Houses and shops razed by the municipality led to families living on pavements in Mumbai’s Ghatkopar.
Rukmini Sakat has been living in Mumbai’s Ghatkopar for over 20 years. Twenty long years and she saw her home being crushed under a bulldozer. “The Municipal workers almost threatened us to leave. They also said that we’ll be given new rooms. But we have been living on the pavements for the past 15 days with our little ones. We are eating where we are keeping our belongings,” she adds angrily.
The Bombay High Court issued an order in 2009 to clear all settlements built over the Tansa water pipelines. The order, however, also specified that the residents need to be allocated housing within three kilometres of their present location so as to not disturb their livelihoods and education. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is the richest civic body in the country with an annual budget of over 25,000 crores as of 2017-18. For the past eight years, it kept serving notices of evictions to the residents without coming up for a plan for resettlement. Things came to a head in May when the BMC forcibly evacuated and demolished 700 residences in Ghatkopar and Vidyavihar, rendering them homeless.
“They have allotted Mahuli Gaon as the resettlement area for us. It is more than nine kilometres away and polluted,” points out one of the residents rendered homeless by BMC’s eviction drive. In fact, the BMC has in the past and is continuing to settle displaced people in Mahuli, a heavily industrialised area. Located outside the Mumbai suburban railway network, it is remote and expensive to commute to and from. Those relocated there have faced health problems, problems accessing their work and with continuing their children’s education. These concerns are reflected in the voices captured by Community Correspondent Amol Lalzare. One disaffected resident adds “There are 900 families here. Even if we consider one child per family, will they be able to get admissions for 900 children?” he asks.
Fortunately for these residents, the local MLA Prakash Mehta stepped in. Amol confirms that they were relocated within Ghatkopar before the monsoons hit the city. But the Tansa demolitions are continuing along a 10-kilometre radius along the pipeline. As of November 2017, the BMC decided to raze another 5000 hutments in Powai. Thousands of working-class people will be rendered homeless and shunted to remote resettlement zones once again, their dreams of earning and educating their children held ransom. There is no resettlement plan before demotion drives: the lives of the city’s labouring masses are entirely dispensable for the richest municipal corporation in India.
Video by Community Correspondent Amol Lalzare
Article by Madhura Chakraborty, a journalist in the VV editorial team