G20 beautification drive: PWD workers ‘clean up’ makeshift homes under Delhi flyovers before eviction

Families living under the flyover for years have been asked to vacate the area for 15 days.

WrittenBy:Ashish Anand& Prashant Kumar
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A PWD contractual worker, Deepak, swept the pavement below Delhi’s IIT flyover on Wednesday— the area had served his and the families of 14 other PWD contractual workers as “home” until about 10 days ago, when the Modi government’s G20 beautification drive took over.

The 25-year-old worker told Newslaundry: “After cleaning the area where our families lived, I will leave the city. My family of seven, including my parents and my brother, his wife and kids, left the city two days back. Tonight, I have a train to catch to my village, Jhansi, in Rajasthan.” 

The area under the IIT flyover in the heart of south Delhi has undergone a facelift. Now, murals adorn the walls, railings are painted in tricolour, potted plants are lined along the road, big hoardings and signboards have been revamped, damaged traffic lights have been fixed, and the roads and footpaths have been swept clean. All of this awaits high-profile guests and international media for the G20 Summit on September 9 and 10. 

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A mural under one of the flyovers in Delhi.
A PWD worker cements the brick partition of the pavements near RK Puram flyover.
Deepak, a contractual PWD worker, under IIT flyover in south Delhi.

Giving final touches to the government’s beautification efforts, Deepak said, “The PWD contractor under whom we are working, instructed us to go to the village for the next 15 days.” In late August, South Delhi SDM Mukesh Kumar, Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board officials and around 50 police personnel had also visited the areas under IIT flyover, RK Puram flyover and Chirag Delhi flyover, asking a total of nearly 40 families dwelling there to vacate the place. The officials had reportedly asked them to “go back to their villages” as the areas under the flyovers were “not safe for the next 15 days”. 

At least 15 families living under the IIT flyover were asked to return to their villages, while six families under RK Puram flyover and 18 families under Chirag Delhi flyover were also asked to leave. Most of the people living under these flyovers are employed as daily wage workers, with some even working as contractual labour for Delhi government’s Public Works Department. 

A daily wage worker, Gulsan, 26, who had been residing under the RK Puram flyover, said she couldn’t return to her village in Bihar and had now shifted to a nearby footpath with her three children. But another police official warned her on Wednesday that she could “not sit on the footpath for the next four-five days”. “Where should we go? Right now, we spend our time wandering around or sitting under a tree. I cook wherever I find a place and go to a nearby park at night to sleep.” 

A green sheet with G20 banners covers a slum in Delhi.
Belongings of a family on the pavement near Chirag Delhi flyover in south Delhi.
A gas and a stove kept at a corner under IIT flyover.
On the footpath at RK Puram.

Gulsan said at least six more families lived under the RK Puram flyover, who have now rented a shanty in a nearby slum for a month. “But we have no money, so we are here on the road…I take up odd jobs, but on some days when there is no work, my children and I beg at the traffic light.” 

Another woman, Sabina, 50, who also lived under the RK Puram flyover, told Newslaundry: “Governments of different countries are coming so for 10-15 days, we have been asked to not live there for security reasons. From tomorrow onwards, we cannot be around the footpath as well because of videshi mehman (or foreign guests).” 

The native of Bihar’s Begusarai said instead of wandering in the city, it would be “better to return to the village”, but she had ”no money for the journey”. 

Both Gulsan and Sabina said they had been living under the flyover for years. “We resisted leaving the place at first because we have been living here for years. But we were told that it was an order by the higher authorities,” said Gulsan, adding that many of these families living under the flyover were from Rajasthan, “so they agreed to go to their native villages”. 

Two of Gulsan’s children sat with their books as families continued to pack their belongings, some of which remained stacked in corners under the flyover.

On the footpath at RK Puram.
Gulsan's children study under the RK Puram flyover as families continue to take their belongings.
Children attend supplementary English and Maths classes near IIT flyover in south Delhi.
NGO Volunteers of Mamta hold English and Maths classes near IIT flyover in south Delhi.

Jai Kumar, a caretaker at a nearby Delhi government shelter home- RK Puram Rain Basera, said the shelter is full to the brim and they “couldn’t be of any help”. 

An NGO, Volunteers of Mamta Foundation, that runs supplementary classes for English and Maths for children near the IIT flyover, said for the past five days, at least half of the over 60 children enrolled with them have not been coming. “The other 30-35 come from other areas of Lado Sarai and Mehrauli,” said Surbhi Kumari, one of the teacher volunteers at the makeshift classes. 

She added, “It is a major setback for those who went back to their villages. Many of these children didn’t go to school. But after we started teaching them, they began catching up. Now, we don’t know if they will be back or not.” 

Hauz Khas SDM Mukesh Kumar told Newslaundry that his department did not have “anything to do with the evictions” and that the matter came under the Public Works Department. Meanwhile, PWD assistant engineer Praveen Kumar said that the people had been asked to shift from the areas under the flyovers “to ensure safety of the guests”. 

More than 10 slums have been demolished in Delhi since January, leaving over 20,000 families homeless. While many have raised questions on whether the demolition drives were part of the DDA’s efforts to beautify the city ahead of the G20, union minister Kaushal Kishore said in Rajya Sabha that the “anti-encroachment drive by the DDA is a continuous activity”. 

Railings painted in tricolour under the IIT flyover.
A family's cot kept under the IIT flyover.
Potted plants under the IIT flyover.
Delhi shelter home, Rain Basera, in Sector 4 of RK Puram in Delhi.

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