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Slum Demolitions in Delhi since the 1990s: An Appraisal

The redevelopment and beautification of the capital for the making of a "world-class city" have entailed a heavy cost in terms of slum demolitions. A survey documenting the change of land use that has taken place on the sites of demolished slum clusters highlights the emerging processes and trends. Some of its findings question the stated principle of the Delhi slum policy, namely, the removal and relocation of squatter settlements only when the land is required to implement projects in the "larger public interest". The preparation for the 2010 Commonwealth Games further provides the urban authorities with an opportune context to "clean up" the city from its slums.

SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW july 12, 200879Slum Demolitions in Delhi since the 1990s : An AppraisalVéroniqueDupont Slum demolitions in Delhi and the new land use on the evacuated sites have been contributing to the restructuring of the urban space in the capital. This article focuses on the period starting in the beginning of the 1990s, marked by the opening and liberalisation of the Indian economy, till 2007. This context of globalisation and the aspiration of the capital city to become “a global metropolis and a world-class city” [DDA 2007: Introduc-tion] had a decisive impact on the direction followed to transform the land use and reshape the urban landscape. It was in 1990 that the government of Delhi adopted a “new” Delhi slum policy, which remains the general reference frame, reiterated inthe Master Plan for Delhi 2021, although the resettlement strategy for the evicted slum dwellers was challenged by recent court orders. In this context, significant features of the slum policy will be recalled in the first section. Our research aims at analysing the change of land use that has taken place on the sites of demolished slum settlements, and to find out whether any pattern may emerge. This will allow us to better appraise which sections of the popula-tion have benefited – or may benefit – from the “redevelopment” projects of the concerned areas, which sections have been excluded and which zones of the city were involved. Although one can find a few papers, which deal with slum demolitions and highlight revealing examples of new land use [Batra and Mehra 2006; Baviskar 2006], we did not find any systematic analysis of the land use patterns on demolished sites. Thus, our contribution is based on first-hand data collected through a methodical field survey, preceded by a critical assessment and analysis of the data available on slum settlements and their demolition. The term “slum” refers in this article to the locally called ‘jhuggi-jhompri’ (JJ) clusters, where the physical precariousness of housing and informal layout are combined to the precarious-ness of the occupancy status – or, in juridical terms, to the illegal-ity of the occupation of the land. For the planning authorities and the judiciary this signifies squatter settlements, i e, lands occupied and built upon without the permission of the landowning agency.1 Slum and Urban Policies Despite its initial stated good intention to integrate people with low incomes into the urban fabric [DDA 1957, 1962], the public policy of urban planning and housing implemented by the Delhi Development Authorities (DDA) failed to meet the demand of the poorest section of the population. Thus, the latter resorted to informal habitat, and had no option but to occupy vacant lands, essentially public land,1 where they self-constructed makeshift housing – or JJs. We have analysed elsewhere the discrepancy The redevelopment and beautification of the capital for the making of a “world-class city” have entailed a heavy cost in terms of slum demolitions. A survey documenting the change of land use that has taken place on the sites of demolished slum clusters highlights the emerging processes and trends. Some of its findings question the stated principle of the Delhi slum policy, namely, the removal and relocation of squatter settlements only when the land is required to implement projects in the “larger public interest”. The preparation for the 2010 Commonwealth Games further provides the urban authorities with an opportune context to “clean up” the city from its slums. The research presented in this paper is part of a collective programme of the French Centre de Sciences Humaines, New Delhi, and the Centre for Indian and South Asian Studies, Paris, entitled ‘Social Exclusion, Territories and Urban Policies’, funded by the French National Agency for Research. This work on slum demolitions was conceived and developed in close collaboration with Usha Ramanathan. The field survey would not have been possible without the assistance of Wrick Mitra, and the realisation of the maps without the contribution of Pierre Chapelet. A first version of this paper was presented to a workshop on ‘Territorial Integration and Exclusion: Impact of Urban Policies and Law’, organised by the Centre de Sciences Humaines at the India International Centre, New Delhi, on January 31 and February 1, 2008. The very valuable comments of Marie-Hélène Zérah helped me in revising this draft. All other disclaimers apply. VéroniqueDupont ( is with the Institute of Research for Development, Paris.
