Saturday, July 30, 2005

Mumbai Slum Evictions - Public Hearings

Sadly, forced slum evictions are common and prevalent across various parts of the world. Mainly in developing countries from Zimbawawe, Kenya, Bangladesh to India and many other places. Recently UN-HABITAT came out with a report sharply criticizing the slum evictions in Zimbawabe where 700,000 people were evicted. Between Nov 2004 to Feburary 2005 the Maharashtra State government in India demolished around 90,000 slums in Mumbai. In this and other blogs to follow I will present various facts/views about Mumbai slum evictions and then look at policy issues surrounding these issues. In doing so I am using research/studies done by various people/organizations and will refer to them regularly.

Indian People's Tribunal(IPT) constituting retired judges, lawyers and other imminent people involved in humanitarian work investigated the legality of demoliations and alternatives through public hearings and research. In their report they have criticized the government and presented various shocking facts not known through the mainstream media previously.
Extent of Evictions:
According to the report within the first 18 days of the evictions, over 39,000 homes were demolished. Among the first was a large settlement with over 6,200 homes in Ambujawadi in Malad, a North West Suburb of Mumbai. An estimated 90,000 homes were demolished in 44 areas. The report lists the areas which were demolished. According to the list, the Mumbai Municipal Corporation seems to indicate that 288.80 acres of land has been cleared.

Excerpts from Public Hearings:

Anita Shukla from Hari Omnagar, MIDC, Andheri

“We have also voted twice for MP and MLA. But there is no count of demolition on our houses; it must be 17-18 times.”

Unknown security persons and goons keep haunting us, women are especially troubled

Uma Shankar Jai Narayan Mishra from Hari Omnagar Seva Sangh, Hari Omnagar.

“We paid Rs. 20,000 to a goon for 10 x 20ft home in Hari Omnagar. We did not have any amenities, no water, no electricity the women used to get water for us.”

"I earn approximately Rs. 3,500 per month. I have two boys and one girl and don’t know how to care for them. How can my daughter who is in 8th standard continue her studies?"

Rajnath Prasad, Maharashtra Nagar, Mankhurd

"When we came to the place, it was very dry. Then the monsoon struck. The monsoon water has yet to clear. We stayed in waist-deep water. We have built our house above the waist-deep water and somehow managed to survive. We stayed like that for 5-6 years.
After managing some money we filled the wetland by putting many tractors of mud. One such tractor with mud costs Rs 1,500 and made the land livable. We united to buy a tap that gave us facility of water. Otherwise we used to get water from a far off place. We also collected money to buy around 40-50 tractors of mud for filling the wetland and constructing road. One such vehicle costs minimum Rs 1,500. Now when we have invested and arranged for a livable house, the municipality is running bulldozers. At times, bulldozers run twice a month. Now they trouble us so much that it is difficult to stay there. They feel we should run away. Only we know how much investment and hard work we have put in to make that place worth living. From the time municipality demolished, our children cannot go to the school."

Deposition of Mr. Khairnar, Former Deputy Commissioner - Demolitions, BMC

In 1976, Kunte- a minister in government- decided to visit slums built till then and authorize it. All slums were given number and authorized. It was also decided that if a single house comes up in slums after that, then the related officials of that area will be brought to the book.

Slum construction continued. But no action was ever taken against any failing officers. People enjoy the constitutional right to stay in any part of India being an Indian. So they stayed. People come as Mumbai provides earning opportunity that they lack back home. They need shelter too. The government fails in providing that. Thus such people are forced to rent land and houses from goons. Thus, new houses were built. In 1985, houses were recognized as authorized construction again by the then government. The resolve to punish failing officers in case of new constructions coming up was repeated again. Instead, those officials took money from people and facilitated construction of new houses, further.

Later on, by 2000 a decision was taken to authorize houses built till 1995. Before that, the houses were authorized by giving numbers. Now in this election Congress promised to authorize the houses built till 2000.
How are these houses built? One way is that people come to Mumbai to earn and they build home. I have also come to Mumbai. I worked as the Deputy Commissioner. But I could not get my own house without a loan considering my meager salary. So how can the poor get house. We all and even our leaders have come to Mumbai like this only.

