MHADA Makes Bhil Tribals Homeless

Development authority displaces Tribals in Malegaon, Maharashtra.

One morning, a Bhil adivasi settlement on the outskirts of Malegaon city were informed by the Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority (MHADA) that they had to vacate their houses and fields within 24 hours and make way for a sprawling urban apartment complex meant to house 25,000 people. The people approached the authorities with government documents which verified that the land rightfully belonged to the community. The authorities replied that since the village now came under the jurisdiction of Malegaon city, the papers were now meaningless. The bulldozers arrived and plundered ancestral houses and fields to the dust and overnight, 25 tribal families of what was once a village named Mhalade lost their livelihoods and became homeless.

Mhalade was a functioning village with water and sanitation facilities. It also housed a primary health and education centre. Most of the families owned land and worked on their fields. Agriculture provided them with the sustenance they required. Now, the village has been reduced to a scattering of make-shift slums with no water, no toilets and no schools, on the periphery of what was once their land.

The authorities have refused to comment on rehabilitation. The people allege that while they have approached the mainstream media there has not been a single word or image on the injustice done to them. IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent Anand Pagare, a veteran community journalist, who produced a video documenting the plight of the community says,” They had not just been displaced but they had also been silenced.”

Alienating the tribals from their land has continued at an alarming pace across the country. The reason given is mostly somewhere in between the twin concepts of ‘progress’ and ‘development’. The state of Maharashtra, in spite of passing laws protecting and restoring tribal land, has a poor record. According to the Annual Report 2007-08 of the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, 45,634 cases have been reported and filed in the state. 44,624 cases have been disposed off by the court, of which 19,943 cases (44.7%) involving 99,486 acres of land have been disposed of in favour of tribals and 24,681 cases (55.3%) against tribals. It is estimated that the number of unreported cases are even higher.

For a public institution like MHADA, cheating a marginalized community by exploiting a loophole is a new low. “The people are protesting but the world moves on chanting ‘progress and development’,” said Anand. As the nation celebrates the increasing urbanisation of its land, a sprawling apartment complex juxtaposed with a smattering of slums seems like a vision for the future.

“It is important that the country hears Mhalade’s story,” says Anand ,”If you’re a marginalized community staying in rural idea, one day you will rudely awaken to the rumbling of bulldozers tearing down your house.”

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