Fresh confrontation between Delhi and Centre over demolition

New Delhi, Dec 14: A fresh confrontation between the Delhi government and the Centre erupted on Sunday over demolition of a slum cluster by railways here and death of a baby at the site, with an angry Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal protesting and moving to get the officials concerned booked for murder.

The Delhi government ordered a magisterial probe into the demolition of 1200 slum units at Shakur Basti in West Delhi and planned to move court seeking FIR against those who ordered the action citing the Special Provision Act according to which no demolition can be carried out until government needs land urgently.

aap, delhi, demolition, death, railways, centre, arvind kejriwal

The railways, on its part, said the removal of "fresh encroachment" was necessary for expanding the infrastructure and that the action had been taken after three notices, the first one with the March 14, 2015 deadline.

A six-month-old baby died in one of the slum units, which the railways insisted had "nothing to do with removal of encroachments", claiming that it occurred two hours before the demolition started at 12 pm. Police said prima facie the baby died due to suffocation after a heap of clothes fell on it when the parents were preparing to clear out of the jhuggi and hence no case was registered.

Kejriwal, while slamming the railways, suspended two Sub-Divisional Magistrates and a superintendent engineer for "failing to arrange" food and shelter for those evicted.

As the controversy broke out, Delhi Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Arun Arora told a press conference here that encroachments had become a "risk" for train operations as the slums were within the 15-metre of safety zone. He said the National Green Tribunal had also ordered that the tracks should be cleared of solid waste and to ensure this the railways had to "remove the source".

Arora said the slum dwellers were given first notice for vacating the land by March 14, 2015. However, the demolition could not be undertaken then because police could not provide assistance then, Arora said.

Subsequently, two more notices were given to them -- one with the deadline of September 30,2015 and the last one with the deadline of December 12,2015 (yesterday), he said. Kejriwal, who visited the site late last night, slammed the railways for undertaking the demolition drive at a time when the temperature saw a sharp drop.

He ordered officials to immediately provide blankets and food to those who were rendered homeless following the drive. Talking to reporters, he said, "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."

In the evening, senior railway officials, including Northern Railway General Manager A K Puthia and Delhi Divisional Railway Manager Arun Arora, met him to explain why the slum cluster was demolished but the "difference of opinion" persisted between the two sides. Delhi government sources said the "CM was not happy with the Railway officials' response and would take up the matter with Railway Minister (Suresh Prabhu)."


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