Due to problems at our native place, we reach Mumbai. Our life does improve. It is shameful for all that our brothers stay in Mumbai at such places where the villagers would not even like to keep their animals in villages”.

“In 1989, I conducted a survey about the development of slums. I found it is done in a very systematic way. If someone wants to get a house built, he gets it done through someone. If someone wants a slum of 100 houses, with one room of 10 x 15, then they might approach a slum lord.

The ward office staff knew about all development in their ward. During my tenure in Kurla, the MLA, the Deputy Commissioner, the ward officer, junior engineer – all were paid money.”

“Now your houses develop for 7-8 years. You invest more than Rs 50,000 over the years. Thus, the BMC has devastated more than Rs 300 Crores by demolition drive. Many such demolitions have taken place. The ministers come and go. New slums keep coming up.”

Common Themes in the depositions:

  1. Demolitions take place regularly. There have been several demolitions after 1978. Several people's houses have been demolished more than 5-6 times. Just imagine the pain?
  2. Many houses were demolished even though they were built before 1995, which according to the government are legal houses. Many people have documentation (ration cards, Vote ID cards) to prove their length of stay.
  3. People have invested a lot of money (from their standards) in these houses. These were places which were not livable (marshes, wet land) before. They have made it better using their own money. The investments range from 20,000 to 1 lakh.
  4. Politicians have made several promises in regard to slum housing to them, but none delivered. The current government made an election promise that slums built before 2000 would be legalized. But it later demolished those and did a U turn on the promise.
  5. Huge amounts of money is spent in bribing the police, goons, corporators. This ranges anywhere between 5 – 50K.
  6. No Notices were given before the demolitions. India, as a signatory to UN Human Rights treaty is bound to follow certain procedure before any evictions. These were not followed.

In the next blog I will look into more issues raised in the report and dwell more into housing policy issues.

4 Comments:

At 5:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the second paragraph it says "constituting retired judges, lawyers and other imminent people involved in humanitarian work" - it should be 'eminent' people. Eminent means well known, reputed,distinguished whereas imminent means about to happen, impending.

sanika sathe

 
At 11:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The slum policies in Mumbai only benefit the politicians, illegal builders, goons etc etc. Honest citizens keep paying their taxes (after buying houses for exhorbitant prices and taxes thereon), and always bear the punishments, while the dis-honest ones get houses illegaly almost free of cost through encroachments etc, and paying bribes.

The slum rehabilitation policies are all bound to be misused with several holes in it. Encroachers obtain free housing, which they sell out/lease out, and create another slum through encroachments. This is how the land and housing prices keep moving up, and availability going down.

 
At 4:37 AM, Anonymous Virendra Shirodkar - Vakola Santacruz E said...

I am one of the poor persons who are fighting for theirs rights against a rich builder who buys everyone who comes across. I am Speaking about a SRA project which is located in Khandwala compound, Vakola.
What we are fighting for is just the basic amenities like Better sanitation and hygeine which is overlooked by the entire SRA Authorities.When the project started a lot of promises were comitted by the Builder M/s. Vilayatiram Mittal none of which has still been fulfilled. One who spoke against it was tortured or harrassed by the SRA Authorites. It seems the entire goverment is working for him as no one seems to listen to our plea.
Finally we managed to enter the Highcourt Bombay for justice. Everything was going properly and the decision was bound to be on our favour as what we asking was fair enough. But somehow he managed to manipulate our Advocate who inturn didn't show up for the court hearings. As a result our case was given ex party benfit (decision was made in favour of Builder). what we need now is a good lawyer who has some human values who can save our lives from getting destroyed by this builder.
If any one can help us please wite to :-virendrashirodkar2004@yahoo.com

 
At 2:10 AM, Blogger Aamir said...

Dear Virendra,

I know a group of advocates specialized in these type (SRA/Property) of matters.

You can contact them. They will surely help you out.

His name is Omar Khayyam 9820764285

-- Aamir

 

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