February 27, 2005

Mumbai's 'Shanghai dream' hangs in balance (Sumeet Chatterjee)

Mumbai's 'Shanghai dream' hangs in balance (FEATURE)
By Sumeet Chatterjee, Indo-Asian News Service

Mumbai, Feb 27 (IANS) Shoving his belongings under plastic sheets and bamboo poles erected on a pavement here, Raju Tyagi shudders to think of the day when his tin-roofed shack was razed to the ground by a menacing bulldozer.

Tyagi, a migrant labourer from Bihar, is now waiting to be rehabilitated as the Maharashtra government halts the drive to demolish hutments that dot the landscape of India's bustling financial and entertainment capital.

A drive that is intended to free up space for development and make Mumbai "another Shanghai".

"Those people tore down the house where I was living for the last 11 years in just a few minutes," says a livid Tyagi.

"We want the government to give back our houses...they can't evict us from our homes like this in the name of development. I too paid a price to buy that house and I have a right to work and live in this city," he says.

With up to 60 percent of Mumbai's 16 million people living in slums ringed by towering condominiums and gleaming shopping malls, questions are being raised about the demolition drive that began December last year.

Over 90,000 hutments have been smashed to modernise this choking metropolis and reproduce the recent transformation of Shanghai, China's showpiece business city.

The Shanghai makeover was first talked about during the Maharashtra assembly elections October last year.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had then said the government would transform Mumbai into "another Shanghai" by 2010 as part of a larger plan of urban renewal, which is so far missing in most of the country's crowded and infrastructure-deficient cities.

"It's very unfortunate that the development of Mumbai, which was once India's most westernised city, has fallen prey to politics," says Narinder Nayar, chairman of Bombay First, an NGO.

"Forget about turning the city into the next Shanghai, the way things are moving the city will collapse very soon. Mumbai is decaying and nobody seems to have a clear idea what to do to stop this," he says.

The demolition of slums was stopped last week after the central government asked Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to extend the protection to slums built till 2000.

Earlier, slums built till 1995 were protected by law, and the recent demolition drive targeted hutments that sprang up between 1995 and 2000.

According to Nayar, cleaning up illegal slums is the only way to ease pressure on the city's transport, housing and other utility services.

"Nearly 1,000 migrants come from poor states to Mumbai every day because they are told it is easy to get a job here. And once they are here, they manage to put up a hut by paying the slum mafia.

"The city's infrastructure has not grown to accommodate this influx. Nineteenth century infrastructure is supporting a city in the 21st century," says Nayar.

Mumbai's commuter trains, which link the suburbs with the main city and are considered its lifeline, carry over 700 people in one coach during peak hours.

Experts say the international norm is 200 passengers.

Despite an elaborate train service that rests only a few hours after midnight, Mumbai sees kilometre-long traffic jams on all major arterial roads.

Clearly the infrastructure hasn't been able to keep pace with the growing number of vehicles.

With the population exploding, homes are fewer and costlier than before.

The cost of real estate in Mumbai is the highest in the country, says consulting firm CB Richard Ellis.

The occupation cost, which comprises rent, local taxes and service charges, is ruling at $52.74 per square feet a year. In national capital New Delhi, it's $40.72.

Urban planners say the exorbitant real estate cost forces people even with reasonable incomes to live in slums.

"We have created a situation where the people are invited to encroach on public land. There is a nexus that nobody wants to break. As a result, the city has far exceeded its carrying capacity," says environmentalist Debi Goenka.

Arputham Jockin, president of the National Slum Dwellers' Federation, says it's wrong to blame the poor slum dwellers for the haphazard development planned by the authorities.

"The way people were evicted from their shanties and thrown out on the streets was inhuman. It doesn't happen anywhere in the world," Jockin says.

"If the slums have to be cleared, a proper rehabilitation plan should be first chalked out. Why can't the government make available large-scale low-cost houses for these people?" he asks.

Urban planners say there is enough space on the city's outskirts to construct one million low-income houses for the slum dwellers.

And let everybody who made Mumbai their home live the "Shanghai dream."

Indo-Asian News Service

Fire and earth (Dilip D'Souza)

[Magazine section - The Hindu, Feb 27, 2005 ]


Fire and earth

Visiting the site of a demolition drive in north Mumbai, DILIP D'SOUZA found his mind going back a few weeks: to a previous encounter with `fire', rubble and, yes, awe.

Nature's fury ... this destruction saw the waves bringing "fire" and mud.

SOME distance from where I'm standing, with my new friends Dilip Kale and Mohammed Muslim Pathan, is what used to be the Osmania Masjid. At least one or two thousand people would sit inside here to read namaz, they've told me more than once. It was "registered", says Mohammed, though what it means to "register" a mosque, I have no idea. But given that it was "registered", he goes on, the Municipality should never have torn it down.

Mohammed seems more disturbed by the demolition of Osmania Masjid than that of his own home, whose flattened remains we have just picked our way through. I can't share that sentiment, but I keep that disinclination to myself.

`This was my home'

We are in Ambujwadi, an enormous area of North Bombay that used to be swampland and then was a slum for many years, and through December and January has been utterly razed to the ground. Razed, not by a tsunami, but by my Municipality's own men and their equipment. Vast destruction, not in far-off Tamil Nadu or Indonesia, but right here, 45 minutes from my home; and in many ways more complete than the tsunami managed. This was my home, Mohammed tells me. On a beach in Tamil Nadu only weeks ago, a man called Palani had said the same thing. Now as then, I get a feeling of wonder. Because where Palani pointed to, and where Mohammed points today, I can't even imagine a home. There's just a patch — sand there, sand here — that each man outlines with a reaching finger, and I'm supposed to mine their memories and construct for myself what they once called home. Imagine some kind of structure standing on a bare square of land. Sand. It's hard.

`Equal opportunity' demolition

Several mosques, temples and a couple of churches succumbed to Municipal bulldozers here. Equal opportunity demolition, this. In turn, my companions take me to each such site in the area and paint air pictures — like of their once-homes — of what each worshipful structure looked like, looking expectantly at me each time for some exclamation of religious horror. I still can't oblige: really, homes that were destroyed, people sitting on rubble, upset me much more than these once-abodes of the gods, such as they were.

But as we near the hillock of bricks, tiles and concrete lumps that once was Osmania Masjid, I head for it from one side, planning to clamber over the debris and survey what remains of the mosque. "Not that way!" shouts Mohammed. "Come round here!" He leads me along what used to be the path beside the mosque, to what used to be the main entrance. "Please," he says quietly but very firmly, "please enter from here."

Destroyed as part of urban renewal.

Even as rubble, Mohammed reveres this place. I clamber over the debris that used to be the main entrance, into what used to be this mosque.

Not far away, the Hanuman Mandir is now a broken and badly burned pile of mud, bricks and assorted other rubble. Dilip Kale says the Municipal workers tore down the temple and then set fire to the debris. Somehow, the idol survived. Charred along one side, it sits forlorn, on a mound of bricks.

What happened here, I ask.

After they were done doing what they had to in Ambujwadi, the workers and the police who accompanied them came back to the pile that was this temple. They dug out the idol. They set several bricks carefully on top of each other. They put Hanuman, charred Hanuman, reverently on the mound. Then they stood back, their heads bowed in respect and remorse. "Forgive us, Hanuman-ji," they prayed, "for what we did to you."

None of Hanuman's more-human, more-mortal, fellow-residents of Ambujwadi got such an apology. And I find my mind going back a few weeks: to a previous encounter with fire, rubble and, yes, awe.

* * *

What was the colour of the wave, I ask Thirumurugan. The colour ... he looks around, searching. He points to the painted strip on the side of a smashed fishing boat that lies nearby. A dull orange, the strip. That colour, says Thirumurugan.

Not mannu but bhoomi

I don't know if it's because of this colour, or because of the great destruction the tsunami caused, or something else altogether. But every time Thirumurugan and his friends here refer to the tsunami, they also say, quietly, that there was "fire" in the water. As in, the wave brought "fire" as it swept into their village, Bommaiyarpalayam, and back out again. (Much of the destruction happened when the wave receded, because it went out faster, and even more forcefully, than when it came in).

This idea of fire is almost as hard for me to understand as a wave being orange, though perhaps the two are related. Still, the people here speak of it. I look around me at the effect this wet fire-like thing had on this beach hamlet north of Pondicherry, and I know: it's an interesting metaphor, and given what happened here, a telling one. But the wave brought something less metaphorical else as well. Mud. Black, stinking, ugly mud. Wandering Tamil Nadu after the tsunami, we've already seen lots of the stuff — mud inside clocks, inside pots, lying on the floor of a room like a diseased carpet, underfoot in a Dante-esque stretch near Nagapattinam that was littered with bodies. Mud everywhere. But here in Bommaiyarpalayam, when the fisherfolk refer to it, they don't use the usual Tamil word for it, mannu. They speak of it as bhoomi (earth).

No Indian needs to be told the connotations of that word. And when they speak of bhoomi, when they speak quietly of fire, I cannot help but wonder: is there almost a tone of admiration here? The wave was monstrous in what it did, of course; but now, a week later, do these people have a respectful awe for the ocean that lashed at them? Is it as if they are saying, we take so much from this gentle empress that lies out there in the sun, sometimes she must take back?

I don't know, but I wonder.

Thirumurugan speaks of the bhoomi with his hands cupped and lifting upwards, as if referring to an emotion that comes boiling up from somewhere deep inside. Clearly, what he means is that the wave scooped up the very bottom of the sea, the muddy bottom of the sea that smells so awful, and flung it violently at them.

Nearby stands Palani Arumugam, holding his daughter Madina. She is two years old, pretty and alert. When the wave came, she swallowed some of that mud. Over a week later, Palani tells me, she still brings bits of it out after she eats. He uses the same hand motion to describe this that Thirumurugan does, to describe the wave. As he does, Madina smiles at me. I try hard not to think of black bhoomi coating her delicate stomach, nor of it belching its way out.

