Mumbai | 26th July 2015: Mandala evictees who are struggling for their housing right were termed as ‘encroachers’ when the Collector, Mumbai Suburban, Mr. Shekhar Channe was reached out by a small group of concerned citizens, yesterday, to request stay on demolition until the survey of all the evictees take place under a housing scheme. ‘’We cannot take the responsibility of housing right of everybody pouring into the city everyday’’, said the Collector reflecting his callousness towards the agony of all the slum dwellers who comprise 50% of Mumbai’s population residing on 6% of the total land of the city living under pathetic conditions.
The poor who work hard the whole day to earn two meals a day, while contributing to the growth economy of the country at the same time, cannot afford to buy a house of their own with basic amenities. Adequate housing is a fundamental right recognized by the Supreme Court of India protected under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. It is the responsibility of the government to provide adequate housing right especially to those who cannot afford to buy a house for themselves. Mandala evictees have been asserting for the same right but it is not understandable what makes the Collector term their struggle an ‘illegal activity’?
The evictees of Mandala have faced two time brutal eviction. In the testimonies included in the report of the Fact Finding team of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences which enquired into the demolition and fire that happened on 9th May 2006, it is found that there was no prior notice given about the demolition in Mandala. Such is the story at Mandala! Even after facing the tyranny of the State several time, the evictees of the Mandala held their spirit high for getting their right.
After receiving several assurances under various housing schemes, the land of Mandala remained to be surveyed in the absence of house structures there. On the night of 19th June, when it was raining heavily and 25 days had passed throughout which people steadfastly asserting their housing rights by taking leave from their work, they rebuilt their houses and resolved to stay put till they are surveyed and ensured housing rights. They are not claiming occupation of the land. ‘’We will immediately vacate this (Mandala) land as soon as we are surveyed and given a housing right’’, said Mukesh Jaiswar an activist at the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan and one of the evictees.
Today, a letter dated 23rd June, 2015 from the Collector, Mumbai Suburban in the name of few activists including veteran social activist Medha Patkar was handed over by Police to all those present on the Satyagraha site at that moment. This letter warned of stringent action if the movement for the housing right is not withdrawn. Mandala evictees had launched Awas Haq Satyagrah on 26th of May under the aegis of Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan led by Medha Patkar to assert housing right from the land they were evicted from. They have erected more than 2000 house structures and are demanding quick survey and would vacate the land as soon as they are ensured housing rights.
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