A fresh confrontation between Delhi government and the Centre has erupted after Railway officials demolished over 1200 slum units in West Delhi’s Shakur Basti to clear “encroachments”.
The residents alleged that a six-month-old baby died during the eviction and that they did not receive any prior notice. On the other hand, Railway officials claimed that the baby had died two hours before the illegal slums were razed to the ground and that 3 legal notices were sent to the slum dwellers to vacate.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal slammed the Railway police for carrying out the eviction in such cold weather. He immediately suspended two Sub-Divisional Magistrates and another senior official for “failing to arrange” food and shelter for those evicted. Kejriwal also wanted a murder case registered when he visited the area late on Saturday evening.
The demolition was carried out on Saturday afternoon as the Railways insisted that it was necessary to clear the “encroachments”.
Delhi Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Arun Arora told a press conference in Delhi that the child’s death had no connection with the removal of encroachments which had become a “risk” for train operations as the slums were within the 15-metre of safety zone.
“There is a need for constructing additional platforms, repairing yard, washing line, maintenance facility and office space for store and engineering division so that more long distance and local trains can be handled at the Shakur Basti station,” another railway official said.
“It (baby’s death) had nothing to do with removal of encroachments which started at around 1200 hours… When police, RPF and railway officials gathered at the site it was noticed that the death of a child had occurred in one of the jhuggies at around 10 am,” the Railways said in a statement.
When Kejriwal met the slum dwellers late on Saturday night, he ordered officials to immediately provide blankets and food to those who were rendered homeless.
“A child has died here. It is a very sad thing and I think that a murder case should be registered against the officers. Compensation will be taken from them. It should be deducted from the salaries of the officers who have conducted these raids,” an outraged CM said.
“Railways have demolished 500 shanties in this extreme cold. One child has died. God will never forgive them. Had instructed the local SDM to arrange for food and shelter. They did not arrange the same, so have suspended them,” said the CM in a series of tweets before visiting the site.
Union Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu was not “aware of this operation. He was also shocked,” claimed Kejriwal.
Other AAP leaders also hit out at the Railways and questioned the timing of its demolition drive which rendered “several homeless on a cold day”.
Meanwhile, the Opposition in Delhi attacked the AAP government over the incident.
“It is shameful. Alternative arrangements should have been made before removing them. They were living there for two decades. When the Congress was in power, we never did this….It is shameful that both the Centre and the Delhi Chief Minister could not prevent it,” said Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken.
(With inputs from PTI)