And when this bhoomi-filled wave came into Bommaiyarpalayam like a tongue of fire, it surrounded all the houses. Then it rushed back to sea, taking big chunks of Bommaiyarpalayam with it: cupboards, fridges, parts of walls, boats and more. And how far out did it go? Two kilometres, says Thirumurugan. Yes, after the sea roared into Bommaiyarpalayam, it receded two kilometres towards the hazy horizon. A low tide, Thirumurugan tells me in a hushed voice, like Bommaiyarpalayam had never seen.

And all that bhoomi at the bottom of the sea was visible for a long time.

Whose city is it anyway ? (Satish Nandgaonkar)

[The Telegraph, February 27, 2005]

- ‘Present slum area not more than eight per cent of total land’
The airport cannot be extended unless the chawls are cleared. The slum-dwellers claim they developed the land — it’s theirs. Satish Nandgaonkar reports on the stand-off that has divided Mumbai

Mumbai makeover: Recent razings have left thousands of slum-dwellers homeless; Vilasrao Deshmukh (below)
Spread over 25 acres of reclaimed land, Ambujwadi looks like a patch of earth hit by a twister. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) light blue dumpers move on it like ants on a mound. Watchmen and BMC helpers scrounge for bamboo, rooftiles, plastic sheets — taking away any material that slum-dwellers can possibly use to reconstruct their hutments. Women and children mill around trying to save what they can. “They have even sealed the bawadis (water tanks). We don’t have water to wash or drink,” says Jayashree Shinde in a tired voice.

All her life, Shinde has moved from one slum to the other. She sold jalebis, and single-handedly brought up her two sons in this slum located on the edge of Mumbai’s civilisation. Her husband, who left her when the children were small, returned three years ago only to suffer partial paralysis. Just when she thought her sons, now temporarily employed, would lift the family out of this morass, the BMC bulldozers wiped her hutment off the map.

Shinde’s hutment is one of the 10,000 dwellings razed by the BMC in Ambujwadi, though the official figure stands at 7,000. Ambujwadi — which juts into Malwani’s mangroves in the Malad suburb — is the largest of the 28 sites flattened by the bulldozers. About 90,000 hutments were demolished since December 2004 and NGOs estimate at least four lakh people are homeless now.

The levelling juggernaut — one of the largest ever of any Maharashtra government — still continues. Many homes have been erased without warning and without explanation, even though some victims allegedly furnished proof that they had been living in the area for over 20 years. Miloon Kothari, who is United Nations’ special rapporteur on adequate housing, sums up the situation: “I have witnessed many demolitions in different parts of the world. But this is one of the most brutal evictions that I have seen.”

The erasure of shanty towns is the outcome of a new economic vision for the city as envisaged by its ruling elite. It is about Mumbai metamorphosing into Shanghai by 2013. Huge infrastructure projects — metro rail links, trans-harbours, state-of-the-art flyovers, ring railways and upgraded airports — are in various stages of completion across the western megapolis.

But a crucial part of a report, ‘Vision Mumbai’, which is more or less the roadmap for transforming Mumbai into a world-class city, is about “bringing down the number of people living in the slums from the current 50-60 per cent to 10-20 per cent”. And Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh seems determined to pursue that goal. Even though many are asking the question: whose city are they really planning for?

Classes apart

It is a question that has divided the city on class lines. The pro-demolition lobby — the city’s builders, real estate agents and those who feel that slums hold back Mumbai’s transformation into a world-class city — wants speedier action. They believe that the city’s prime land has been encroached upon and the state has been a mute spectator so far.

Since the first slums survey in 1977, successive governments of different political shades have regularised the shanties on the eve of the elections. “The Sena-BJP government set up a 1995 cut-off date (that is, regularising slums built up to 1995), and now Congress wants to push it to 2000. Unless you stop it, Mumbai can only become Slumbai,” says Vijay Mahajan, chief executive officer of Bombay First, an independent body backed by corporate heads and Mumbai’s prominent citizens. Bombay First had roped in consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., to study and draft Mumbai’s proposed Rs 31,000-crore makeover with its Vision Mumbai 2003 report.

To illustrate the point that illegal slum-dwellers cannot hold Mumbai to ransom, Mahajan tells you the story of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) which has been fighting a long, legal battle to evict 40 slum families staying near the Santa Cruz domestic airport. “The AAI cannot extend the taxi track unless they evict these families. In the process, 2.5 million air passengers suffer, and 2,000 litres of turbine fuel is wasted. Are its legal citizens going to run this city or the illegal encroachers?” asks Mahajan.

But several NGOs and human rights groups have challenged this very concept of encroachment. Many slums came up in erstwhile marshy land with no government-sponsored infrastructure such as drinking water and electricity. Over the years, through the slum-dwellers’ efforts, these areas have grown into shanty towns — now worth crores of rupees in prime land — and are now being eyed by the real estate lobby and the land mafia.

Not surprisingly, there is a sustained campaign against the slums. Half-truths, such as the fear that slums will swamp the city, abound. But contrary to popular perception, only six per cent of Mumbai’s total land area (2,525 out of 43,000 hectares) is occupied by slums, as the state government’s own Afzalpurkar report (1995) shows. “Even if one assumes a 10 per cent increase, the present land occupied by the slums will not be more than eight per cent. So much for Slumbai,” says Deepika D’Souza, executive director, India Centre for Human Rights and Law.

Fear psychosis

A common thread running through the pro-demolition lobby is that slums are a heavy burden on the city’s overstretched infrastructure. The McKinsey Report says, “Slums have proliferated and congestion, pollution and water problems have skyrocketed.” However, a 2001 survey by NGO, Yuva, shows that only 5.26 per cent slum-dwellers have access to individual water taps and 62 per cent of them use public or shared toilets.

But with the campaign against slums being linked to the beautification of Mumbai, much of middle-class Mumbai has been silently supportive of the drive, a fact that the ruling combine hopes will help in countering the loss of the poorer voters.

But the razing’s impact goes beyond politics and economics. Few in the government are calculating the social and psychological trauma of the displaced. “We need to look at the impact on specific groups such as women, children and Dalits,” says Kothari.

That apart, in a city with a history of communal riots, any large-scale dislocations needs to be carefully thought out. “Especially, since we are creating separate zones for the rich and the poor. We are creating a true apartheid city,” he says.

Environmentalist Darryl D’monte, who authored the first comprehensive book on the decline of Mumbai’s textile mills, says that a survey done 20 years ago showed that a Mumbai slum-dweller moved house five times in a lifetime. He questions the skewed economics of the Mumbai makeover. “The Rs 10,000 crore to be spent on roads will benefit eight or nine per cent rich whose cars account for 60 per cent of the pollution, while public transport remains ignored. If you spend this on irrigation, it would probably stop thousands from migrating into Mumbai,” says D’monte, who believes that migrants entering Mumbai are not “pulled” by the city, but “pushed” out of the countryside.

Incidentally, Mumbai’s ongoing plastic surgery has also created strange political bedfellows. The Congress-NCP government has found an unlikely ally in the Shiv Sena. Among the political parties, only the Republican Party of India and the Left have voiced their opposition.

The real opposition on the ground has come from NGOs and social activists such as Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar and actor Shabana Azmi, president of the Nivara Hakk Suraksha Samiti. The NGOs want the Deshmukh government to stop demolitions and involve the slum-dwellers as a stakeholder in Mumbai’s proposed development plan. Says Shakeel Ahmed of the NGO, Nirbhay Bano Andolan, “You cannot have development policies only for the rich. We want the government to hold public hearings of the plan and involve the poor in the debate.”

Not everybody is considering such alternatives. South Mumbai Congress MP Milind Deora believes that the government needs to take a zero-tolerance policy towards further encroachment by implementing the Slum Encroachment Act, 2001 and punish anyone — politicians, slumlords, police, bureaucrats — who abet proliferation. “Otherwise, in 2015, you will be regularising slums to come up till 2010,” he says.

But as urban planner Chandrashekhar Prabhu points out, the cut-off deadlines become relevant only when there is a housing plan for the poor available in the formal sector. “Today, a slum-dweller has no option,” says Prabhu, a former member of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority.

Road ahead

The road to a Shanghai-ed Mumbai promises to be a rocky one. Funds and land are the two major worries of Deshmukh heading a cash-strapped government. His problems increased earlier this month when Congress president Sonia Gandhi told him that the party cannot renege on its election promise of regularising slums that have come up till 2000. Rehabilitation land would cost Rs 700 crore, house construction Rs 20,000 crore and Rs 4,000 crore would be required for creating infrastructure —in all, Rs 24,700 crore. But Deora is optimistic. “Once you demonstrate reforms and the will to implement them, money can be generated. The World Bank or even the Centre will give you funds when you show the reforms first,” he says.

Only, Jayashree Shinde doesn’t understand Mumbai’s macro-economics and the McKinsey Report. And she cannot comprehend that just across the mangroves and the marshes lying beyond her demolished house, the dragon of development has arrived.

Demolition DATA

• 41,900 hutments demolished between Dec. 2004 and Jan. 2005, NGO Yuva’s January survey says. Out of these 2,405 were built before 1995 and were legally authorised

• 247 police vehicles, 128 BMC vehicles and 87 bulldozers were used, says the same survey. A total of 3,989 BMC and police officials were deployed for the demolitions

• At least five per cent of Mumbai’s population lives on the roads. Around 2.5 million live in buildings officially labelled as dangerous

• Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) regional plan (1996-2011) says the city needs 85,000 housing units. There is a deficit of 45,000 units.