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW july 12, 200881In 2000, the cut-off date and eligibility criterion for resettle-ment was extended from January 1990 to December 1998 (on the basis of the ration card), while introducing a differentiation in the size of the allocated plot: 18 sq m to pre-1990 squatter families, and 12.5 sq m to families possessing ration cards post-January 1990 up to December 1998. This differential criterion has impor-tant consequences that will be evoked in the next section. An additional point that deserves mention is the consideration of the “larger public interest” to justify the removal of squatter settlements and the implementation of projects on the land cleared thus. Our survey of the demolishedJJ sites will question this stated rationale.1.2 Intervention of the JudiciaryDespite the fact that the Delhi slum policy evinced some concern in protecting squatters’ interests – or at least introduced some conditions to their eviction – the intervention by the judiciary in the last decade or so has undermined the policy to a large extent. As shown elsewhere [Ramanathan 2005, 2006; Dupont and Ramanathan forthcoming] some key judgments, in the Almitra Patel case (2000)5 and the Okhla Factory Owners’ Association case (2002),6 deny the obligation of the state to provide resettle-ment alternatives to the evicted families. In many cases the intervention of the courts was a response to petitioners representing the interests of industrialists or welfare resident associations, or, more generally of upper and middle income groups, who put forward environmental and sanitation considerations through public interest litigation (PIL), thus exacerbating the antagonism between the housing needs for the poor and the aspiration for a “clean and green” Delhi. The displayed slogan “Clean Delhi-Green Delhi”7 is a reminder of the precedence of the “green agenda” over the “brown agenda”8 in the capital, since “cleaning” the city also involves “slum clear-ance” and thus “cleaning up” the city from its slums and from slum-dwellers.9 The massive evictions along the banks of the Yamuna river (the Yamuna Pushta slum clusters), where the argument of polluting the river was utilised by the Delhi High Court to justify the removal of all slum clusters (last order of March 3, 2003),10 exemplify this antagonism. As underlined by a joint urgent action appeal by the Habitat International Coalition-Housing and Land Rights Network (HIC-HLRC) and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), this “ignored available evidence from a report on pollution by Hazard Centre,11 which pointed out that the total discharge from the 3,00,000 residents of Yamuna Pushta accounted only for 0.33 per cent of the total sewage released into the river”.12 Whilst these figures would need further scrutinising, there is clearly a lack of reliable data to inform the debates and the court’s decisions. The rise of the environmentalists on the scene of urban gov-ernance involves activism and discourses, which are neither class neutral nor politically neutral. Thus, Baviskar (2002: 41) denounces “the increasing powerful presence of bourgeois envi-ronmentalism as an ideology shaping the landscapes” – espe-cially, the urban ones, while Williams and Mawdsley (2006) question the postcolonial environmental justice in India and Mawdsley (2006) further highlights from a broader perspective the parallels between the discourses of the Hindu right and those of “neo-traditionalist environmentalists” in contemporary India. 1.3 TheEconomicRationalePractically all the resettlement colonies that were developed since the 1960s for relocating the inhabitants of the old city slums and demolished squatter settlements were situated, at the time of the installation of the initial group of occupants, on the periphery of the urban agglomeration (Map 1). Most resettlement colonies developed in the last 10 years are located even further away than the previous resettlement sites, in the rural-urban fringe of Delhi, up to 30 kms from the city centre (Map 2, p 82). The economic rationale for the demolition of slums and their relocation in distant peripheral zones is that the value of the land occupied by the JJ clusters in the city is much higher than that in the relocation sites. In the making of Delhi into a world-class city, especially with the perspective of the 2010 edition of the Commonwealth Games to be hosted by Delhi,13 even unclaimed spaces that were squatted by the poor have become prime land, “ripe for devel-opment” [Baviskar 2006]. This is, for instance, the case of the Yamuna Pushta slums clusters settled in the floodplain area of the riverbed. A study by the Centre for Urban and Regional Excellence [Khosla and Jha 2005] has undertaken a benefit-cost analysis to question the economic rationale of demolition and relocation of the poor informal settlements. The main arguments and factors taken into account in this revealing analysis are as follows:The major benefit of resettlement to the local government and city economy is the economic value of evacuated land. Evacuated land can be used for development projects such as hospitals, industrial units, etc, which in turn, generate employment and value addition to the city Table 1: Evolution in the Number and the Population of JJ Clusters – Squatter Settlements – in Delhi from 1951 to 1998 J J Clusters (1) Delhi Urban Population Agglomeration(2)ofYear No of No of Estimated Annual Ten-Year Population Ten-Year JJ Clusters/ JJClustersHousingPopulationAverageGrowth GrowthTotal Urban Units (or (No of Growth Rate of the Rate of the Population Households) Households Rate of the Population Population (%) X 5) Population (%) (%) (%) 1951 199 12,749 63,745 14,37,134 106.6 4.41956 22,415 1,12,075 11.95 1961 42,815 2,14,075 13.82 235 23,59,408 64.2 9.11966 42,668 2,13,340 -0.07 1971 62,594 3,12,970 7.97 46 36,47,023 54.6 8.61973 1,373 98,483 4,92,415 25.43 1977 20,000 1,00,000 -32.87 1981 98,709 4,93,545 49.05 130 57,29,283 57.1 8.61983 113,386 5,66,930 7.18 1985 400 1,50,000 7,50,000 15.02 1986 2,00,000 10,00,000 33.33 1987 2,25,000 11,25,000 12.50 1990 929 2,59,929 1,299,645 4.93 1991 15,51,776* 16.63 214 84,19,084 46.9 18.41994 1,080 4,80,929 24,04,645 16.63 1998 1,100 6,00,000 30,00,000 5.69 1,12,82,000* 27* Own estimation.Source: Compiled from the data of – (1) Slum and jhuggi-jhompri department and food and civil supplies department, Municipal Corporation of Delhi; 1990 (January) and 1994 (March): based on direct surveys; (2) Census of the Population 1951, 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991.
No of squatter families relocated No of demolition sites
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW july 12, 200885his grand plan of development and beautification of the Yamuna river front, whose prerequisite was the clearance of the area from its “encroachments”. As for the second demolition peak in 2006-07, it also affected the slum clusters in the Yamuna embank-ment area (Map 3, p 84) and corresponds to a momentum in the preparation of the capital for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, including the construction of the Games Village in the Yamuna riverbed, despite vehement protests from the environmentalists,18 as the riverbed is a floodplain area and groundwater recharge zone. Although demolitions of slums occurred in the entire urban area, as shown in Map 3, the larger demolition operations – in addition to the embankments of the Yamuna river – affected especially the central and southern zones of the urban agglom-eration as well as the airport vicinity, where the reconstruction of the capital has been more conspicuous. The map further evidences the long distances between the demolished clusters and the resettlement sites. 3 The Survey of Demolished Jhuggi-Jhompri Sites 3.1 MethodologyThe list of demolishedJJ clusters, established by the slum and JJ department of MCD, was used as the sampling frame for our survey, which was conducted in May and June 2007. All the sites of the larger demolished clusters according to this list (i e, with above 1,000 families officially relocated) were covered by the survey, and are shown in Map 3. These 19 sites,outof217inthe list, account for half of the total number of relocated families over the period 1990-2007. Then, the sites of a sample of demolished clusters of between 250 and 1,000 relocated families were surveyed. In order to improve the representativeness of the sample, and optimise the fieldwork visits and moves, the sites of the smaller clusters in the vicinity of the larger ones were also covered. The findings of this article rely on data collected on a total sample of 67 sites, that represents 31 per cent of all sites and accounts for 62 per cent of the total number of relocated families (Table 3). 3.2 PreliminaryFindingsThe survey of 67 demolition sites, although not rigorously representa-tive – statistically – of the 217 JJ clusters/sub-clusters demolished from 1990 to 2007, provides revealing insights on the change in land use (Table 4, p 84), and points out emerging processes and trends. The first striking point is the number of vacant sites, where no development project has been undertaken till mid-2007. This may be expected when the demolitions occurred recently; in such cases a follow-up survey of the concerned sites would be required. Nonetheless, if we exclude the sites evacuated during the last three years, we still found 26 vacant sites in the sample of 56 sites where JJ clusters were demolished between 1990 and March 2004. When the site is not redeveloped for several years, it is no surprise to find that it has attracted new hutments, sometimes expanding into newJJ clusters which were again demolished during new clearance operations,19 or sometimes irregular shops, unless it has become a dumping ground with rubbles from the demolished structures or a junkyard. As reported by local inform-ants near the previousJJ clusters, and verified in a few cases by direct observations, evicted families who were not eligible for resettlement have scattered in other JJ clusters, formed new squat-ter settlements in the vicinity, or may come back after some time on the same site. A survey on spatial mobility conducted in differ-ent zones of Delhi in 1995, including in several slums, evidenced a process of repeated forced mobility endured by groups of slum-dwellers from one squatter settlement to the other [Dupont and Sidhu 2000]. This shows how the destruction of slums without adequate rehabilitation leads to the creation of new squatter settlements or the densification of existing nearby slum clusters. The second emerging trend from the land use typology of the demolishedJJ clusters’ sites is the significance of conversions into parks and green areas.20 This provides another illustration of the priority given to a “clean-green-beautiful” vision of the city at the expense of satisfying the right to housing of the poor. The remaining categories “under construction” and “built” do not represent the majority of the evacuated sites, even after excluding the most recent demolition sites where planned development – if any – may start later (in the sample of sites cleared before April 2004, 16 sites out of 56 were built or under construction). The type of constructions completed or under way highlights some expected results as regards the restructuring of the capital:JJ clusters were demolished to build flats21 and office complexes,22 commercial centres/shopping malls,23 petrol pumps/NCG stations, community or civic centres or new roads;24 on the other hand, only one case of school construction was found in the sample. An additional factor for the demolition of some JJ clusters is the proximity – and not necessarily the exact site – of new construction projects: near a metro line or a metro station, or a proposed five star hotel.25 The change of land use which is taking place in the entire zone along the bank of the Yamuna river deserves a special mention, due to the large-scale evictions that have affected the slum clusters of this area (Map 3) and to the coming up of controversial projects. While, on the one hand, the slums were demolished following a Delhi High Court order on the grounds that, firstly, they constituted encroachment on the riverbed and secondly, were polluting the river (as commented above), on the other, many other unauthorised constructions which should have been also affected by the court order, were protected from demolition. This anti-poor bias and pro-powerful preferential treatment was denounced by several activists and researchers,26 who listed the illegal structures already built or under construction in the same non-urbanisable zone: the secretariat of the GNCTD, the metro depot by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), the metro police station, an IT park at Shastri Park by DMRC-GNCTD, the Akshardham temple, and the Commonwealth Games Village. ConclusionsSlum clearance for the redevelopment and beautification of the capital has often resulted in pushing further away the unwanted slums, without solving the issues of adequate shelter for the poor. Moreover, since slum demolitions entail the destruction of invest-ments made by the poor for their housing and improving their micro-environment, they systematically impoverish the affected families. When demolitions are recurrent, they jeopardise the
SPECIAL ARTICLEjuly 12, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly86efforts of slum dwellers to improve their conditions, maintain them in a poverty trap and lead to a pauperisation process. They also create a general context that discourages slum-dwellers to invest in their housing, and may result in more and more precari-ous squatter settlements and increased homelessness. The sites of JJ clusters, still vacant several years after their demolition, question the stated principle of the Delhi slum clear-ance policy, namely the removal and relocation of squatter settlements only when the land is required to implement projects in the larger public interest. This could also expose the incapacity of the landowning agency to implement its project, and more generally, a failure of urban redevelopment policy and governance, unless it merely evidences the agenda of “cleaning up” the city from its slums. Furthermore, when rubbles and debris from the demolished settlements are still visible, this contradicts the objective of beautifying the city, as if the priority was the clearance of slum-dwellers, or, in other words, pushing the poor out of sight. With the preparation of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, a replica of the urban restructuring process that marked the prepa-ration of the 1982 Asian Games [Dupont and Ramanathan 2007] is at work in the capital, including the construction of modern infrastructure and beautification campaigns with similar effects on slum demolitions. “Crusades to clean up the city” [Davis 2006: 104] on the eve of international events seem to be a leitmotiv for urban authorities in other third world cities too, be it – among the most recent sporting examples – the preparation of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing27 or the 2010 Soccer World Cup in Johannesburg [Bénit-Gbaffou forthcoming]. Everywhere, the access of the poor to urban space remains the larger issue at stake. The Delhi slum policy implemented since the 1990s has provided only ad hoc and inadequate solutions, which were moreover superseded by the intervention of the judiciary, whereas the lack of updated and reliable data on the slum population does not permit proper planning in order to tackle the problem of housing shortage at its roots. Notes 1 On the basis of data compiled from the slum and jhuggi-jhompri department of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), the report of the Delhi Urban Environment and Infrastructure Improvement Project (DUEIIP) provides the following distribution for the year 1994: 83.7 per cent of the land occupied by squatter settlements was owned by DDA, 15.7 per cent by other public landowning agencies, and only 0.6 per cent by private owners [DUEIIP 2001: chapter 6, p 10]. 2 We found different estimates regarding the percentage of urban land occupied by the jhuggi-jhompri clusters, but all of them underline the extreme inequity of the land distribution in the capital, at the expenses of the slum-dwellers, in similar disproportions. The DUEIIP report (2001) quotes the following figures for 1994: a popula-tion of more than two millions living in jhuggi-jhompri clusters that occupy 902.36 hectares of land, thus representing only 1.45 per cent of the total area of the urban agglomeration of Delhi (62,428 hectares as per the 1991 Census). Accord-ing to Dewan Verma (2002: 73): “In Delhi […] jhuggis accommodate 20 to 30 lakh people and occupy about 4,000 hectares (almost all of it government land) out of approximately 70,000 hectares meant to be urbanised for a population of 120 lakhs as per the provisions of the 1990 Master Plan”. Kundu (2004: 267) proposes another estimate for 2,000: “The total land occupied by the [three million people living in slum] would, however, come to less than 10 km2, around 3 per cent of the total residential area in urban Delhi.” 3 DDA is under the purview of the union ministry of urban development, but it is the slum and jhuggi-jhompri department in the MCD which is in charge of the implementation of this slum policy. 4 Up to 2006, in situ upgradation was undertaken in three JJ clusters (covering 784 families); another larger project covering 4,800 families is also reported as completed [GNCTD 2006-07: 114]. 5 A public interest litigation (PIL) dealing initially with solid waste disposal in Delhi, that eventually resulted in Supreme Court orders directed at cleaning up the city not only in terms of its garbage, but also its slums: Almitra Patel vs Union of India, Supreme Court Cases, 2000, Vol 2, pp 679-90; Almitra H Patel vs Union of India, Supreme Court Cases, 2000, Vol 8, pp 19-22. 6 A PIL dealing with the removal and relocation of slum-dwellers squatting on government land, where the court eventually examined “the legality, validity and propriety” of the resettlement policy that was implemented by the Delhi government: Okhla Factory Owners’ Association vs Govern-ment of NCT of Delhi (Delhi High Court, 2002), Cf, Delhi Law Times, 2003, Vol 108, p 517. 