Yamuna Gently Weeps...the saga of Delhi slum demolitions
India Infoline News Service | August 22, 2006, Mumbai

Yamuna Gently Weeps, a book on Yamuna Pushta slum demolitions, by Ruzbeh N Bharucha will be launched on 23rd Aug.

Yamuna Gently Weeps, a book on the Yamuna Pushta slum demolitions, written by journalist, author, and documentary filmmaker, Ruzbeh N Bharucha shall be launched on Wednesday, 23rd August at 3 pm at The Chinmay Mission Hall, 89, Lodhi Road, New Delhi. Rakesh Mehra, the Director of Rang De Basanti will be grace the occasion as the Chief Guest.

The author's documentary, Yamuna Gently Weeps has been selected for screening at various International Human Rights Film Festivals.

Yamuna Gently Weeps is the story of one of the biggest and oldest slums in Delhi and in India, called Yamuna Pushta. A slum that gave shelter to 1,50,000 people and which nurtured more than 40,000 homes. A world within a world existed in Yamuna Pushta. Schools, medical and healthcare centres, self-help groups, shops, restaurants, creches, small businesses and various social organizations, worked closely with the community, bringing about immense positive change in the lives of the residents. This massive township was demolished in a few weeks.

40,000 homes were razed to the ground and more than 1,20,000 people were left to the mercy of the cruel streets. Just twenty percent of the families whose homes were demolished, were in the guise of resettlement, shoved forty kilometers away from the main city and civilization, onto a barren piece of land in Bawana, where there was no proper sanitation, no medical facility, pathetic water supply, no electricity, and worst of all, no scope of earning one's livelihood. All this and more in the middle of peak summer.

Yamuna Pushta in Delhi was one of the oldest and largest slums in India. In reality, a chain of 22 small slums, located on a three-kilometer stretch along the Yamuna River, the settlement was home to 40,000 families, which housed more than 1,50,000 people and was in existence for decades.

Yamuna Pushta was virtually a township, where a world within a world existed. In the guise of resettlement, encroachment, pollution and beautification of the city, in early 2004, in a matter of weeks, 40,000 homes were demolished, without any rehabilitation plan and the past, present, future of 1,50,000 people were bulldozed to the ground. Neither the Judiciary, those in power nor the implementing agencies, had heard of the concept called Rehabilitation.

Barely 20% of those displaced were allotted plots, on a barren piece of land in Bawana: forty kilometers away from civilization. A land that had no civic amenities and was so far away from the main city, that there was no source of earning a livelihood. The remaining 80% were forced to take refuge on the streets along with their salvaged belongings, until they found some way out of their miserable plight.

The book takes the reader into the lives of those poor families, whose homes and future were brutally razed to the ground. The author, present throughout the demolition process, as well as a witness to the heartlessness of those in power, through interviews with slum dwellers and politicians (Sheila Dikshit, Kapil Sibal, V.P.Singh and Jagmohan), and interviews with eminent town planners, environmentalists and activists, makes his point of view bluntly clear.

The author, also through the eyes of those who lost it all, tells a heartrending tale of tears, courage, determination and most importantly, brings to light, the hollowness of the system and all that, which was once was held, sacred and beyond reproach.

The role (or the lack of it), of the Judiciary, the Media, those in Power and the implementing agencies are brought to light.

The book contains more than two hundred photographs that are explicit and often complements the author's straight-talking style.

Quotes from the author: Ruzbeh N. Bharucha

"Are we in the guise of resettlement really unsettling our people. In the name of relocation, are we dislocating their lives? Those living in slums are our own people. They are not animals. They are not from some remote corner of the galaxy. They are not untouchables. They are, what you and I could become, if fate and opportunity were to leave our side, today."

"The main issue is not just about demolitions. The point of concern is why do we allow a situation to arise where mass scale and ruthless demolitions have to be resorted to! Why do we force those who are instrumental in building the very foundations of every city and who work and toil for our comfort and pleasure why do we compel them to live in the most abysmal conditions and then when it takes our fancy, even demolish their humble homes and their very future."

"Apart from the wretched stance on rural development or the lack of it, the growth and prevalence of slums in most developing countries is due to the non-implementation of the Master Plan. Every Master Plan has provisions for the housing of the economically weaker section; the labour force. The problem is it just doesn't suit the powers to implement these provisions."

"The cancer of homelessness, owes its genesis to unplanned and callous demolitions. The more insensitive the level of demolitions, without a rehabilitation plan, the greater the level of homelessness in the city."

"Yamuna Pushta did not come up over night. It existed in the heart of the Capital of India, for decades. It existed because of political patronage. It existed because it suited politicians and their vested interest. No slum comes up overnight. A few cluster of huts maybe. Not 40,000 homes."

"Nobody wants to make cities into one major slum. True. If you feel the city cannot take in any more, then enforce the law, then and there. But of course, also enforce and implement what the Master Plan has kept aside for the poor families belonging to our country. First, give the migrants and the labour force their rights and then ensure you don't encourage future slums to grow and thrive. Accommodate and then consolidate."

"Spare a thought for the poor, who have been forced to come to the city, in search of survival. They spend their entire life serving and making our world so much more comfortable. They ask not much, but a little space to call home and live life with dignity and stability and not be forever judged as outcasts and the damned."

"No mother wants to bring her child up in a slum. Families live in slums not out of choice, but because it is a matter of survival and for GOD sake, demolishing homes of the poor is not the answer."

Copyright 2014 Ruzbeh N. Bharucha.