(With additional reporting by Avijit Ghosh in New Delhi)

February 25, 2005

India: Respect Rights of Slum Dwellers, Devise Resettlement Plan

Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples
1/F, 52 Princess Margaret Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2714 5123 Fax: (852) 2712 0152 E-mail: hotline@acpp.org Web: www.acpp.org
Respect Rights of Slum Dwellers, Devise Resettlement Plan - INDIA
25 February 2005

In a demolition drive that began on 8 December 2004 and
still continues, the Maharashtra government and the Brihan
Mumbai Corporation (a municipal government body)
demolished 70,000 huts, which they claimed illegal. In the
process, 306 acres of land were cleared, dislocating over
300,000 people and affecting thousands of others. People are
suffering in cold nights, children were exposed to health
hazards and school attendance in various areas nearby
dropped drastically.

On 8 February 2005, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Mr.
Vilasrao Deshmukh announced the plan to beautify Mumbai
into an international city like Shanghai - an ambitious plan
totalling 315 billion rupees (US$7.6 billion) for better roads,
public transport and removal of encroachment. This
contradicts the promise of the Congress Party in its election
manifesto in the recent assembly elections - to protect slums
built before 2000, a promise widely believed to have
garnered electoral support among Mumbai's poor.
Unless immediate steps are taken, slum dwellers will
continue to be exposed to cold nights and other physical
dangers. The government, instead of providing basic care to
its people, is planning to de-list them from the electoral rolls.
*** Please respond before 10 March 2005 ***

Action Requested
Please write polite letters condemning this demolition drive
in Mumbai and request the authorities to:
· Devise a proper resettlement plan before government
authorities begins further demolitions.
· Make urban development and rehabilitation plan more
people-friendly by involving cooperative societies and
local bodies in the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme of Slum
Rehabilitation Authority, and planning urban
development that will benefit the poor.

Send letters to:
Prime Minister of India Fax: (91) 11-2301 9545
Hon. Mammohan Singh (91) 11-2301 6857
South Block, Raisana Hill
New Delhi 110011, INDIA
Email: manmohan@sansad.nic.in OR pmosb@pmo.nic.in
Send Copies to:
1. Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh Fax: (91) 22-2363 3272
Chief Minister of Maharashtra
Vilasrao Deshmuk, 6th floor
Mantralaya, Mumbai 400 001, INDIA
2. The Chairman Fax: (91) 11-2338 4863
National Human Rights Commission
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg,
New Delhi-110001, INDIA

3. Ms. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of the Congress Party
Email: soniagandhi@sansad.nic.in
4. Diplomatic representatives of India in your country
Sample Letter
Please avoid typing 'cc ACPP' at any part of your letter but
send copies to us separately for monitoring purpose.
Thank You for Your Continued Support

Lack of Proper Housing Policy in India
According to the Maharashtra State government data
quoted in Economic Political Weekly on 5 February 2005,
around 60 per cent of Mumbai's population live in slums;
73 per cent of its households live in one-room apartments
and 18 per cent in two-room structures.

There has been no standing policy to deal with housing for
the working class and the poor. A city of commerce and

We are shocked to learn about the recent demolition of slums
in Malad, Kurla, Mankhurd, Cuffe Parade, Chembur, Govandi
and other areas in Mumbai by the government of Maharashtra
and the Brihan Mumbai Corporation, in an attempt "to turn
Mumbai into Shanghai". It is believed to be one of the largest
demolition drives in the city, causing a lot of suffering for the
300,000 evicted, including children and the elderly.
We are aware that the action contradicts the promise that the
government made to its people for 'reforms with a human face'.
In October 2004, the Congress-NCP coalition secured a
majority of assembly seats in Mumbai on the promise that all
the pre-2000 slums in Mumbai would be protected and
regularised. However, after the election, Chief Minister of
Maharashtra, Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh of the Congress Party
has ordered the demolition of all post-1995 slums in the city.
It is sad that reports show the government of Maharashtra,
instead of taking immediate action to remedy the suffering,
plans to remove slum dwellers from the electoral rolls. Such
refusal to hear its people's voice, is an embarrassment and is
surely not pleasing to your Excellency.

May we also remind your good government's ratification to the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights in 1979, which states that "The States Parties to the
present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an
adequate standard of living for himself, including housing."
(Art. 11)
In order to fulfill the promises and obligations, we request your
Excellency to intervene and ensure your State Chief Minister:
- devises a proper resettlement plan before civic body
begins further demolitions; and
- makes urban development and rehabilitation plan more
people-friendly, e.g. involving cooperative societies and
local bodies in the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme of Slum
Rehabilitation Authority and planning urban development
that will benefit the poor.

enterprise, Mumbai has always been a magnet for those
looking for work not only in Maharashtra but also from
other parts of India. Over time, vacant land has been
encroached, marshland has been reclaimed and the
homeless have occupied pavements, and empty strips
along railway lines and water pipes.

Instead of increasing affordable housing facilities in the
city, successive governments have resorted to piecemeal
solutions to the problem. The most popular one has been
setting a "cut-off" date - i.e. settlements built after the
"cut-off' date will not be entitled to alternative
accommodation. According to the Slum Redevelopment
Scheme (SRS) brought in by the Maharashtra Government
in 1998, those who can establish that their houses are set
up before the "cut-off" date are entitled to free alternative
accommodation if the land is re-developed by contracted
developers or used for other public purposes. It was
premised that slum dwellers had invested in developing
the land and the structures, thus they will be compensated
with "free" houses. However, often the slum dwellers
have to pay charges to the housing society once they
moved into the arranged accommodation. These housing
societies are registered entities under a societies
registration act, and comprise of households within a
single or multiple storey structure or a cluster of them.
Members of housing society are required to share the land
tax. Often, slum dwellers cannot afford this tax and are
forced to sell the premises and return to slums.

In addition, the cut-off date has been manipulated by the
present State Government in Maharashtra (Congress and
the Nationalist Congress Party). During pre-state election
period (August- September 2004), they promised that the
cut-off date would be extended up to 2000, but it was
instead hastily backtracked to January 1995 after election
victory in October 2004.

Lack of Empathetic Approach and Rehabilitation Plan
Demolitions were conducted in abrupt manner that cares
little for the settlers. In the past, the demolition squad
would come with sticks and axes and manually break
down structures. This gave the settlers time to save their
belongings. Recent demolitions, however, took place with
bulldozers and earthmovers appearing overnight, aided by
the police. Structures are flattened within few hours,
providing little time for settlers to save their belongings,
including papers that prove huts existed before the cut-off

Life of the evicted settlers was deeply affected since the
recent demolition drive in December 2004. Children's
health and education were badly affected. According to
Indian Express of 25 January 2005, civic schools near
demolition sites across Mumbai are witnessing a drop in
attendance, implying thousands of children failed to attend
formal education. Several children were recorded to have
died from pneumonia after suffering the cold nights, while
some experienced bad stomach and vomit due to
unhygienic food and water exposed under open area.

Adults were also affected: parents are afraid to go to work
and old people are suffering the cold nights without indoor

Instead of considering rehabilitation measures for the
affected, the government further attempted to disregard
slum dwellers' opinion. In an article dated 22 January
2005, State Home Minister of Maharashtra, Mr. R. R. Patil
was quoted: "When we launched the (demolition) drive,
we never thought of their rehabilitation. Legally speaking,
that is not the responsibility of the government."
According to a report in the Indian Express dated 11
February 2005, the Election Commission (EC) plans to
remove squatters from the electoral rolls. The EC has
reportedly asked the Brihan Mumbai Corporation to send
in a list of "illegal" slum dwellers, who have moved in
after the "cut-off" date or those who have no proof (e.g.
government ration card, electricity bills, bank accounts) of
residence prior to 1995. These people will be removed
from the electoral rolls. The Chief Electoral Officer Mr.
Madan told the media that according to the Representation
of Peoples Act 1950, voters' names could be deleted from
the electoral rolls if they cease to be residents of the city.

Current Situation

Since the demolition began over 300 acres of land have
been recovered, but the government has not announced
any future plan for these vacant lands. The civil society
criticized that such failure to develop lands is the exact
reason why these lands were encroached in the first place.
Local groups have been struggling with this battle without
much support in the last 2 months. Only recently, the
movement has started getting momentum with further
pressure from trade groups and political groups. Meetings
and protests were held at various locations across the city
to discuss the issue. However, the struggle goes on.

Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar
and social activist, Vidya Chauhan were arrested on 12
February 2005, along with 120 others while protesting the
demolition of slums. On 21 February, Medha was
arrested again with 8 others and still being detained.
The demolition has stalled since 19 February 2005. Upon
the insistence of the Congress Party leader, Ms. Sonia
Gandhi, the cut-off date has been set at 2000, as promised
in the election manifesto. It is reported that talks on
rehabilitation of the evicted are being carried out.
Yours sincerely,
Linda Noche

Local newspapers: Indian Express, Times of India, The Hindu
Magazines: Economic Political Weekly, Outlook, Frontline
Websites: Infochange.com, NDTV, Rediff.com
For photos and interviews, please visit "Slum Bay- Found &
Lost" http://specials.rediff.com/news/2005/jan/14sld7.htm

Thank You for Your Continued Support
Hotline Asia is a service for Justice and Peace irrespective of class, race, religion, culture and political affiliation. We issue Urgent Appeals on
request from our network. As you receive Urgent Appeals free, we welcome contributions payable to Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples Ltd
Hotline Asia gratefully acknowledges the support of Cordaid, Misereor, MISSIO, AMA, Taiwan Foundation for Democracy and APHD.

February 21, 2005

Press Release - Zhopadi Bachao Sanyukt Kriti Samiti

Zhopadi Bachao Sanyukt Kriti Samiti
C/o Bhupesh Gupta Bhavan, Sayani Road, Prabhadevi, Mumbai-400025

Press Release: February 18, 2005

Decision to Legalise Slums Welcomed: Now Compensate

With the decision of the Government of Maharashtra to legalise the slums from
1995 to 2000, the struggle against the unjust demolition of 70,000 houses has
reached a new high.