7 For instance, on a huge portico – along with the slogan “DDA marches ahead”– on the road to the newly developed peripheral Narela sub-city that houses a large resettlement colony and a new industrial zone where industrial units banned from the Delhi city area were relocated.8 The “green agenda” refers to those speaking in the name of environment and giving priority to ecological issues in the long term, and the “brown agenda” to those articulating the issues in terms of social justice and satisfying the immediate needs of the poor, in particular in relation to their rights to housing [Bartone et al 1994; McGrana-han and Satterthwaite 2000]. 9 Cf Almitra Patel vs Union of India and the analysis of this case in Dupont and Ramanathan (2007). 10 The same argument is found again in the recom-mendations of the committee under secretary (urban development), ministry of urban develop-ment, government of India, for Yamuna Action Plan (2004), in its Section 5 on ‘Slum Cluster and Yamuna River Bed’, which is annexed to the Chapter 9 on ‘Environment’ of the Delhi Master Plan for 2021: “One of the contributory factors to the flow of untreated sewage into the river Yamuna is the slum clusters that have come up unauthoris-edly on both eastern and western banks of river Yamuna. Local bodies have already removed several JJ clusters existing on the western bank. Such clusters need to be cleared from riverbed.” 11 ‘Pollution, Pushta, and Prejudices’, Hazard Centre, 2004, 12 OMCT/HIC-HLRN, Joint Urgent Action Appeal, “Over 3,00,000 people to be forcefully evicted from Yamuna Pushta in Delhi: 40,000 homes demolished so far”, Case IND-FE050504, Delhi, Geneva, Cairo, May 5, 2004. 13 Delhi won the bid to host the 2010 edition of the Commonwealth Games in November 2003.14 See for example the study conducted by the NGO Jagori in the Bawana resettlement colony (Menon-Sen 2006, and research findings on the web site:, or the survey conducted in 2003 by the National Insti-tute of Urban Affairs in five relocation sites – Narela, Bhalaswa, Holumbikalan, Bakarwala, Molarbund [Dhar 2004]. 15 In the Economic Survey of Delhi – 2005-06, Table 14.2 on ‘Public Land Encroachment by JJ Clusters’ (p 358) and Table 14.3 on the ‘Break up of J J clusters as per number of households’ (p 359), the only tables to provide figures on the number of JJ clusters and their population refer to the situation in 1990 and 1994. We found a word of caution regarding the non-updated estimates of the J J clusters population only in the Socio Economic Profile of Delhi 2005-06: “No doubt, a number of clusters have since [1994] been shifted under the scheme of ‘Relocation of Squatters’, but no fresh survey/assessment to ascertain the number of clusters has since been conducted.” All the above-mentioned documents are availa-ble on the official web site of the Planning Department of the GNCTD: http://www.delhip-lanning.nic.in16 In her detailed critique of Chapter 6 – Urban Poor and Slum – of the City Development Plan (CDP) of Delhi, Khosla (2007: 10) also underlines data inconsistencies: “Data sources for slums and poverty used in the CDP are old, confusing and not well triangulated”.17 For instance, according to some non-governmental organisations’ (NGOs) estimates, the demolition of the Yamuna Pushta slum clusters in 2004 is reported to have affected about 27,000 families, of whom “less than 20 per cent” would have been allotted alternative plots (quoted in a paper posted on the web site of India Resource Centre) [Adve 2004].18 Such as Ravi Aggarwal ofToxics Link and Vimal-endu Jha of We for Yamuna[Sethi 2005]. 19 For instance: civic centre–Minto Road JJ cluster demolished in 1992-92 and in 2004-05, Bara Pulla JJ cluster in Nizamuddin demolished in 1995-96 and again in 2001-02.20 This pattern was also noted by Khosla (2007: 12, referring to the study by Khosla and Jha 2005). Batra and Mehra (2006) mention too a couple of revealing examples of slum clusters cleared “to make way for ‘a spiritual park’” in Nehru Place district or, in the west colony of Vikas Puri, “a neighbourhood park for middle class residents of the colony”.21 Raghubir Nagar, Durga basti.22 DIZ area-Gole Market, Rajiv Gandhi Camp near CGO Complex, Andrews Ganj.23 Shaheed Arjun Dass Camp.24Gautam Nagar behind All-India Institute for Medical Sciences; on the embankments of the Yamuna river.25 Bannuwal Nagar in north-west Delhi, a case quoted by Batra and Mehra (2006).26See, among others: OMCT/HIC-HLRN Joint Urgent Action Appeal (2004), Adve (2004),

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