‘They reduced people’s lives to merely an aerial photograph from a drone’

 “Diwali is a festival of happiness, but for the people of Khori, it was a time when the government forced them into poverty,” says Vimal bhai, an activist who advocates for the rights of displaced residents of Khori gaon in the outskirts of Delhi.

By Swati Thapa, The Citizen

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While many are still struggling with the shock of the mismanaged pandemic and economy, the brunt of which has hit the working class, another financial need has arisen for the people of Khori. They have been promised a flat in the Dabua colony, but in order to acquire one each family must pay 3 lakh rupees in installments. Within 15 days of receiving the flat, a lump sum payment of Rs 17,000 must be made, followed by a monthly installment of Rs 2,500 for a period of 15 years.

The government pledged compensation of 2,000 rupees to rent a place to stay while these flats were being prepared, but no one has yet received that sum. They are still living in improvised camps because they have no other choice.

Meanwhile, the site of their former homes is now being cleared of debris, with JCB excavators stationed here every day.

Despite the fact that the government has on paper provided another alternative for living – for a fee – the status of Dabua is appalling. With filth everywhere and animals scavenging through, it is uninhabitable for a decent standard of living.

People here lit diyas in the ruins of their family homes, which have been reduced to rubble. After the court-ordered demolitions of the past few weeks, the displaced gathered to celebrate Diwali in the spirit of fighting for their rights.