We welcome this decision. This is a result of the strong resistance to the
demolitions and due to the direct intervention by Sonia Gandhi and Margaret
Alva, who gave a patient hearing to the poor unorganised sector workers along
with all the organisations involved in the struggle.
People thank all those Congress as well as NCP representatives who joined our
struggle and protested against the demolitions. However this should not have
happened, as this is a blatant violation of the pre - election promise given by the
present Government, leading to such a human-madeTsunami - like situation all
over Mumbai.

Keeping in mind the promise given during the election through its own manifesto,
it is the duty and responsibility of the government to compensate the affected
families for the damage to their houses, belongings and livelihood. With this
demand, all affected families affiliated to our movements will keep the
agitation going until our demands are met.

We strongly condemn the anti - poor and provocative pronouncements of the Shiv Sena,
which was supportive of the demolitions and against the destitutionalised Hindi and
Marathi speaking communities.

At the same time, we demand that the government should start a participatory,
people - oriented, just development planning process. It should also ensure
participation as well as their rightful share in the benefits of development.

We will continue our struggle for the alternative development, based on
decentralised and rural - focused development, alternative employment at the
village level to check the migration and equitable and just development by
linking the rural and urban poor.

Sanjay M. G. Raju Bhise Shakil Ahmad Medha Patkar

February 20, 2005

Forget Shanghai, remember Mumbai (Kalpana Sharma )

[The Hindu - Monday, Feb 21, 2005 ]

Forget Shanghai, remember Mumbai

By Kalpana Sharma

We need to put aside our obsession with becoming "world class". Let us make our cities liveable for all the people.

THE CENTRAL Government's announcement that it will soon establish an Urban Renewal Mission is long overdue. For, the reality facing India's planners is that over one-third of the country's population lives in its towns and cities. And the numbers are growing. These are also the centres of growth, driving the country's economic engine. To neglect them is to neglect not just the economy but also a sizeable population.

Yet even as the Urban Development Ministry prepares a plan for 60 cities in India under this mission, the central question it will have to address is that of priorities. How will it decide what is more important and what can wait in a situation where everything has to be done almost simultaneously?

Few cities illustrate the difficult choices facing anyone undertaking urban renewal better than Mumbai. The present Democratic Front Government, led by Congress Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, has made the conversion of Mumbai into a "world-class city" one of its principal planks. But already it has tripped up by going in one direction without being clear about the whole picture.

Mr. Deshmukh has had to face brickbats from many in Mumbai, including members of his own party, because of the recent mass demolition of slums. At the same time, business, industry, the middle-class have applauded his "determination". While the Chief Minister maintains he has done nothing wrong, he has been forced to step back after being "summoned" to Delhi this week where he was basically told that the party could not afford to alienate the urban poor electorate. Even if this has given a temporary reprieve to Mumbai's urban poor, there is no indication that the Government has an alternative plan or strategy to deal with the absence of housing.

While the Opposition, particularly the Shiv Sena, is thoroughly enjoying the Chief Minister's discomfiture, its own record in matters urban has been far from exemplary. Even though it was the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party Government that launched the massive Slum Redevelopment Scheme (SRS) in 1995 with the intention of resettling lakhs of slum dwellers, very little was achieved by it in five years. The scheme ran into problems largely due to the politics of money that overrode any merits the scheme had on paper.

So far, there is little to indicate that the present Maharashtra Government is clear about its priorities on urban renewal. The areas that are getting immediate attention are the cosmetics. Thus the makeover of the airport and the building of freeways are being given top priority. On the other hand, two important issues that affect the majority of the people — public transport and housing — are hardly discussed.

One hardly needs to emphasise that the world over, cities with good and affordable public transport are also the most liveable. Yet in Mumbai, the plans envisage building capital-intensive and long gestation projects such as freeways instead of short-term cheaper solutions that build on the existing public transport network. In the meantime, 90 per cent of the city's residents are packed into suburban trains and buses that, despite the load they carry, are still more efficient than the public transport systems in other Indian cities.

The best cities in the world are also the ones that have affordable housing for all classes. Yet is there any Indian city that has a well-conceived housing policy? In the "Vision Mumbai" document prepared by the private consultancy firm McKinsey, which is being used as a framework within which the plans for Mumbai's makeover are being formulated by the State Government, housing is mentioned in the context of mass housing on the salt pan lands outside the city. This area is not just environmentally fragile but is also poorly linked to the city. Poor people are expected to live in this distant area with no thought given to livelihood or other needs. Meanwhile, significantly, the plan envisages developing hundreds of acres of prime land, formerly occupied by textile mills, now available in the heart of Mumbai as "islands of excellence" with high-class housing, clearly for the rich.

This alone exposes the fractured vision of our planners when it comes to making over cities such as Mumbai. The city developed as an industrial centre that was crucial to India's economy when the British made available land in central Mumbai, at hugely concessional rates, to entrepreneurs willing to set up textile mills. Thus grew the textile heartland or Girangaon, as it is still known. Within the compound of these mills as well as around them were hundreds of buildings with one-room tenements where the workers lived. The entire area was until quite recently an almost exclusively working class enclave.

The history of the way the land on which these mills stood has been surreptitiously diverted, with the collusion of governments, is a story that speaks of not just an absence of vision for the city but a complete disdain for the needs of the working class and the poor. It is important for people in other cities to be aware of these developments because they illustrate how governments change policies to benefit the rich and the powerful even as they speak in the name of the poor. And textile mill lands waiting to be developed exist in many cities, including Delhi, Bangalore, Kanpur, Allahabad, Kolkata and Coimbatore.

Mumbai's textile industry dates back to 1854 when the first mills were established. At one stage, in 1961, these mills employed almost two and a half lakh workers. Today, there are 58 mills employing fewer than 20,000 people. Of these, 32 are privately owned, 25 are owned by the National Textile Corporation and one by the State. Twenty-nine of the privately owned mills are already closed after going through various stages of industrial "sickness".

In 1991, in response to the plea of mill owners that they be allowed to sell some of their land to generate revenues to pay off debts and workers dues, the Maharashtra Government introduced Section 58 in the Development Control Rules that permitted mill owners to sell or redevelop one third of the land they owned. However, one-third had to be given to the municipal corporation for open spaces or other public facilities. And one-third was designated for public housing.

The formula remained on paper and only very few of the private mills actually sold their land to pay the workers their dues. The stories of mill workers still waiting for their dues, committing suicide because they saw no hope in the future, and having to fight for each instalment of what had been agreed upon, are legion. In any case, what was due to the workers constituted barely 10 per cent of what mill owners would have gained by selling their land.

This is where the Government steps in again. In 2001, Mr. Deshmukh, in his earlier tenure as Chief Minister, passed an amendment to Section 58 of the Development Control Rules. Instead of all the land occupied by the mills being divided up, the new rule laid down that only land that was vacant, that is, with no built-up structure, would be so divided. In other words, the mill owners got to keep most of the land on which their closed mills stood and the city and workers got less than six per cent between them.

And this is in a city that is crying out for open space and for more land for public housing. What is the justification for this bonanza for the mill owners when land is desperately needed for public housing?

It is evident now that this change was not done inadvertently. The amendment was passed without discussion. In recent years, there has been a spurt of new construction on the mill lands. None of it is public housing. Most of it consists of luxury housing and shopping malls. Earlier this month, Mr. Deshmukh appointed a committee to visit this controversial issue again and come out with a report.

But even as the committee, which does not have any representative from the workers, deliberates, the municipal corporation is clearing plans to redevelop hundreds of acres of mill lands. What use will this report be when it comes out and if and when it is ever implemented? Once again, one has to question the intent of the Government. Surely these choices are not innocent.

Cities such as Mumbai, or any other, cannot be "renewed" if no attention is paid to crucial areas such as affordable and environmentally benign public transport systems and public housing.

We need to put aside our obsession with becoming "world class", or like Shanghai or any other city. Let us make our cities liveable for all the people. That itself is a big enough agenda for the future.

Fact Tentative Sheet Related To Large Scale Slum Demolition In Mumbai (National Alliance or People's Alliance and Shahar Vikas Manch)

Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2005 19:23:52 +0000 (GMT)
Recieved from: Sanjay Sangvai

Fact Tentative Sheet Related To Large Scale Slum Demolition In Mumbai

Mumbai was known to be a major center for Industrial production and manufacturing industry in India. A major shift in this perception started in the late 1980s. Several attempts were made for the slum development before 1993-94

1993-94: The Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Plan (MMRDP) was prepared, envisaging shift from manufacturing, production to the center of service industry. It also envisaged a shift from an organized sector to the unorganized or informal sector.

Accordingly, various suburban developent plan like Vasai-Virar plan, Kalyan-Dombivili plan started.

2003-2004: During the Chief Ministership of Sushilkumar Shinde, Mumbai First, an organiation of the builders, industrialists, and former higher bureaucrats, initiated the Development Plan for Mumbai through the multinational consultation company, McKinsey and insisted that Mumbai be developed accordingly. The state government adopted the plan, without any wider consultation or consulting the Legislative Assembly. The state government appointed an Special officer for the implementtion of this report, who is directly answerable to the Chief Minister.

The Mckinsey report had no plan for the housing of the poor. It advises to reduce the slums in Mumbai down to 10% . The Maharashtra housing Development Authority (MHADA) stopped constructing the low-cost houses, after 1990.

At present, roughly, about 15-20% of the land in Mumbai is (was) occupied by the slums, housing 60-65 % population of the metropolis.

The Congress-Nationalist party alliance promised regularization of the hutments upto 2000.

The Mumbai First and related groups propounded the idea of 'developing Mumbai' and complained that there was not much land available for the real estate development.

