BySharmeen Hakim / Updated: Jul 2, 2020, 07:38 IST
As per guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court, a 24-hour notice has to be given after an order of demolition is passed.The Homeless Collective documents three instances of overnight BMC demolitions and evictions; a comprehensive report on the residents’ plight has been sent to the UN.
Adding to the harsh reality of a pandemic that has rendered several migrants in the city jobless is the documentation of the brutality with which several have been rendered homeless. Neither were alternate accommodations provided nor were the Bombay High Court circulars against demolitions during the lockdown adhered to.
The Homeless Collective, the umbrella organisation for several NGOs, has documented three specific instances during the lockdown where people were rendered homeless overnight. Either their belongings were burnt or bulldozers were used. Ironically, many residents are engaged as conservancy workers in the BMC and were working on pre-monsoon projects when the demolitions took place. A comprehensive report on their plight has been sent to the United Nations for their ‘Special Rapporteur on Right to adequate housing during the pandemic’.
As per guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court, a 24-hour notice has to be given after an order of demolition is passed. If the affected party responds to the notice, a reasoned order should be passed on the issue and no demolition will be allowed for at least seven days. The HC on Monday, in fact, ordered reconstruction in a Kalbadevi building where demolitions on the top floor were carried out within 48 hours of an order being passed.
This reporter’s messages and calls to Additional Municipal Commissioner Sanjeev Jaiswal remained unanswered till the time of going to press.
“The BMC should have served notices at least seven days prior to the demolition or eviction. It should have allowed families to take their belongings. However, they weren’t given time to do that,” said Sitaram Shelar, the director of the Centre for Promoting Democracy.
Here are scenes from three different locations of illegal demolitions:
May 1: (Maharashtra Day /Labour Day), Bahaar Cinema Signal, Vile Parle East
An attempt was made to drive out 12 families under the bridge. The police burnt the belongings, including clothes and grocery items, of six families. While the report states “the involvement of the MCGM is unclear”, the residents are not convinced. A resident, Shanu Shinde said the rest of the families first fled but returned. She said the BMC came and said there is a shelter in Andheri, but there has been no follow-up. “My family is ready to live in a shelter,” she said, adding that on June 17, at 2 am, the belongings of one of the families were burnt again.
Bahaar Cinema Signal, Vile Parle East
May 27: Vile Parle West station
Eighteen families who earn their livelihood through hawking and conservancy jobs live here. The lockdown was hard on them as there was no work. The report sent to the UN states that the biggest tragedy was that members were engaged in the BMC’s pre-monsoon works when their homes were destroyed. “No notice was issued. When affected people complained, the police refused to register it,” the report states. It claims that families were not given alternative accommodation and were simply asked to go. One woman had given birth 10 days before the eviction. “For the past 10 days, we have been listening to BMC officials saying we have been given homes. Where are they? Dumping us in temporary tents will not help,” said Sunita Gadge, 36, a conservancy worker.
Vile Parle West station
June 2: Poisar Gymkhaana, Kandivali West
Thirty-five families are sheltered along a wall where the BMC wanted to paint a coronavirus campaign. “They demolished two shelters, following which the other families raised their voice and forced them to leave,” the report states, adding that the BMC shifted nearly 50 homeless families to a Goregaon school but were denied food for many hours. “The residents of the neighbourhood complained about their presence, expressing fear that they may be infected with Covid-19,” it states. The families had to flee out of fear.