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Little Radha is quietly completing her work. Looking at her you would think that all is well in her little world, or at least as well as can be. Yet Radha spent the night on the footpath. The reason: her little home was raised to the ground by the local authorities. The reason again: it was an illegal construction though her family had to pay 400 rs a month and more. And yet it was the only shelter her family had. It was the only protection from the sun or the rains that they had and the place where Radha can keep her brittle bones safe

True that by any standards the so called house was not fit for any consumption but in a city that has forsaken its poor it was the home the little family had carefully crafted. Radha and her family are one of the millions of voiceless, faceless families that come to the big city looking for a better life. The tragic loss of the father made this little family even more vulnerable. The family had spent the last two nights on the footpath. The mother spends the days desperately looking for a room to rent within her tiny budget.

I am not one to defend illegal structures. But I would like someone to help me understand how legality or the lack of it is defined. Most of the so called illegal dwellings of Delhi have postal addresses and their inmates have voter identity cards and ration cards. The most blatant example is that of the Lohars or iron smith gypsies that have been living on the pavement for three generations now! Their homes are destroyed time and again but then rebuild the next day after paying the right bribe. Over the years illegal structures have acquired a covert legality. Then one fine day, because of some upcoming fancy sports extravaganza or some court judgement that took forever to be pronounced the structures become illegal notwithstanding civic documents or empty promises. It is time to raise them all and the authorities do that with impunity.

Not far from where we are there were some more structures raised to the ground. Two of them were small food carts. I guess this was done in accordance to a supreme court order banning food vendors. This is the beginning of the end of a lifeline, one that will spell disaster in a city that is already witnessing a rising crime graph.