The Chief Minister unveils plan to change the Mumbai's face and entire body (kayaa-paalat) in the Assembly Session at Nagpur on December 8, 2004, and claims that the Prime Minister has assured all possible help in this endeavour.The new Mumbai development plan would cost Rs. 31, 823 crores for five years. he set aside the assurance given in the manifesto and declared that all the slums after 1995 would be demolished. He claimed tht Maharashtra is the most favoured destination for foreign investment.

December 8, 2004: The newly elected Congress-NCP government launched the first such massive slum demolition operation It was a preparation on war footing for clearing post-1995 slums. The Mumbai Commissioner Johny Joseph takes charge, which would start simultaneously at several places, with massive police force and State Reserve Police. Instead of going into legality, he declared, of every hut individually, the entire slum would be cleared once it was found that it was established after January 1, 1995.

Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackeray fully supports the demolition of post 1995 slums.

Thousands of huts were razed and people were left in biting cold, without food, water and health facilities. Almost all the political parties, barring some minority and Dalit leaders, all the major media ˆ both English and even the Marathi one- supported the move.

Dec 9: Rajendra Srivastav, slum citizen in Anand nagar, Andhei (W) committs suicide, as a resistance to the demolition. No FIR was filed.

December 15, 2004: First signs of resistance; daylong dharna of evicted slumdwellers in Azad Maidan

December 17-18, 2004: Stone pelting by people on the demolition party at Govandi, massive police bandobust and 59 people arrested. Stone throwing by the evicted people in Byculla. Thane city officials and police on alert as these evicted people should not some there.

Dec. 18: Two girl-children were killed during the demolition operations in Bandra slums.

Dec 20: Rajendra Chaddha dies of burn injuries in Mangelwadi, Juhu slum. Police report this as suicide.

December 22, 2004; Long March by Zopadpatti Bachao Parishad against the eviction and demolition. Declared that the slum clearance is being done to benefit the builders and capitalists. Token protest by ruling party leaders. CM Vilasrao Deshmukh reprimands the party leaders and reiterates his resolve to demolish the slums.

Dec. 21: The state Finance Minister assures the Indian Merchant Chambers of slum clearance without any abetment. He lauds the Vision Mumbai plan of industrialists and talks of Shanghai Model of development for Mumbai.

Dec 22: The state government decides to allow the construction in the No-Development zone of 38 crore square feet land, disregarding Development Plans, Urban Land Ceiling Act, Revenue Code, Mumbai Stamp Act (Mah. Times, 22.12.04)

Hutment on protected (Reserved) land in Rafiq Nagar, were demolished for dumping ground of the massive operation.

Dec. 22: In a day 8000 huts in Malavani cleared. Shiv Sena mouthpiece reports that all these were illegal Bangladeshis and had TV, freeze, mixer, washing machine etc.

De 24: Officers plead inability to demolish the unauthorized construction of high-income group people. They expressed displeasure over the insistence on this aspect by the Deputy Chief Minister RR Patil. The new Governor, SM Krishna also supported the slum demolition. Republican party convention opposes the demolition. Fencing to the Malvani land.

Dec 31: Twenty-two organizations in city form Zopadpatti Bachao Samyukta Kriti Samiti.

Jan 4, 2005: 50,000 huts demolished., 300 acre land valued at Rs. 1500 crores is 'liberated'.

Jan 5, 2005: Elite Citizens Action Group meets Chief Minister, Dy. Chief Minister, applauds their resolve in clearing the slums and gives whole hearted support to all such actions. CM Vilasrao Deshmukh expresses his resolve to make Mumbai a world-class city, and to punish those encouraging illegal slum building. The Mumbai Development plan, accordingly, consists of Metro Project, Ring Railway, Trans-harbour project.

Shankar Potgire, from Subhash Nagar, Ghatkopar dies of severe cold, as police do not allow any shelter or medical aid.

Jan 8, 2005: The Citizens Action Committee felicitates the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who cme in the city for the Pravasi Baratiya (NRI conference) and commends for the resolve shown in slum clearance. The Prime Minister also assured them to convert Mumbai into Shaghai within five years and said that people would forget Shanghai! Present at the occasion were the Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister, Mr. Sunil Dutt, Prafulla Patel ˆ both Union ministers from Maharashtra, Gurudas Kamat MP., industrialists Mukesh Ambani, Adi Godrej, builder Nanik Rupani, editor of Loksatta Kumar Ketkar etc. The industrialists also demanded doing away with coastal regulation zone- CRZ Act and new international air port near Mumbai, new highways. They express concern over the slum encroachment on government land.

Jan 8: Officials again deride the insistence by Dy.CM, RR Patil on demolishing the 592 unauthorized constructions of rich people.

Jan 13: Over 100 evicted people storm Mantralaya and CMs office

After nearly two months, the massive operation resulted in demolition and destruction of over 80,000 hutments , displacing about 40 to 35 million (4 to 3.5 lakh) people. Since then many children and elders died, are sick, broke their limbs, The state government complains tht it had to spend Rs. 84 crores on slum demolition. About 3989 police persons were used. thousands protested. Various Dalit organizations and parties have declared to launch agitation.

Jan.31: Largescale protest of 22 organiations of slum dwellers and the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) near Mantralaya. Two daylong Dharna. People start reoccupying the cleared slums, to rebuild houses on the evicted land. House was built in Rafiq Nagar, elsewhere; many resist bulldozers in other land. Over 70 people were arrested and cases for rioting, forceful entry etc were registered.

February 11, 2005: Over 500 people were arrested and then released Govandi suburb. But some 12 activists were again arrested by hurting and humiliating women activists. Police lathicharge the 300 strong demonstration.

February 13: Over 500 people lay siege on the office of the ruling Congress office in Mumbai, Tilak Bhavan in Dadar. The All India Congress General Secretary Mrs. Margaret Alva expressed shock and disapproves the slum clearance. The delegation of the organizations meet the State Congress Chief Mrs. Prabha Rau. The party assures immediate stoppage of demolitions and relief to the evicted people.

The Main Demands of the Zopadpatti Bachao Samyukta Kriti Samiti:

Stop inhuman demolitions at once. Withdraw the police force and private security guards harassing and committing atrocities.
Respect electoral promises and protect all slums prior to 2000 and rehabilitate dwellers where necessary.
Rehabilitate all people in the same place. Constitute a joint Task Force with government, non-government organizations working in the affected area and community representative acceptable to us.
Accept identity proofs like ration card, photo pass, survey receipt, and other government documents along with voters' identity card as eligible identity proof for rehabilitation

STOP inhuman demolitions at once. Withdraw the police force and private security contracts harassing and committing atrocities till date.

Respect the electoral promise and protect all slums and houses built prior to 2000, improving the slums and rehabilitating dwellers where necessary.

Rehabilitate all people in the same place. Constitute a joint task force with government, non-government organisations working in the affected area and community representatives acceptable to us.

Accept identity proofs like ration cards, photo pass survey receipts and other government documents along with voter‚s identity card as eligible identity proofs for rehabilitation.

Issue immediate photo identity pass to slum dwellers who have been surveyed before 1995 or later

Pay compensation worth at least Rs30, 000 per family to those whose houses and belongings have been demolished and recognise the importance of their electoral and human rights in a democratic society.

Transfer ownership of land on which the hutments stand, onto the names of the hutment dwellers and plan and execute low cost housing scheme for the affected through people‚s cooperatives, keeping builders out.

Enact a national rehabilitation policy for any type of displacement and forced evictions.

Implement the Supreme Court order on right to food issued till 2004 and execute the concerned schemes for people below the poverty line
The cases files against slum dwellers and activists should be immediately withdrawn unconditionally and all who are in jailed be released

Implement the Urban Land Ceiling Act and acquire 2500 acres of land belonging to the Godrej, Jeejeebhoy Beheramjee Trust etc and utilise it for housing for urban poor.

Amend the existing law for allowing the transfer rights of hutments prior to 1995(SRA) and give full rehabilitation rights to new occupants of the same structure.

In the city development plan, there should be a provision to ensure that every person who comes to the city of Mumbai should be provided affordable housing and demarcate separate land for slums, poor and marginalized sections

Protect the lives and livelihoods, shelter and land belonging to and occupied and utilized by the mill workers and fisher people who are the original, generations old inhabitants of Mumbai. In planning the Vision of Mumbai, keep in mind the culture of the city, its history and other indicators of human development, especially taking into consideration the vision of the poor 60% of Mumbai‚s population. It should evolve out of dialogue with labourers ˆ organised and unorganised, pavement and slum dwellers, tenants etc. The Mumbai vision plan and all specific projects with foreign and Indian funds must be put into the public domain and public hearing especially in the affected communities, must be organised. MMRDA Act must be followed in this direction, immediately. The final decision should be based on these hearings and special consultations with the people‚s organizations.

Prepared by:

National Alliance or People's Alliance
and Raju Bhise of Shahar Vikas Manch

February 2005

In perspective : Slum Demolitions in Mumbai (Vidyadhar Date)

[www.sacw.net | 20 February 2005 ]

In perspective : Slum Demolitions in Mumbai
by Vidyadhar Date

The current controversy over the demolition of thousands of huts in Mumbai reminds me of Shakespeare's classic play King Lear. In one of the greatest scenes in world literature King Lear realizes the plight of the poor and the houseless in his kingdom when he himself is thrown out of the door by his daughters.

Lear discovers that there is a far bigger tragedy in the world than his own personal suffering He realizes that he has taken too little care of the poor in his kingdom. He wonders how the poor houseless heads were defending themselves in cruel weather.

The realism of the play is so stark and it disturbed the establishment so much that for nearly a century after 1661 the play's tragic ending was changed and a happy ending was provided during performances.

Lear undergoes a radical change in his outlook when he experiences suffering himself. King Lear is Shakespeare's most mature play with a wide social outlook. No other play of Shakespeare has such words as poor, beggar, wretch, bare, charity, houseless , at least not to any significant level..

