03/16/2023, 18.00
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NGO accuses Delhi of demolishing homeless shelters ahead of G20

Local activist Sunil Kumar Aledia turned to the capital's High Court, unsuccessfully, for the shelters were torn down before the court could rule. A letter sent by the Delhi government to the agency tasked with the demolitions states that removing beggars was necessary for the upcoming G20 summit and visiting world leaders.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – At least eight night shelters for the homeless were demolished last week in New Delhi, the Indian capital, in order “to beautify the city" ahead of the G20 summit next September, this according to local activists.

“After working all day, we return here to rest and sleep,” said Trivedi, originally from Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh) who makes a living by doing odd jobs. “These shelters gave us a feeling of home.”

Last Friday, bulldozers moved into the Yamuna Pushta area, along the banks of the Yamuna River, near the Inter-State Bus Terminus, leaving thousands without a roof.

For Sunil Kumar Aledia, who runs an organisation called the Centre for Holistic Development, the government "wants to take G20 delegates on a visit to the Yamuna Pushta site.” For this reason, “these poor people are being removed.”

The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), which carried out the demolitions, is responsible for civic amenities and informal settlements, and is part of the Delhi National Territory administration, currently ruled by the Aam Aadmi Party.

Agency officials said they knew nothing about the G20 summit, while occupants of the night shelters said they did not receive any advance notice.

“They came along with 200 police personnel and demolished the shelters in the blink of an eye,” said Sharda Sharma, a 49-year-old woman who said that she has lived in Yamuna Pushta for decades.

Back on 15 December, the Delhi government ordered DUSIB to evict beggars around the bus terminal. “This exercise (the eviction) is necessitated in view [of] the meetings of [the] G20 Summit,” raid the order, which Scroll, an Indian digital news publication, says it has seen.

On 9 March, activist Sunil Kumar Aledia, on behalf of one of the local beggars, turned to the Delhi High Court asking that the shelters not be demolished.

DUSIB responded saying that the night shelters were temporary structures and that the occupants would be relocated to permanent shelters.

The court decided to allow the petitioner’s counsel to inspect the newly built shelters and report back on 14 March.

In their report, the occupants’ lawyers said that the alternative shelters were not new, that they were far away, and that they were already occupied.

In any event, the demolitions took place before the court reconvened; in the end, the latter dismissed the petition.

According to Aledia, the demolished shelters were used by up to 5,000 people. And many of their occupants are still struck on the riverbanks.

Some also complain that they were beaten by police when they tried to prevent the demolition.

Since then, "Every now and then, they come with buses and remove us by force," said Jairam Trivedi. "Then they drop us in the middle of nowhere.”

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