In ‘Housing For All’ era major settlement under threat of demolition
GBGBA survey: No evicted families will be able to afford formal housing
Scheme cannot ensure ‘Housing For All’ but a law can
GBGBA has written to NHRC for urgent intervention
Mumbai | 1st April: In a contradictory move of the state government of Maharashtra against its claim of providing ‘Housing For All’-a central scheme, various department of Maharashtra government has started an eviction drive in various informal settlements (slums) across Mumbai. These are those very settlements which were promised basic services during BMC election campaign trail. Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andoln (GBGBA) has written to National Human Rights Commission pointing out the violations of various human rights in this demolition drive.
A major settlement-more than 10 years old comprising at least 600 households-called Sidhharth Nagar near MHADA colony in Andheri West is under threat from the revenue department. This settlement was partially demolished as part of a three days eviction drive, on 22nd March. However, on GBGBA mass campaigning and subsequent pressure built on the authorities, the demolition has been halted for a short period. This period will last until the exams in the BMC schools are over. Around 300 children from this settlement go to the nearby municipal school.
Among many major losses the demolition (if it happens) will cause, physical health of children and women of this settlement will be at high risk. A recently prepared survey report conducted under ‘Integrated Child Development Services Scheme’ (ICDS) in Siddharthnagar has highlighted the need for additional nutrition supply to children in this area. Any denial of this service will add to their already pathetic life. A mother, whose house was demolished on 22nd March, was quoted saying that“My child is just 5 months old, the eviction has caused extensive damage to the ration that I had collected last week and I have nothing to eat on my own neither do I have money to buy supplementary food materials. I need to eat at least something in order to feed my child. I pleaded to authority repeatedly not to demolish my house as me and my family have no other place to resettle. But my efforts went in vain and now see where I have landed without any home and penniless to support my family”.
A preliminary survey conducted by GBGBA has shown that the income of these households are irregular and so low that they cannot afford a formal housing and hence these people are forced to live in informal settlement. Any eviction will render these families homeless forcing them to live under the sky as only shelter which can put their lives at risk especially of young ones and vulnerable to many infectious communicable diseases.
Another most inhuman act of the state came into our notice very recently when a team of GBGBA visited a Dalit community living on a pavement along the Western Express Highway toward Airport opposite to Vakola Police Station, to provide portable housing unit which can protect pavement dwellers from all weathers. This housing unit designed by BillionBricks.
Broken settlement in Santa Cruz
This settlement was brutally evicted by BMC on 10th March to ensure that a passing by minister from that road do not face this settlement. The authorities threw mud on the pavement and planted trees on it. An individual of the community describes this situation as, “we were cooking our daily meal, when the BMC (Bombay Municipal Corporation) vehicles came and started breaking our tents and threw mud and soil in our food. Almost all the community was broken and we ran to the highland situated near the community.’’ “We were asked to be in the highland near the community, and after the government convoy passes by, we can again come back and settle down”, said another individual. This settlement comprised of migrants from Jalna district of Marathwada region who settled in the city years ago but were never able to afford a formal housing. While the dreams and desires of children from privileged class have no limits, a small girl from this community- Priya dreams of sleeping on a bed. She was quoted saying “I want to sleep once in a bed; will I ever get one?’’.
Priya with her mother in a potable housing unit
There are several settlements like this in Mumbai which are under threat of eviction from various department of Maharashtra government for one or the reason. Despite guarantee of all fundamental rights including ‘right to life’ through Article 21 of the Indian Constitution to each citizen of India, we see a lot of them are violated in the absence of clear law to protect these rights especially right to shelter, right to health, right to quality life and so on. A bench comprising of Chief Justice of Delhi High Court and Justice Dr. S. Murlidhar best explains the eviction phase when it states that “what very often is overlooked is that when a family living in a Jhuggi (slum) is forcibly evicted, each member loses a bundle of rights – the right to livelihood, to shelter, to health, to education, to access to civic amenities and public transport and above all, the right to live with dignity”.
Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan has recently raised a demand for a separate legislation which can ensure every needy person a decent housing and livelihood in lines with Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. This demand resonates with one of the many recommendations made by the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing based on Rapporteur visit to India last year.
Central government has introduced a scheme with a claim to provide ‘Housing For All’ however, the provisions of the scheme are such that it will cater to the need of few while excluding the most needy persons.
Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan has written to National Human Rights Commission on Thursday pointing out the violation of various human rights due to evictions that have taken place and that may take place in near future.
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