February 25, 2005

India: Respect Rights of Slum Dwellers, Devise Resettlement Plan

Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples
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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

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