Mapping the Marginalised: Delhi's Gadia Lohar Community
The Gadia Lohars, a nomadic community originally from Chittorgarh district in Rajasthan, live in over 90 bastis or informal settlements in the National Capital Region of Delhi (Delhi NCR). They live on the pavements or along the roads, with the constant threat of forced eviction. They earn their livelihood by making and selling iron tools, utensils and other implements.
The Gadia Lohars – “an extremely marginalized and impoverished community,” according to this report – set up the Gadia Lohar Sangharsh Samiti (GLSS) with the assistance of the Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), a Delhi-based research and advocacy organisation. GLSS held meetings with community members in late 2018 to discuss housing, education, employment and forced evictions.
Given the lack of data on the Gadia Lohars, HLRN and
GLSS did a survey of members
from the community living in 58 bastis
in Delhi between February and March 2019. They enumerated Gadia Lohar
settlements, documented living conditions, and tried to understand the challenges
in accessing housing and government entitlements. This report presents the
findings of the survey.
The Renke Commission Report (2008) says that 98 per cent of nomadic and semi-nomadic communities do not own land, and only 11 per cent of nomadic communities live on public land.
Most Gadia Lohar settlements in Delhi have been in existence for several decades – the oldest, Sarai Rohilla, came up 70 years ago. The largest settlement, in Adarsh Gali, Palam, has 78 houses, and the smallest settlements, in Rohini (Sector 24) and Kirti Nagar (Lakkad Mandi), have 3 houses each. These settlements have temporary (kutcha) structures.
The report contains a list of the last reported demolition in 53 of the 58 surveyed settlements. It says that the government-issued identity documents of many Gadia Lohars don’t mention their current address (or mention their previous address) because they have been forced to relocate often. As a result, they are not able to access government schemes and entitlements.
There is some ambiguity around the Gadia Lohars’ caste status and as a result, many don’t have caste certificates. In Rajasthan, they are categorised as a Most Backward Class (MBC), but, in Delhi, they are clubbed with the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). While they are entitled to reservation in government jobs in Rajasthan, they have not been able to avail of any special schemes in Delhi.
After the Delhi government demolished the houses of Gadia Lohars for ‘city beautification’ near Thyagaraj Stadium in 2009, the matter was taken to court. In the Sudama Singh v. Government of Delhi case, the High Court passed a landmark judgment in February 2010, upholding the Gadia Lohar petitioners’ human right to adequate housing. However, till 2019, the government had not provided the affected families with any rehabilitation.
As per Delhi High Court’s judgement in the Ajay Maken v. Union of India case, forced evictions cannot be carried out without first doing a survey of the settlements on a piece of land, and providing adequate notice and alternative accommodation to the people living there.
Almost 24 of the 58 settlements surveyed lacked access to clean drinking water, 13 settlements did not have electricity, 35 did not have government-subsidised ration shops nearby, 41 did not have access to medical and healthcare services, 37 reported the absence of toilets, and 28 did not have garbage disposal facilities.
The report recommends that the authorities respect stay orders on evictions and not threaten to demolish houses; the state provide essential services (like sanitation, education and healthcare) and caste certificates to the Gadia Lohars; the community be categorised as a Most Backward Class; anganwadis be set up in Gadia Lohar settlements; community members have access to alternate livelihood opportunities (given the high rates of unemployment in the community); and a Gadia Lohar Welfare Board be constituted.Focus and Factoids by Kalyani Vartak.
Aishwarya Ayushmaan, Ashok Pandey and members of the Gadia Lohar Sangharsh Samiti
Housing and Land Rights Network, New Delhi