Remaining part of Garib Nagar being demolished by Railway
In a major setback to BMC which ruthlessly demolished Garib Nagar-a slum without following due procedure of law, the Bombay High Court, today ordered the civic body to maintain status quo.
Garib Nagar apart from being a residential site for poor working class of Mumbai was also source of livelihood for a number of garment workers. The demolition of this areas shattered the lives of many. No doubt being a Muslim majority settlement, Garib Nagar also have a shadow of stigmas. The demolition was being undertaken in keeping with a Bombay High Court order to remove all shanties along the Tansa water pipeline.
The evicted residents of Garib Nagar complaint that the BMC did not give them enough time to save their belongings and move to a safer place. The civic body issued a mandatory 48 hours’ notice asking residents to vacate the area, however it came down to demolish the slum next day-merely after 15 hours—before the expiry of the notice. A major fire occurred during the demolition. Residents, who are also facing charges of causing fire to stop eviction, claim that it is quite possible that a gas cylinder might have busted in any of the houses that were not vacated at all. Though there was no causality but a heavy loss of property. As this was not enough, the BMC, without letting the evicted residents recover from the tragedy or providing meager relief, continued demolition of the remaining part of the slum after three days.
Thousands of evicted residents are not even allowed to stay on the demolition site and is being thrashed by the police to vacate the area. Now homeless, these evicted slum residents do not even have single night shelter in the city to get a minimum shelter. As per norms set by Supreme Court of India, Mumbai should have over hundred night shelter in the city. BMC have not spent single penny from the fund meant for constructing night shelter for years.
The agitated evicted dwellers, therefore, filed a petition against BMC in the High Court. The case was mentioned in the High Court on 1st November and was initially given the hearing date of a week later. But the High Court changed the hearing date to the very next day, 2nd November, when the advocate convinced the judges about the urgency of the demolished slum-dwellers to get a safe and secure habitat.
The land on which Garib Nagar was built is owned partly by BMC and partly by Railways. So soon after the status quo was declared by the HC, the Railways started demolishing the remaining shanties in their part of the land as BMC had already demolished the structures built in their part. Even the Railways carrying out demolition without issuing the mandatory eviction notice.
Garib Nagar got attention given a major fire however, a large number of slums are under threat of eviction or getting demolished a daily basis in Mumbai. These incidences go unreported. Spaces for poor getting shrunk in Mumbai and other major cities amidst claims of ‘Housing For All’.