Kanpur Dehat Demolition Deaths Point to the Urgency of Restraining Bulldozer Overdrive

demolition deaths

The extremely cruel deaths of a mother and her daughter in the course of a demolition drive in Marauli village of Kanpur Dehat ( Uttar Pradesh) has disturbed the conscience of even those people who normally remain silent on such injustices against the poor, and condemnations have been coming in from far and wide. Reports have pointed out how demolitions continued even after fire in the hut had started, instead of efforts being made to save the victims. The victims burnt to death in the presence of bulldozing officials, crew and police. The extremely insensitive role of senior administrative officials has been strongly condemned, although official action may be confined to mildly punishing only those at the lower levels. The victim family had suffered even earlier from insensitive actions of the administration, but instead of any remedial action being taken, the worst possible cruelty was further inflicted on this family, one possible reason being this this family had protested against corruption and injustice in the administration’s handling of this situation.

In addition several demolitions in Delhi have also been widely criticized. One of these relates to the demolition of a night shelter for homeless people in Sarai Kaale Khan area. Homeless people seek shelter in night shelters, so where will they go if even the limited number of night shelters that exist in our cities start getting demolished. If the authorities had any problem with the existing shelter, they could have sorted this out with those managing the shelter, or else they could have first provided an alternative shelter before demolishing this one. Hopefully, with the intervention of courts, alternative shelter will be provided soon.

Then there is also the issue of recent demolitions in Mehrauli area of Delhi where middle class families have been affected too, families which had already invested their life’s a savings to get this accommodation and just cannot afford a new house. These demolitions show that once bulldozers go into overdrive, these can harm anyone, although the weaker and poorer sections are always likely to be their first victims.

The biggest struggle of poor and middle class urban households is to somehow arrange a shelter in more or less secure conditions. When after arranging a shelter using all their limited means they are confronted with bulldozers, then this can not only create an immediate threat of losing their shelter but in addition this can also leave permanent scars on their life. Hence as far as possible demolitions should be avoided, and when in some extreme cases, for safety or other genuine reasons, demolitions need to be carried out to a limited extent, then alternative satisfactory accommodation should be provided before the eviction. This is the policy framework for deciding with justice in all such situations, whether in Delhi or Kanpur or Haldwani or Chandigarh.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children, Planet in Peril and A Day in 2071.

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