New Delhi: At the start of the year parts of the national capital looked like a war zone. Communal riots broke out in February in pin codes 110094 and 110095. Just as relief measures started trickling in from March, the country went into a lockdown to curb the spread of covid-19, further delaying rehabilitation measures and distribution of compensation in these areas.
The riots led to the death of more than 50 people and left hundreds of families displaced. Relief measures, which had been on hold since 20 March, restarted after a petition was filed in the high court.
Mishika Singh, a lawyer who started the ‘lawyers against detainees’ network has been working on the ground to provide relief and legal aid to the residents of these areas. In the podcast, she says while the civil society has been successful in coming together to provide relief, elected governments have failed in providing appropriate and timely aid.
“In March, we set up a medical and legal camp in a school in Mustafabad. It took us a few days for things to start moving and for people to come in. It was shocking to see how reluctant people were in taking help because no one had come for them so far,” Singh said.
Singh points out at how the compensation amounts that have been given to some people don’t add up. Citing an incident of one resident who lost three stories of his house, Singh said his compensation amount given is ₹5000, and while his name appears in the list, the amount does not help.
“The Delhi government announced their scheme and compensation amounts around 27 February. There were no announcements as such from the central government. The Delhi government’s announcements made people get their hopes up. We’re in July right now, riots happened in February and there are a lot of people who don’t know the status of their application and are being made to run around for compensation. The civil society managed to set up a lot faster than governments managed to get measures going,” she said.
With the lockdown, public distribution systems for rations kicked in much later. With compensation and other rehabilitation measures, the relief camp and online portal for compensation forms were all dismantled ahead of the janata curfew.
“Right before the pandemic people lost their homes and livelihoods so when the pandemic hit, a lot of people did not have a place to stay, no jobs or any source of income. We had to take a break from the legal work and shift completely to relief work. Even getting compensation was not a focus anymore,” she said.