The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has “cleared” 35,000 metres, or 3.5 hectares (ha), of land in the Kalyan Nagar area of the slums by completely demolishing nearly 1,900 houses, leaving vulnerable residents, most of them belonging to the minority and Dalit communities, to either live in the open or go to their relatives, leaving their goods in the debris. The demolition drive, which continued for three days in the third week of November 2014, was undertaken without any official intimation to individual residents, who lived there for the last 35-40 years. The slum-dwellers were told a night before that the demolition would take place, and that they should either vacate the huge area or their houses would be razed. Earlier, the only notice given to the residents was through a newspaper advertisement several weeks ago.
Carried out in the name of Vishwamitri riverfront development on lines of the Sabarmati riverfront development, the slum-dwellers lived on three types of land – government owned, private, and religious trust owned. Nearly 80 per cent those whose houses were demolished are Muslims, and the rest of the 20 per cent are Dalits. Very a few dwellings were left intact, as they had the “right political connection”.
The demolition took place despite the Government of Gujarat’s policy (click HERE to read) declaration on July 18, 2013, through a government resolution (GR), that slum-dwellers on public land in urban areas would be provided with the facility of in-situ rehabilitation, i.e. new pucca houses, with basic amenities having two rooms, kitchen, bathroom and latrine, would be built for them with the help of private developers at the same spot where they lived in the slums. The policy also states that the beneficiaries would be provided “a transit accommodation”, till the houses are constructed. This has not happened either.
While the policy applies to slums situated on public lands, the authorities can, if they so wish, “notify any area in an urban area occupied by slum dwellers as a slum area and further as a ‘slum rehabilitation scheme’ for the purpose of rehabilitation of that slum, in exercise of powers vested under section 3(1) and section 56(1) of Gujarat Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Rehabilitation) Act, 1973”, to quote from the GR. The policy, apparently, remained on paper, and on November 17, the VMC officials, accompanied by cops and bulldozers, cordoned the entire 35,000 sq metres of area, and within three days raze all the dwellings.
Considered one of the biggest razing drives conducted by the civic body in the recent past, its declared aim was to clear the space on which the riverfront and a road are being planned. Before the authorities demolished the Kalyan Nagar slums, they did a similar thing in Kamati Baug area by razing 325 dwellings. The drive, the authorities claimed, was also part of their flood mitigation efforts, as these were “low-lying areas” and got flooded “frequently”. While the authorities said that the residents had been given alternative housing, there is no evidence to suggest this is true. Not only the norm of relocating them at the same site had been violated, but even their rehabilitation was not provided.
Here are some more photographs of the huge demolition drive undertaken in Vadodara. Click on any image for a slide view of larger size photographs: