Bela Estate is a slum cluster located on the western bank of the Yamuna. Its subareas include China Colony, Bela Gaon, Moolchand Basti, Malla Gaon and Kanchanpuri. The area falls under the first phase of the Yamuna Riverfront Development Project, under which the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) plans to build a biodiversity park and lake over an area of 189 acres.
In May 2018, 550 houses in China Colony and Moolchand Basti were demolished for the Yamuna Riverfront Development Project. Prior to that, in 2015, the DDA demolished 80 houses on the orders of the National Green Tribunal to clear encroachments on the Yamuna floodplains, but it failed to rehabilitate the affected people. Following these demolitions, the residents of the area obtained a stay order on the demolition drive from the Delhi High Court and sought their right to be rehabilitated under the Rehabilitation Policy, 2015, of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB). Nonrehabilitation of occupants for demolition of houses that existed prior to 2015 is against the DUSIB Policy. The petition [W.P. (C) 5214/2018] is currently being heard.
The residents of Bela Estate, mostly smallscale farmers who grow rice, wheat, vegetables, herbs and flowers and workers from the informal sector, have witnessed at least 15 demolition drives since 2006 and have been living under the threat of eviction without rehabilitation.
In 2016, they protested at the Delhi Secretariat where a delegation submitted an application to stop the demolitions, which it claimed did not follow the due process of law. The authorities assured them verbally but did not give anything in writing.
According to news reports, the land they farm on was leased for collective cropping and grazing by the Delhi Improvement Trusta precursor to the DDAto the Delhi Peasants Cooperative Society (DPCS), which in turn had allotted it to the older generations of the current occupants in 1949. The DPCS would collect rent from farmers to pay to the DIT, and the arrangement continued when the DDA was formed in 1957.
In 1966, the leases formally expired, and the DDA allegedly sent out eviction notices to the allottees in 1991, 25 years after the expiry. Residents, however, claim that the first set of eviction notices were only sent out in 2004, before the start of the Commonwealth Games.
In 2006, some of the residents received allotment letters for land in Bawana as part of their rehabilitation, while others did not. However, those who had received allotment letters and paid for the land claim that they were never given possession.