June 24, 2005

Mumbai Hutment Dwellers' Struggle: An Update - June 23, 2005

From: Sukla Sen
Date: Thu June 23, 2005
Subject: Mumbai Hutment Dwellers' Struggle: An Update

[The monsoon has already set in. There's no move to provide immediate, even if temporary, relief. This is a very serious omission.

The enumeration, if carried out as an exclusively bureaucratic process, would result in huge exclusion. The process would also be vitiated by usual corrupt and extortionist practices. The state government is hell bent on doing precisely that. At the next hearing, on July 11, the court must be requested to intervene a fair enumeration by forming a monitoring committee having representatives of the people's / hutment dwellers' organisations and also institutions like TISS / Nirmala Niketan, in addition to the bureaucrats. The committee must have power to lay down norms and hear grievances.

This is a great opportunity to push for a rational and humane housing policy and true makeover of Mumbai - with affordable housing for the toiling multitude eliminating the abysmally subhuman living conditions those obtain today. Activists and experts must put their heads together to put forward a serious people's plan, at least in broad outlines, for true Mumbai makeover. Mere rejection of the government actions/moves would just not do.

Vilasrao had gone to the court to use it as a foil against the directives from Sonia Gandhi. But things apparently are moving in a very different direction. The activists must be ready to make the fullest use of the unforeseen and unanticipated opportunity. It's time to put forward and assert the right to shelter as a basic human and also constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right in a constructive and positive manner.]

NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF PEOPLE'S MOVEMENTS (NAPM) Haji Habib Bldg., First Floor, A wing, Naigoan Cross Rd., DADAR (East), MUMBAI 400 014.


Press Note: Mumbai, 22. June 2005

Today the Advocate General of Maharastra raised the issue of Mumbai's slumdwellers in the High Court of the honourable Chief Justice Shri. Bhandari and Justice Shri Vajefdharke. The State filed a notice of motion in a case from 1999. They wanted the approval of the Court in extending the cut-off date for providing temporary rehabilitation during the monsoon to slum dwellers that have resided in the city from
1-1-95 to 1-1-00. They have proposed to house the slum dwellers in Mankhurd Mandala in the eastern suburbs and Ambujawadi in the western suburbs.

The Court said that the State has the right to decide about the aforementioned issue. There is no need to involve the Court. The Andolan has been making this point since the beginning, but the State government has been taking the stand that the approval of the Court is required. This has resulted in the delay of rehabilitation of evicted slumdwellers and in the non-compliance of the notices from Smt. Sonia Gandhi. Due to this, thousands of families have not yet been rehabilitated, despite the onset of the monsoon.

The Advocate General of Maharastra has submitted that they want to rehabilitate families who arrived in Mumbai by
1-1-2000. The exact numbers will be affirmed after the ongoing survey is completed. The Court, without mentioning any cut-off date, stated that every citizen has the right to shelter and housing. No one can stop any citizen from entering Mumbai and there can't be any restriction on movement of people in a democratic state. Furthermore, the State has said there has to be an affordable housingpolicy for the poor. The State has to also provide houses to those that cannot afford to pay. The Chief Justice commented that the Court has not stopped the government in providing any form of immediate relief. He also requested the State, in order to fulfill its constitutional obligation of providing shelter to every citizen, to draft a comprehensive housing policy and submit it before the Court. The next
hearing will be on
11th July. The Court asked the Advocate General to also initiate a dialogue with the concerned organisations within the next four days so that a consensus can be reached.

The slumdwellers were represented by Advocates Mihir Desai and Vinod Shetty. The organisations Cityspace and Agni were represented by Shri Aspi Chinod and Shri K. K. Singhvi represented the BMC.

The State has been talking about and is committed to providing immediate relief only to people who have proved that they have been residing in Mumbai prior to 1-1-2000, not until the end of the year 2000. But in reality, the State has made no arrangements. With only the pre-2000 slumdwellers in mind, the State has only said that each family will receive 150 sq. meters [it's actually sq. ft. and that too against payment of Rs. 15,000.00], but the land has not been leveled yet to allow for settlement and no structures have been built. It would have been better, if during the monsoon period, if the government would have permitted the people to resettle temporarily on the land from which they were evicted.

The struggle will continue until the people are adequately resettled and their rights to housing are recognized.

Mohan Chauhan
Kaushilaya Salve
Medha Patkar