Delhi Urban Development Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj has said that some officials from the city’s urban shelter improvement board demolished night shelters in the Yamuna Pushta area earlier this month without informing the government.

Scroll had reported that on the night of March 10, eight night shelters for homeless citizens were demolished in the area. Activists had claimed that the demolitions took place as part of a “beautification drive” to spruce up the national capital for the G20 summit in September.

Bharadwaj, in a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board on March 16, referred to media reports and stated that 1,185 persons were rendered homeless without any notice. He also said that Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena had recently inspected one of the shelters, and that a “huge investment” was made later to expand it with better facilities.

The urban shelter improvement board is an agency of the Delhi government that looks after civic amenities and the resettlement of slums and squatter settlements.

The Aam Aadmi Party leader alleged that some DUSIB officers decided to demolish the shelters unilaterally, and that neither the chairperson nor the vice-chairperson of the board were kept in the loop. He referred to the statement of the DUSIB director on social media that the action was taken on the orders of the Delhi government, and asked the authority to specify who exactly gave the directive.

The minister also asked DUSIB to specify whether the order was recorded or was merely oral in nature.

“DUSIB will take explicit permission of Vice Chairman and Chairman before taking up any demolition in future,” Bharadwaj said.

On March 9, activist Sunil Kumar Aledia, on behalf of a resident of the shelter, had approached the Delhi High Court, asking that the shelters on the bank of the Yamuna be allowed to stay. The board had then said that the inhabitants of the shelters would be shifted to permanent night shelters in various parts of the city.

The court allowed the counsel for the petitioner to inspect the newly constructed shelters and report to the court on March 14. However, Aledia alleged that authorities did not wait for the next hearing, and demolished the shelters on the same night.

On March 14, the court dismissed the petition against the demolition.

The board’s deputy director Fonia had said at the time that the inhabitants of the night shelters had already been shifted to different shelter homes across the city.

But a visit to the spot by Scroll on March 13 found dozens of homeless people on the river bank.

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Are shelters for the homeless in Delhi being demolished for G20?