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  • Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ordered the demolition of a 35-year-old settlement in Nangla Machi, a 20-year-old settlement at Bhatti Mines, alongside Kapaskhera and Yamuna Pushta. [1.1] At a recent media conference, Union Minister for Urban Development S. Jaipal Reddy sought to assuage fears that Delhi and most other Indian cities were fast becoming isolated oases of the rich. [1.2]

    On April 25, Reddy announced that the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) would construct one lakh houses for slum-dwellers over the next two years. [1.3]

    Figures released by the Sahja Manch, an NGO working in the housing sector, suggests that from 1981 to 2001 the DDA was expected to construct 16 lakh dwelling units, of which 70 per cent were intended for the economically weaker sections and low-income groups. [1.4] An examination of case law in the same period also suggests a reversal of hard-fought successes in the realm of housing rights. [1.5]

    While the right to housing does not find mention among the fundamental rights set out in the Constitution, the Supreme Court's judgment in Olga Tellis vs the Bombay Municipal Corporation (1985) established this as a judicially derived right. [1.6]

    In the case, filed on behalf of pavement dwellers in Mumbai, the court held that the right to livelihood was an integral part of the right to life as guaranteed by Article 21 and concluded that "in terms of the constitutional phraseology, the eviction of the petitioners will lead to deprivation of their livelihood and consequently to the deprivation of life". [1.7]

    This broadened definition was upheld and expanded in subsequent cases such as Chameli Singh vs State of Uttar Pradesh (1996), in which the court held that the "right to life guaranteed in any civilised society implies the right to food, water, decent environment, education, medical care and shelter". [1.8]

    In Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, Appellant vs Nawab Khan Gulab Khan And Others, the court went even further and ruled: "Article (e) accords right to residence and settlement in any part of India as a fundamental right. [1.9] The right to life has been assured as a basic human right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. [1.10] Trade organisations claim that the commercial closures will affect close to 700,000 people. [1.11]

    Khandelwal feels that the "lethargy" of government agencies led to "ambiguous" and "contradictory" orders to the detriment of Delhi's citizenry in general and traders in particular. [1.12] "We are now in 2006, and only six zonal development plans have been prepared," says Praveen Khandelwal, secretary-general of the Confederation of All India Traders. [1.13]

    Delhi, as per Masterplan 2001, is divided into 15 zones. [1.14]

    In its ruling on April 28, the Supreme Court said that commercial property in residential areas must continue to be sealed and added that "a policy of appeasement" had led to a "systemic failure of planning in the city". [1.15] DELHI'S most recent attempt at planning has proved to be far less poetic than its mythical origin as Indraprastha. [1.16]

    The court summed up by stating that "rewarding an encroacher on public land with a free alternate site is like giving a reward to a pickpocket". [1.17]

    In this case, relating to the issue of solid waste disposal, the court observed that the number of slums in the capital had multiplied in "geometric proportion" and held that "the promise of free land, at the taxpayers cost, in place of a jhuggi, is a proposal which attracts more land-grabbers". [1.18]

    Justice B.N. Kirpal's observations in Almitra H. Patel vs Union of India (2000) are often cited as constituting the most telling example of a qualitative shift in the judiciary's approach to the urban poor. [1.19]

    Today Seelampur is a bustling settlement that specialises in the manufacture of jeans, handicrafts, incense, lathes, iron and timber goods, providing employment to thousands of workers, loaders and transporters. [1.20] Over the decades, the colony has given rise to dense and sophisticated economic and social networks that operate on principles of goodwill. [1.21]

    Babar Khan, a local ironworker, says, "No work is possible without goodwill between buyers and sellers, manufacturers and suppliers, exporters and transporters. [1.22] "But this " goodwill "gets broken when workshops are relocated. [1.23] In new locations, businesses have to establish customer relations from scratch. [1.24]

    The shooting in Seelampur represents the frighteningly logical outcome of an attempt to re-configure the demography and urban landscape of the National Capital Region. [1.25]

    The past one year saw judicial rulings on a host of public interest petitions, ranging from the M.C. Mehta case filed in the 1980s to the most recent case filed by the Delhi Pradesh Citizen's Council, all of which aimed at improving the quality of life in Delhi. [1.26]

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