In Rajasthan, government-provided housing was forcefully torn down to widen a road.
This September, residents of Sapotra block in Karauli district, Rajasthan were in for a nasty shock when their houses were pulled down without any notice by the Government.
Community Correspondent Sunita Kasera reports that the ‘Panchayat Samiti’ or Local Government Office of Sapotra is situated in an obscure part of town and is only connected to other areas through narrow roads. Thus, the government decided to widen a road to facilitate better access and communication for Panchayat members, and this led to the demolition of settlements that were bordering the street.
“Without giving any notice, people’s slums were pulled down before their very eyes. They were not even given time to gather their belongings of food and clothing, and the police did not bother helping.”
Many of the houses that were demolished in Sapotra were built as part of the government scheme ‘Indira Awaas Yojana’. Through this scheme, the government provides financial assistance for the construction of houses for families with incomes below the poverty line. “First they build houses for the poor, and now they break them down. This represents the amount of disorganization and lack of coordination that exists between government departments. Clearly, the government not care about the piles money that it is pouring down the drain.” asks Sunita.
Slum dwellers all over the country share a similar story. In Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore, homes of the urban poor are being destroyed to make room for towering sky scrapers and wide roads. ‘Clean up’ projects held in every city and town include the demolition of slums, leaving hundreds and thousands of people homeless in a matter of a few hours.
Adequate housing is considered an essential part of human rights. If and when slums are evicted, it is the government’s duty to provide alternate housing for slum dwellers. This does not happen often, and the voiceless victims of slums find it very difficult to hold government officials accountable.
Sunita tells Video Volunteers that she believes the government has always come up with beneficial schemes for the country’s development, but due to bureaucracy, corruption and lack of communication, they are not able to carry them out efficiently. “Why did the government decide to extend a road where it had already built settlements? Wouldn’t it have been more practical to just shift the Panchayat Samiti office instead? The demolition of the Sapotra settlements was done in a violent and forceful manner, which was not required. The country’s poor and helpless should not be made to suffer for our government’s hypocritical ways.”