Like Lear our rulers too need to understand the plight of the houseless. This is not to suggest that all encorachers should be given protection and allowed to live in Mumbai.What needs to be understood and emphasized is that people migrate to Mumbai because life is much worse in rural areas. But the ruling class does not want to admit its utter failure to solve problems in the villages where India still truly lives despite all the urbanisation.

So, the government should pay more attention to solve problems in rural areas, that would take care of problems in urban areas, there would be no or less migration. For those talking of converting Mumbai into Shanghai the latest issue of Time magazine should come as an eye opener and a setback. It depicts the brutal way the city is being built at the cost of the ordinary people and life. It quotes an architecture professor Mao Qizhi as saying that "if other cities copy Shanghai we would have disaster on our hands." More ironical is the fact that the city is being developed by the son of Albert Speer, the architect of Adolf Hitler who is notorious for ugly fascist architecture.

Our ministers need not themselves become houseless like Lear to realize the gravity of the problem of houselessness. But they could certainly start experiencing the problems of the people in other ways.

When the government was criticized recently for the move to buy Skoda luxury cars for ministerial use, chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh posed a counter question "are ministers to use buses or trains if not cars ?" The answer would be yes, at least on some occasions the ministers can do that.

Ministers is so many European countries are known to walk to work or travel by trains or bicycles. There is no earthly reason why this cannot be done here at least occasionally and not as a stunt. Vested interests always say such things cannot be done here, this is a different country but the same people think nothing of imitating the worst Western models here.

In the land of Mahatma Gandhi a simple life style should come naturally to most people. Gandhiji seldom used the motor car and when he travelled by train, he chose to travel by third class and he was not happy with trains too as he felt they travelled too fast and in a way did violence to nature.

His simple but architecturally excellent ashrams have inspired many architects and no history of Indian architecture can be complete without a detailed reference to the ashrams. Mr Nripen Chakraborty, former chief minister of Tripura, who died recently, had only a steel trunk for his possession when he started his tenure as chief minister and that was his only possession when he left office. He was a dedicated member of the Communist party of India (Marxist).

The leadership of most right-wing parties is far removed from people . In Mumbai state legislators think nothing of taking a special bus provided by the government to travel the short distance from the MLAs' hostel to Vidhan Bhavan, a distance of not more than 200 metres.

Many bureaucrats live bang opposite Mantralaya but take a car to travel that distance.There is so much talk of car pooling, which is a good idea, and there is no reason why this cannot be done occasionally in the case of ministers residing in their sprawling official bungalows at Malabar hill.

The two Congress parties have now woken up to the issue of slums because municipal elections are approaching. The problem is they look at people as vote banks and not as human beings, so it is better for the parties to keep people living in uncertainty and filth and threat of removal so that they can cash on their votes.

Mr Bhaskar Ghose, a retired IAS officer, former union secretary for cultural affairs and sensitive human being, recently wrote of the insulated lives bureaucrats live. Everything from their travel arrangements to household work and getting things repaired is taken care of by the state machinery. Mr Ghose said when he retired he realized what it means to live a life like ordinary people as he did not have any help in doing everyday chores and other jobs.

Ministers are in an even more privileged position. Far from setting an example in simple living, they are displaying wealth and celebrating marriages with pomp. The wedding of public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal's nephew at Bandra Reclamation ground recently is a pointer. Mr Bhujbal , an OBC, has suffered because he is not a Maratha. But as a follower of Mahatma Jotirao Phule, the social reformer, he has added responsibility of performing a marriage ceremony in the simple manner which was part of the the Satyashodak Samaj movement.

It is a pity that the progressive legacy of Phule has been negated by some of his followers. The most recent betrayal of this movement is the embracing of a new religion called Shiv Dharma by some people led by Mr A.H. Salunkhe, a scholar who had won considerable respect with his rationalism and writing which included the depiction of the subsidiary status given to women in India since ancient times.

The priorities for ministers are quite different. The union minister for civil aviation Praful Patel laments that our airports are neglected and there is absolute need to provide connectivity by air. That would be fine provided the basic needs of the common people are taken care of. Unfortunately, even basic infrastructure is ignored when it comes to the people. It is a scandal that the pedestrian bridge at Charni road station broke down recently and a major accident was averted. There is no proper connectivity even for walking for ordinary people.

I was in Shrirampur (formerly Serampore) in West Bengal famous for the work done by William Carey , a protestant missionary in the 19th century, in translating the Bible into several Indian languages and writing their grammars. This is a district town and I found at the railway station that it has no overhead bridge. As a result people are forced to cross railway tracks at great risk to their lives. Some people are worried about traffic jams and the inconvenience caused to motorists. Do they realize that there are major jams on railway bridges too because the space is so small and commuters are so many. That is the state of infrastructure in this country when it comes to the ordinary people. It is all right to have modern airports, but it does not mean you impose the most humiliating conditions on ordinary commuters.

Coming back to the housing question, last week I saw an excellent film 'A Raisin in the Sun' at the American Center featuring Sidney Poitier among others. The film made in 1961 shows among other things a black or rather Afro-American poor family's struggle in a white-dominated society. The family buys a house in a white locality and soon a white man comes to them talking sweetly and saying they should live among their own folk, it is much better for you guys. Moving to the white locality would create problems, the crafty fellow says.

Similar sorts of words are being used by some of the defenders of globalisation now to the urban poor. They are being told, you should not stay here, your are illegal and you should relocate yourselves. This city is only for us, the better off, the middle class and the like. The Mumbai high court showed some humanitarian concern when it observed earlier this week that night shelter should be provided to the poor, if not housing.

Recently, an architect made a sinister argument, blaming Medha Patkar and leftists for promoting the growth of slums in Mumbai.

All sorts of arguments are being invented to turn the attention from the real problem, government's failure to carry out its basic function to provide housing to the people or at least to ensure that ;prices of land and other sectors are checked ..

Slums and homelessness is not just a local problem confined to Mumbai. If it was the handiwork of a few people as some would argue, how is it that this is increasingly becoming a more and more acute global problem ? It is caused primarily by economic inequalities and the policies of globalisation. Let us face it.This comes from none else than the United Nations body UN Habitat in its exhaustive report. . But some people refuse to accept the bitter and harsh reality of the failure of governance.

Some people may not agree with Medha Patkar's agitation but it is a good sign that she has broadbased her struggle to include issues other than the displacement caused by the Narmada dam. She is already collaborating with activists involved in other struggles and heads the organization called National Alliance for People's Movements.

February 18, 2005

Slum Politics (James Westcott)

Slum Politics
By James Westcott, AlterNet. Posted February 18, 2005.

The squalid mini-city states known as slums now house at least one billion people across the world, living outside normal regulations. As their ranks swell, some are saying that it's time to start thinking of them a little differently.

In the last three months, the Bombay Municipal Corporation has demolished 80,000 shanties in a city where 3 million people are slum dwellers. The local government recently granted legal status to homes built before 1995, and bulldozed everything else. The devastation is "tsunami-like," according to the Indian Inter Press news agency. Three hundred and fifty thousand people have been made homeless but only 50,000 new apartments have been provided. The program is part of Bombay's plan to re-model itself on the ruthlessly prosperous Shanghai, which has tried to eradicate its slums.

But Shanghai's slums remain, as they do in other cities, as part of an inexorable global trend: 200,000 people a day are carrot-and-sticked from the countryside to cities that then refuse to accommodate them. In Bombay they end up in shacks by the road, on railway tracks and next to the airport – embarrassingly visible from landing planes. In Lagos, two-thirds of which is made up of slums, a shanty town has sprouted up on an enormous, slowly burning garbage dump. In Kibera, the slum surrounding Nairobi, raw sewage flows over the few water pipes, and latrines are so scarce that people simply defecate in plastic bags and then throw them as far away from their dwelling as possible – a phenomenon called "flying toilets."

Eighty-five percent of the developing world's urban population now lives in slums, and 40 percent of slum dwellers in Africa live in what the UN calls "life-threatening" poverty.

Elsewhere though, squatter communities are so well developed that they can't properly be called slums. With multi-story buildings, shops, businesses and offices – even a squatter town hall – Sultanbeyli in Istanbul is now almost indistinguishable from the adjacent "legal" city. Despite the varying conditions, the world's squatters hold certain things in common: they live in semi-sovereign, if squalid, mini-city states, paying no taxes and leaching services like water and electricity and, occasionally, some rights, from the legit world. They operate in an illegal or informal economy, and have only the most tenuous relationship with the state. According to the UN, by 2030 a quarter of the world's population will be living like this. In the midst of the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe of slum-growth, we could be in for some major social, political and economic consequences that are only just starting to be discussed.

The rock star philosopher Slavoj Zizek has called the growth of slums the "crucial geopolitical event of our time," and an "opportunity" for a truly "'free' world." Slum dwellers, though in sore need of health care and minimal means of self-organization, are free in the double sense of the word, says Zizek, writing in the London Review of Books: "'free' from all substantial ties; dwelling in a free space, outside the regulation of the state." Zizek warns against idealizing squatters as a new "revolutionary class" – their freedom really is another word for nothing left to lose – but in the next breath he marvels at how beautifully squatters seem to fit into Marx's definition of a proletarian revolutionary subject.

With the apparent collapse of the anti-globalization carnival and the impotence of the anti-war movement, could the left be on to something, at last, with squatters – not the anarchists in developed cities who do it as a lifestyle choice, but the billion ex-peasants, entrepreneurs and derelicts who are starting to numerically dominate every city in the world outside of the northern and western hemispheres?

Two new books touch tentatively – inadvertently even – on this possibility, without endorsing it. It might seem pretty callous to speculate from the comfort of the West about political "opportunity" in third world slums when people don't have clean drinking water or flush toilets. Or is it utterly necessary to move beyond the standard pity and fear of slum-dwellers and start recognizing them as political agents, not just victims?

