” I have been sleeping on this,” Radhika Gupta tells the camera, pointing at the debris of her house in Nala Sopara, Mumbai. At 65, she, along with 300 other families, has been rendered homeless as the Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation (VVMC) razed down their homes, because their buildings were illegal structures on government land. However, this fact was unknown to the residents at the time of purchase.
When Radhika’s neighbour Rehana Khan got a house (a 200 sq mtr one room) for Rs. 3 lakhs, she couldn’t believe her luck. “The agent called us, showed us the place. He said there will be water and electricity and took fees,” tells Rehana’s husband Ali Khan. In the heavily populated city of Mumbai which an estimated population of 20.7 million, having a place to call your own is a dream that many dreams but only a few achieve. Coming from a shanty, Rehana and Ali were happy that for Rs. 3 lakh, their family will have a roof over their heads. They put all their life-savings into making their home. Their peace was short-lived, though, as the VVMC declared that their buildings and over 20 other buildings were illegally constructed on government land in early 2015. In October 2015, they destroyed over 600 houses.
In June 2016, the demolition team again came to raze houses in the area. According to the locals, the VVMC took advantage of the fact that Mumbai courts are closed for summer holidays so that legal recourse is no available for the coming few weeks. While no mainstream media came to cover this injustice, Zulekha reached the spot to cover the destruction left behind.
According to local reports, it is a scam by local land mafia to lure desperate buyers, looking for a home. After developing several projects, they cheated numerous buyers just like Ali with tall claims of providing them with water connections. Interestingly many residents also took loans from various banks, that sanctioned loans without verifying the documents.
Additionally Zulekha effectively questions the administration’s decision,”Why did the government wait for 4-5 years before demolishing the buildings? If the structures were illegal, why did the government allow the residents to shift into buildings?”.
Cheated by the builders and ousted by the municipality, Radhika and Rehana are homeless today. All their live-savings and property lay in front of them as debris. But since they were living in illegal properties to begin with, they and more than 900 other families of Nala Sopara will receive no compensation.
Take action to help people of Nala Sopara receive justice in form of compensation and resettlement. Call the Additional Collector, Urban Land ceiling, Mumbai on 022-2225343492.
Community correspondent Zulekha Sayyed reports from Maharashtra for Video Volunteers.
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