Huda had to halt its demolition drive to clear 68 buildings that fall in the alignment of Dwarka Expressway in New Palam Vihar midway on Saturday after the Punjab and Haryana high court issued a stay order. The development body had made a concerted effort to free up land for the project that is running several years behind schedule.
Huda, which has to hand over land to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), on Friday served notices to the occupants, asking them to vacate the premises within 24 hours.
However, halfway through the drive, the officials received a stay order from the HC, which fixed a hearing on the matter on May 29. However, by the time, around 31 houses were demolished.
Around 6am on Saturday, enforcement teams led by GMDA CEO V Umashankar, police commissioner Sandeep Khirwar, deputy commissioner Vinay Pratap Singh and Huda administrator Dr Chandrashekhar Khare gathered near Basai water plant before proceeding to New Palam Vihar. The authorities had appointed four duty magistrates and formed six teams, comprising three HCS officers, three assistant commissioners of police, 900 cops and 300 employees of civic agencies, to carry out the drive. The officials and teams reached New Palam Vihar around 7am.
Police cordoned off the entire area and stopped people from going to the spot where the drive was to be carried out. The officials spent over two hours negotiating with the occupants of these structures and convinced them to vacate the premises.
The enforcement teams helped the occupants shift their belongings to other residences and dharamshalas in tractor trolleys and trucks. Finally, the drive began around 9am, but it had to be halted around 11.30am after the authorities received the stay order.
“We were asleep when cops and demolition teams had gathered. Before we could do anything, the authorities told us to vacate the premises. They didn’t give us an opportunity to talk to our neighbours or pay heed to our pleas,” said Puran Chand, one of the occupants of a building.
Vishnu Datt Sharma, another occupant, said the authorities asked them to vacate the premises only on Friday evening. “On Saturday morning, they demolished our home. We are stranded now. What’s our fault? Where should we go with women and children?” he asked.
The high court’s order came on a petition filed by Pratibha Jha, who alleged that the authorities’ order to vacate the premises in 24 hours was “an immediate threat to the homes of petitioners”.
The remaining 37 structures that weren’t demolished on Saturday also fall in the alignment of the road. “We conducted the drive and demolished a few structures. However, the high court has put a stay on it so the drive was immediately called off till the next hearing in the matter,” said Dr Chandrashekhar Khare, Huda administrator.
The buyers, who have invested in properties along the expressway, said the stay order is a setback for them. “The demolition drive should be completed as early as possible to finish the expressway work which has been delayed for more than seven years. We were sold the dream of excellent connectivity through the expressway and metro connectivity. However, none has been delivered yet,” said Ruchi Goel, a resident of Sector 82, Vatika India Next.
Developers also said the stay would further delay their projects. Ravish Kapoor, director Elan Group said, “The stay has again shattered the hopes of lakhs of homebuyers. We urge the government to initiate immediate action to pave way for Dwarka Expressway”.