This seems to be Robert Neuwirth's aim in Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World (Routledge), although he doesn't actually note or promote the development of squatters' political capital. Neuwirth, a journalist based in New York, spent two years living in some of the world's burgeoning slums. He was dazzled by squatters' resourcefulness and doggedness, but these individualistic qualities don't seem to lend themselves to the building of co-operation within or between communities. While living among relatively prosperous squatters in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro's 150,000-strong shadow city, Neuwirth says that people hardly noticed the army's forced eviction of squatters in the capital, Brasilia – "Their solidarity did not extend much beyond their street."

The most interesting section of Shadow Cities isn't the reportage, which is often robotic and impatient, like a 30-second TV news piece. It's the chapter on "Proper Squatters, Improper Property," where Neuwirth discusses political scientists Hernando de Soto and Peter Marcuse's views on squatters, which represent the difficulties of grappling with the phenomenon of squatting in traditional ideological terms. De Soto, a free marketeer, wants to release the "dead capital" that squatters' property and entrepreneurship represents by immediately granting legal title deeds. Then the credit cards and consumerism will come. Marcuse, looking from the left, surprisingly seems to have rather less hope for squatters. As a result of their selfish pursuit of their own betterment, Marcuse says that squatters' communities – if they can be called that – are disorganized and inefficient, no model for a radical urban future.

There are further complications to the seductive idea of squatters harboring – or already enacting – some revolutionary potential. Rocinha, the largest of Rio's 600 favelas, now has all the trappings of normal urban life: grocery stores, banks, video rental stores, restaurants, a nightclub, even three health clubs and a postal service. Rocinha also has a small McDonald's, credit card companies, loan shops, and a cable TV supplier – there are more TVs than fridges in the favela.

This is asfaltizaçâo: the inevitable, probably welcome, gentrification of slums that will eventually happen everywhere if governments – made to feel insecure by people who apparently don't need them – can resist the temptation to tear down these rebellious neighborhoods. But does asfaltizaçâo mean that these lawless, propertyless rugged individualists simply can't wait to integrate their slums into Mall World, where the rest of us live? Who can blame them?

In Planet of the Slums (Verso), another new book (to be released in June) on the urban poor, sociologist Mike Davis is cautious about perceiving slums as bubbling political volcanoes: "the [l]eft [is] still largely missing from the slum," he says. Islam and Pentecostalism are the unifying forces in the slums of Morocco, Latin America and Africa, occupying "a social space analogous to that of twentieth-century socialism and anarchism." While squatters don't fit into old-fashioned categories, or demonstrate much political solidarity, Davis notes that slum dwellers are "the fastest growing, and most unprecedented, social class on earth." We didn't forecast the catastrophic growth of slums, and we may not be able to predict the political implications either – but there must be some.

Are we really seeing an accelerated version in the developing world of the slum stages that western cities went through, as Neuwirth intimates? Or are we seeing a humanitarian crisis of a different order, one caused by neo-liberal pressures on agriculture and simultaneous loss of jobs in cities? Planet of the Slums is a more foreboding book than Shadow Cities: Davis sees an under-recognized humanitarian catastrophe, and not much redeeming political opportunity, yet. Worse, it's a catastrophe that is irreversible under present conditions: "The labour-power of a billion people has been expelled from the world system, and who can imagine any plausible scenario, under neoliberal auspices, that would reintegrate them as productive workers or mass consumers?" The development of Rocinha offers one such scenario of integration – or appropriation – of the outside world into the (former) slum, but this is only a tiny sliver of the humanity that has been rendered surplus. Who knows if this model of slum gentrification will transplant itself, and should we care if it neuters the possibilities of new models of ownership and informal economic activity latent in the world's slums?

After speaking to Celine D'Cruz, one of the founders of Slum Dwellers International (Zizek would surely find the name encouraging), such intellectual and theoretical questions suddenly seemed frivolous in the face of the immediate and perpetual crisis her organization deals with. SDI was founded in South Africa in 1996 to give more than a token voice for the urban poor in the decisions made by lofty NGOs, development agencies, the UN, and local municipalities. There are now dozens of groups affiliated with SDI across the global south, but according to its web site, the primary focus of the group is "emphatically local."

I phoned D'Cruz in Bombay shortly after she had visited one of the freshly demolished slums. People had started to rebuild their homes, she told me, but that day the Municipal Corporation had paid another visit and attempted to remove the roofs of the hastily reconstructed shacks. "When the city comes with force like this it's very difficult to resist. People get pissed off," she said. "They sometimes throw chile powder in [city officials'] eyes, scream and shout, stand in front of their house. Today they had a big fight, the [corporation] guys got frightened and they left. But it's no fun guarding your house every day."

SDI is trying to negotiate the proper resettlement of Bombay's squatters. This means including them in the process – not, as has happened in the past, housing fishermen and vendors in high-rise new tenements where they can't carry their equipment up the stairs. When you don't ask squatters where and how they want to live, D'Cruz says, "you deliver and construct houses that aren't good enough for the poor." So it's no wonder they often just sell the property that was given to them and move to another shanty town where they can determine their own lives again.

Still, D'Cruz is wary about "romanticizing" the impressive defiance of the squatters (something Neuwirth occasionally lapses into in Shadow Cities). She insisted that none of them relish their place on the margins. "Speak to any woman: she doesn't want to live on the street or on railway tracks. She dreams of a better home for her children. She doesn't want to leave them plastic sheets when she's dead."

Eighty percent of the membership of SDI is women. "That's a big difference from conventional movements," said D'Cruz. "I think housing is something that's very important to women. A man can come to a city and live under a bridge, a sheet, anywhere. But if a city can't provide for a woman, she's extremely vulnerable. Women have a much greater stamina for dealing with the complexities" of securing housing rights.

The composition of SDI is one aspect of an unfamiliar but also unassuming radicalism. D'Cruz says that slum dwellers don't necessarily have a macro view of the neo-liberal conditions that shape their lives, "But they are surely able to make choices in their cities that work for them without holding the city to ransom." SDI seeks local and immediate solutions – they're don't seem to be interested in big rhetoric or new theories – and then shares their knowledge internationally: "Our point is if a Japanese businessman can go to the other side of the world to do business, what's to stop a slum dweller representing themselves in another part of the world?" With that, D'Cruz had to leave, with a delegation of slum dwellers and NGO representatives, to catch a plane to Kenya for an international SDI board meeting. On the agenda: AIDS, demolitions, the loss of a lot of their leadership in the tsunami, and resettlement of its living victims – the harrowing practicalities that come before theory.

Sit - in Demo (22 Feb) Bombay Joint Platform against Eviction

From: "Gautam Sen"
Subject: Programme on Eviction
Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2005 10:30:51 +0530

Friends and comrades,

You all know that we have been taking various programmes against Eviction without rehabilitation and for Rehabilitation for all the evictees for more than three years. We have been doing this more or less consistently. But we are far away from getting our basic demands won, though here and there some concessions and relieves have been achieved. In spite of the clear-cut declaration in the Common Minimum programme of the UPA govt (which is ratified by the Left Front) both the Central and the State govt. have been continuing their eviction programme. Recently they have announced that they are going to evict thousands of families residing at Ballygung-Tollygung railway side jhupris in the first week of March, 2005. It may be added that the local jhupri residents are doing their best to continue and develop the resistance movement.

In this situation we are calling all concern citizens and organisations to join hands to strengthen the anti-eviction movement, in general and the ensuing railway colony eviction, in particular.

We also invite you to participate in the following programme toawrds the same.

14 February, 2005

Joint Platform against Eviction

Sit-in Demonstration at Hazra Crossing

(The concern citizens along with the evicted and would-be-evicted persons will be present)

22 February, 2005 3 pm to 9 pm

Documentation films on the agony and protest of the affected people in Tolly Nullah, Beleghata and Rabindra Sarovar will also be shown.

Contact: 2465 2507, 94331 30349

February 17, 2005

Immediate Relief for the State-initiated Tsunami Victims - Letter to Sonia Gandhi

Smt. Sonia Gandhi,
The President,
The Indian National Congress,
New Delhi.

Sub : Immediate Relief for the State-initiated Tsunami Victims in Mumbai


It is rather heartening that, as it appears from various media reports, you have taken some time off from your busy schedule and opted to take note, even if somewhat belated, of the terrible human disaster that is at the moment tormenting Mumbai. It provides us a small consolation that the myriad protest struggles being waged by the hapless affected, and the numerous petitions sent to you, have eventually been able to draw your attention to the ongoing human tragedy of massive proportions.

As you are aware, around eighty thousand poor working class families, contributing their mites in a number of meaningful ways in building and running the megapolis, have been stripped of their ramshackle shelters at the peak of the winter season in the name of beautifying the city by literally bulldozing the ìillegalî hutments which allegedly came up after 31st December, 1994. In the process even those who were staying at the same place for well over a decade have lost their meager homes and means for survival.

The drive, as you know, was launched in early December by a government which had just come to power with an impressive show in the city in the assembly election held about six weeks back on the basis of the general promise that the Congress will stand with the common people and the specific commitment that all the hutments built till the end of 1999 will be regularised.

Madam, youíd surely remember, you yourself had actively participated in the election campaign, and road shows in the city, to lend credibility to these promises.

Consequently, this ongoing inhuman drive on the part of the State, to destroy the lives of a large number of its poor and vulnerable citizens instead of actively intervening to protect, spearheaded by a Chief Minister, who not so long ago had been publicly dallying with the Shiv Sena, is just not soiling the image of your party ñ it is a downright assault on your personal credibility as well, with an all-India and long term ramification.

There is a widespread belief that the ëbeautificationí drive is nothing more than a clever ploy to line the pockets of those occupying the high offices and their blood brothers in the building industry at the cost of the common citizenry. This impression gets further strengthened if one looks at the role of this government in gifting away precious mill lands, which had been leased out by the State for carrying out productive activities, to the mill owners again blatantly revising the government stands taken earlier to the detriment of all other stakeholders. The move towards scrapping the Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act (ULCRA) and active lobbying by this selfsame government to bring about relaxation of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification by the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF), even in the teeth of the terrible tsunami experience, are pointers in the same direction.

