Condemning the demolition of settlements in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency Varanasi, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), India’s top civil rights network, has said that the loud talk about Smart City stands in sharp contrast to demolition of hundreds of houses in the area around Teliana railway in the city.
Insisting that the government should ensure immediate rehabilitation of those who have lost their house during the “festive day” of January 13, NAPM said, the eviction of working people from their homes in the midst of the Covid pandemic as well as severe cold “is not only inhumane but also in violation of the orders of the Supreme Court.”
The Modi government has been selling the dream of a ‘Smart City’ to the citizens for years now and has spent thousands of crores on this scheme across the country. In the ranking released by the Government of India in September 2020, Varanasi held the ‘first place’ in the country. It is claimed that ‘world class’ facilities would be provided here. But in the midst of these claims, one must ask: to what end and at what cost is this happening?
Right amidst the ‘festive days’ on January 13, 2021, in the area around Teliana railway line in Varanasi, the houses of hundreds of working-class people, many belonging to Dalit communities, were demolished by the Government. No other alternative has been provided for most of them in terms of rehabilitation.
The eviction of people from their homes in the midst of the Covid pandemic as well as severe cold is not only inhumane but also in violation of the orders of the Supreme Court. For all high-talk around ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, the poor and working-class communities are not guaranteed basic dignity and rights even in the parliamentary constituency of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
This is not the first instance where people’s homes have been destroyed without providing rehabilitation. During the last 4-5 years many such settlements have been destroyed in Varanasi.
Demonstrations have been organized by the residents and democratic rights organizations for rehabilitation, but none of this seems to matter to the government or district administration.
This again reveals the anti-worker character of the Yogi and Modi governments. Most people who lived in the demolished settlements are manual scavengers, sweepers, daily wage labourers or work in other people’s houses. Due to the destruction of their settlements, there is a threat to not only their health, but also their livelihood. Currently, most of these people have been forced to live on the roads.
NAPM strongly condemns the Varanasi administration and the Government for forcibly destroying the homes of hundreds of people from oppressed communities, Dalit and working class, without any rehabilitation, in the name of ‘Smart City’. It also calls upon the administration to:
Immediately make proper arrangements for the rehabilitation of all the evicted families.
Provide immediate, fair and just compensation to all the displaced people.
Not demolish any house or colony, or evict people from their homes without complete and just prior rehabilitation.
In Chennai, Delhi and many other cities of the country, settlements of the working-class people, especially belonging to religious minorities and oppressed caste communities are being demolished. Considering the Corona pandemic, the Centre and all the state governments should immediately stop all evictions and issue a complete moratorium on the same.