PUCL Bulletin, February 2002

Sonipat, Haryana: Besahaaraa Insaan Kaa Ghar Enquiry
Demolition of destitute care home sparks outrage

- R.P. Dhasmana, Delhi, National PUCL Enquiry Committee

(The General Secretary Dr. Y.P. Chhibbar deputed Shri RP Dhasmana from Uttaranchal P.U.C.L as a one-member enquiry Committee to enquire into the bulldozing of Besahaaraa Insaan kaa Ghar at Sonipat in Haryana on September 8, 2001.

The story of Besahaaraa Insaan kaa Ghar, in brief, is as follows: Some people in Sonipat came together to form a team/group for looking after those who had nothing to fall back upon. These people addressed themselves as Sahayogis. Ms Krishna Sharma, one Sahayogi, gifted her plot of land (¾ acres) situated at Rathdhanaa Road near the railway bridge for constructing a shelter on the condition that it will neither be sold nor used for some other purpose. A society was got registered having the name Bhagwaani Dharma Maanava Sewa Dhaam. Shri Sumer Chand, a known social activist, was put in charge. The foundation stone of Besahaaraa Insaan Kaa Ghar was laid on December 25, 1994 by the then Minister of Haryana Government, Ms. Shanti Rathi. Padmabhushan Swami Kalyan Devji Maharaj opened the Ghar on December 27, 1995. Individuals suffering from T.B., Cancer, etc, insane people, persons with festering wounds full of maggots were given shelter. 15 old men and women completed their life's span in the Ghar. In all nearly 100 helpless people took shelter there. The Sahayogis did the entire work of looking after. There was no paid employee. In 1995, the Ghar obtained a stay order from the court after it heard that it's building might be demolished. First, the municipality laid its claim on the plot but the court gave its decree in favour of Ms. Krishna Sharma. Next, the Industries Department pasted its notice on its walls. The Ghar was granted a stay from the court. After this the PWD served a notice that the land was under illegal occupation for the last one year, whereas the Ghar had been running for 7 years. An appeal with the Commissioner, Rohtak was pending when the house was demolished. The report of the Enquiry Committee is as follows - General Secretary)

Report:
The Committee went to Rohtak on December 11, 2001. On its way to the site it talked to people on the roadside to find out the way. The people identified the place as Anaathaashram of Sumer Chand. When the Committee reached there two elderly persons were sitting with 4 handicapped persons in the open near the place where the Ghar once stood.

The 4 handicapped persons were:

  1. Mohan (14 years). He has been suffering from epilepsy. He was brought at the Ghar at the age of 10 years.
  2. Ghammu (50 years). He was brought from the Subzimandi (vegetable market) two years back. He was suffering from cancer in his left leg. The doctors had advised amputation. He was being given indigenous treatment.
  3. Nuruddin (9 years). He was brought here about 18 months ago. Nearly half of his skull had an open wound infested with maggots. The Committee was told that he recovered with indigenous medicines.
  4. Doda, (18 years). He was in the Ghar for two and a half years.

The Committee talked to Shri Sumer Chand and Shri Rajendra Davar, a retired Principal. The Committee was told that there was a 5th inmate, a one-year old girl child, who was being looked after by Ms. Krishna who happened to be the wife of Shri Sumer Chand. At that time Ms. Krishna was busy in an engagement ceremony in the family. Later, the Committee saw the child also, named Mahak.

The Committee was told that Shri Sumer Chand had named all the inmates. We were told that the Bhagwaani Dharma Maanava Sewa Dhaama had, as its members, Sarvashri Sumer Chand, Rajendra Davar, Rameshwar Dutt, PVSM, Gurubaksh Rai, (now deceased), Ms. Krishna Sharma, Ramkaran, and Mukesh.

The Committee was told that the Ghar had served about 100 persons during these years. 15 aged inmates stayed on while other aged persons left after getting recovered.

The Committee was told that most of the help for the construction of the building from the citizens came in kind, e.g., building material, cement, white-washing material, etc. The only time when a cash payment of Rs 60,000 was made to the contactor, money was raised from 12 persons in the city who contributed Rs 5000 each. The routine daily requirements of the inmates for food, etc, like wheat, rice, vegetable, grinding of wheat, was contributed in kind. Part of the plot was used for growing vegetable. This left no room for monetory gain by those who were running it. Sometimes, even the Civil Hospital and the Police sent helpless persons to the Ghar.

The entire building of this Besahaaraa Insaan Kaa Ghar starting with the gate to enter the compound was bulldozed on September 8, 2001 at 5 am without serving any notice on the Society. Shri Sumer Chand told the Committee that he was an environmentalist, a social activist, and a political worker though now he had no political involvement. Long back, he had contested elections to the State Vidhan Sabha as a candidate sponsored by the village Panchayats. He claimed that he had planted about 900 trees in the city and adjoining villages and only about 50 out of them did not survive. Shri Sumer Chand told the Committee that when Shri Devilal was the Chief Minister of Haryana, Shri Srikrishna Gupta, Chairperson of the Sonipat Municipal Committee, lodged an FIR with the Police charging that the municipal water pipe at the site of the Ghar was broken and water was being illegally diverted. Later the municipality also claimed the plot in question. Another FIR was lodged. There were other civil and criminal suits also. During the hearing in one of the cases Shri Srikrishna Gupta was declared hostile and the Court gave a decree in favour of Smt. Krishna and said that she was the owner of the plot. When the new government was formed in the year 2000, Shri Sumer Chand alleges that they received verbal messages that if they paid Rs. 10 lakh the matter would be settled. Shri Sumer Chand approached Shri Devilal against this harassment. Four days after the death of Shri Devilal, the Public Work Department, as mentioned in the beginning of the report, sent a notice that the society had been occupying PWD land for a year.

The Chief Judicial Magistrate, in the meanwhile, granted a stay saying that the buildings should not be demolished till April 11, 2000. The Bhagwaani Dharma Maanava Sewa Dhaam appealed in the court of Additional Civil Judge (SD), Sonipat, Ms Paramvir Nijjar. The court fixed hearing on November 2, 2001. The Interim Order was to Stay till then. However, the buildings were demolished on September 8, 2001, much earlier than that.

When the building was brought down in the early morning of September 8, 2001, eight inhabitants were sleeping inside. Three of the inmates ran away out of fear, the remaining 5 were there. They were still there when the Committee visited the place. Ms. Krishna is looking after the one-year-old girl, Mahak. At present the inmates are sleeping under a tin-sheet roof over a wooden platform-like structure on a sandy land. The structure is open from two sides. Their plight is miserable.

The Committee tried to contact the district Collector at his office. The Committee was told that he had not yet come to the office. Attempts were made to meet him twice at his residence, all in vain.

A careful consideration of the facts the Committee has come to the following conclusions:

  • Bhagwaani Dharma Maanava Sewa Dhaam and Besahaaraa Insaan kaa Ghar are social institutions founded by respectable individuals driven by selfless motive.
  • These institutions are not a source of collecting or earning money.
  • The track record of the Besahaaraa Insaan Kaa Ghar shows that the people behind it have looked after the helpless and the destitute with great care and affection.
  • The complex maze of law cases and counter cases apart, some destitute inmates, the youngest one being of one-year, had to be looked after.
  • It should be responsibility of the State to provide shelter to the remaining inmates at government expense at some equally comfortable place under the supervision of the Sahayogis of Besahaaraa Insaan kaa Ghar.

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