Under the circumstances, you are once again requested to actively intervene in halting the devilish drive forthwith, ensure proper shelters for those whose homes have been destroyed, formulate a national housing policy and implement it expeditiously to provide affordable housing to urban and rural poor, and, the last but not the least, ensure participation of all sections of stakeholders in the process of town and city planning. Madam, saving the lives of lakhs must be considered far more important than saving the prestige of a Chief Minister of doubtful commitments and intentions.

Thanking you,

Sukla Sen

EKTA (Committee for Communal Amity),

February 14, 2005

Letter to India's Prime Minister re Slum demolitions in Mumbai (Ammu Abraham)

To: Shree Manmohan Singh, The Prime Minister of India


Shreemati Sonia Gandhi, The UPA Chairperson and President, Congress Party,

Mumbai, 14-02-2005

Dear Sir / Madam,

As you know, the Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai, with the support of the BMC and the Govt of Maharashtra, have been on a spree of slum demolitions, of allegedly post-1995 habitations. Until now, the people who lived in these habitations have not been given any shelter, however temporary; their children cannot sit for exams, they cannot cook food and eat. They sit around all day long under the sun, hoping for something. Most of them are working people and they have been unable to go to work as they are sitting around guarding their belongings.

There is a conviction among the middle class in Mumbai that these people are a great strain on the infrastucture of the city. This is far from true. Thousands of acres of mill lands coming free and being sold in the old textile area of Parel etc are going to have huge high rises on 80 to 90% of it. That is going to put a great strain on the infrastructure and bare necessities of life in Mumbai, especially water. The slums cannot rise very high, and as such are not that much of a strain on infrastructure.

As for the 1995 cut off date, we are told that many people who lost their dwellings and whole bustees were there before 1995, some for a very long time. The Congress made a pre-election promise that the cut-off date will be moved to 2000; many slum dwellers who would have voted for a certain other party, voted for the Congress in the last Assembly elections on that promise. That is how the Congress has made such a come- back in Mumbai. By the sleight of hand of changing the Chief Minister, promises solemnly made should not be broken.

And irrespective of all this, these are citizens and citizenesses of India; they are being callously disenfranchized, struck off the electoral rolls. Soon they will not exist, for all legal purposes. Even illegal migrants, or even animals or any living thing should not be treated in this manner.

Apparently, all this is being done in furtherance of the "Shanghai-Mumbai" plan. But India is not China, and Mumbai is not Shanghai. It is not even Delhi, which has already been cleansed by chasing all the poor out. Mumbai has been the mother of all the displaced of India who are capable of working, but without a livelihood elsewhere.

We are not saying that people should be allowed to build habitations over crucial water pipes and so on; but that the demolitions should not be so indiscriminate, and that going ahead with this get rich scheme of builders in Mumbai will spell the end of Mumbai one of these days.

On Saturday, just 2 days ago, Medha Patkar of NBA, Prakash Reddy of CPI and a number of others have been also arrested, and incarcerated, in relation to a protest near Rafiq Nagar bustee, which had been demolished last December. 1000 families had been rendered homeless at one stroke. The women and children have been sleeping in a cemetery nearby since then. These are people who had homes, who had work, whose children were going to school. The government of Maharashtra and the Mumbai Municipal Corporation increased the number of homeless, jobless and school dropouts by 1000 families at one stroke. And we go begging every other day to the World Bank and ADB and IMF, for loans for development, especially of Mumbai. Where is all this money going? A lot of it was supposed to improve life for the suburban commuters of Mumbai, the miserable suburban population, spending an average of 4 hours packed into mind numbing misery daily. A whole lot of people squatting on railway lands have got new places; but has the commuters’ life improved? Not a jot. The bridges are higher; making physical exertion greater than ever, even for the ageing, the sick and the disabled; but the promise of one more line to separate out the outstation trains so that the commuters do not have to run up the stairs and down when locals are shifted to other platforms – even that has not been done; never mind Shree Govinda, Congress M.P. from Mumbai referring to his mother, taking a much advertized train ride pre-elections and challenging Shree Ram Naik of the BJP (quite rightly) etc.

If you cannot build for the people, alleviate their misery, at least do not demolish what they have already built, so heartlessly.

Stop the demolitions immediately.
Release all arrested persons immediately and call them for discussions about the demolitions and resettlement.
Put up some permanent camps in Mumbai for temporary shelters for the displaced, in every zone; do not leave people/children out on the streets.
Remove all the security guards - paid for by the builders’ lobby , from the demolished areas.
Compensate those whose homes have been illegally demolished.
Pay attention to the school-going children and make arrangements for them to continue to attend school
Make arrangements for the elderly and the sick; do a survey on how many are already dead due to the demolitions
Conduct an enquiry into how women are managing and arrange for counselling for those who are greatly distressed.
We are all crying for the Tsunami-hit people, calling for the establishment of democracy in Nepal.

These demolitions are violating several fundmental rights of the victimized people, according to the Constitution of India. What is the point of having a Constitution, if the most fundamental rights of the citizenry is violated, and the poor can be thrown out and not only their labour, but even their meagre possessions can be misappropriated any time by agencies of the state? Has some ledger been kept somewhere about what the belongings of each of these men, women and children are? Did someone keep track of how many notebooks, pencils, erasers of every child student in the demolished bustees were? If not, how can they even be compensated for personal property destroyed? Are they not human beings and are their dreams not as worthy as those of any of your children?

Please stop the demolitions immediately, and start taking stock of the destruction.

Yours truly,

Ammu Abraham for the Women’s Centre, Bombay.

Stop Further Demolitions - Press Note ZopadPatti Bachao Kriti Samiti


C/o Bhupesh Gupta Bhavan, Sayani Road, Prabhadevi, Mumbai-400025

Press Note/ 13.2. 2005


Hundreds of the evicted slumdwellers in Mumbai demanded the rulong Congress party that all the demolitions be stoppedc forthwith and the evicted people be allowed to resetle on the same land, and the state should provide food, shelter, clean water amnd compensation for the grave violation of human and democratic rights by the Maharashtra government, at the behest of the corporate powers. It called on the Congress party to stnad for the Œcommon people‚ as per its declared stance and restore, protect life and livelihoods of poor people.

Over five hundred representative men and women from over 15 hutment colonies and activists over 20 organizations comprising of the Zopadpatti Bachao Samyukta Kruti Samiti converged on front of the headquarters of Maharashtra State Congress Committee in Tilak Bhavan. Many women came with their children and many have left them behind to register their protest. Both the men and women had lost their livelihood and the older chidren and college-going youngsters had to face displacement and destitution when their examinations are nearing. Despite the destitution they have beewn facing for over two months, the people kept alive the fire to fight for their right to life. "We have no choice, but to fight for ourroght ti life. It seems that the Maharashtra government and the corporate and media elites care only for the rights of the rich people", said the agitated people. " The eviction of the hutment dwellers is a conspiracy against the Bahujan Samaj (the backward). We have brought these people to power; now they are serving the moneyed interests. We can drag them off the seat if power as well", announced the young Siddharth.

In the afternoon the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Comittee Chief, Mrs. Prabha Rau invited a 10-member delegation for discussion. It seems that Mrs. Rau and other Congress leaders were hesitant to assure the instant stippage of the eviction or relief to the already evicted. It was curious that the former ministerm Hussain Dalwai was non-commital about stoping the demolitions and was beating around the bush. He also blamed the previous Sena dominated Mumbai Metopolitan Corporation for ordering the demolitions and police atrocities! Another former minister Kripa Shanker Singh was at least apologetic but equally non-commital. They however insisted that the demolitions is a complicated issue.

In the end Medha Patkar made it clear that the state government should not wait for three days to stop the demolitions, provide relief if shelter, food, clean water, medical service and stoping the police teror and atrocity. She demanded that the Congress Party should make it clear whether it envisages any place for the poor people in the city development plan. " We would be watching what stance Mrs. Margater Alva and other Congress leaders take in the Mumbai-Vision seminar, sponsored by the builders and corporate powers".

Earlier the day, the delegation of the Samyukta Kriti Samiti met the General Secretary of All India Congress Committee amd the party in-charge of Maharashtra affairs, Mrs. Margate Alva. They gave a detailed memorundum and asked her to restrain the Maharashtra government. They criticised the so-caled development plam for Maharashtra prepared by the multinational McKinsey company. They pointed out that there has been unprecedented violation of the human rights of over 35 million people, by razing over 80,000 huts. It had adversely affected the education of about 10 million people. The people have been living on the dust, dirt and garbage, deliberately filled in by the Corporation to make it difficult for ti re-occupy the cleared land. There were large scale police atrocities, and still they are being harassed by the police. They asked Mrs. Alva to make the Congress party to honour the assurance made in the pre-election manifesto. They demanded that ˆ

Stop the inhuman demolitions, withdeaw the police and private security forces, respect electoral promises amd give the rights ti the hutment dwellers upto 2000; rehabilitate the already evicted at the same place giving them the land right, paying the compensation upto Rs. 30,000 for the damages. Th organizations asked for strictly enforcing the urban land ceiling act and free over 2500 hectares lamd from capotalists; they demanded the imediate and unconditional withdeawal of the cases against the hutment dwelers and the activists. They also demanded that the city development plan should have the plan for the housing of the poor people and that "separate land for slums, poor, and marginalized people" It made clear that while planning for the Mumbai the vision of poor 60% of the people‚s livelihods, shelter should be priotected and be given top priority.

Vidya Chavan
Vitthal Ghag
Raju Bhise
Sanjay Shinde
Dhruv Rerdkar
Vilas Rohimal
Anand Kamble
Shakil Ahmed others