M) Politburo member Brinda Karat has written to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal requesting him to ensure that the inhabitants of jhuggi clusters on railway land are relocated and rehabilitated and not just removed following the Supreme Court's directions for their eviction.
The Supreme Court has ordered the removal of over 48,000 jhuggis from the railway safety zone in Delhi. The South Delhi Municipal Corporation and the Railways have been asked to create an action plan within three months to evict illegal encroachments next to 140 km of railway tracks in the national capital.
"You are no doubt aware that the Delhi High Court in its judgement last year had directed that arrangements for rehabilitation must be made in the event of relocation being required," she said in the letter on Friday.
"It appears that since the jhuggi dwellers were not made parties before the Supreme Court, the bench may not have been aware of this Delhi High Court judgement. Otherwise it is difficult to understand how a three-member bench of the court could have given such an inhuman judgement, that too at a time of the pandemic," the letter said.
Ms Karat said as the Minister for Railways, Mr Goyal has the authority to make sure that "jhuggi dwellers are ensured relocation and rehabilitation before the order is implemented".
According to estimates given before the Court, approximately 48,000 jhuggi dwellings are to be removed which are estimated to be inhabited by approximately 2.5 to 3 lakh people including women and children, she said.
Evicting them at the time of the pandemic will lead to a health disaster, putting substantial numbers at grave risk, the Left party leader said.
"You are no doubt aware that at present Delhi is grappling with a second wave of the spread of the COVID-19. It will be highly irresponsible of the Railway Ministry to evict people at this time. Secondly, because of the lockdown, jhuggi dwellers have faced a huge drop in their meagre income and are already suffering. At such a time to turn them into homeless citizens would be an unconscionable act," she said.