Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao Andolan takes a stock of one year of the ambitious ‘smart cities’ project:
Full front page advertisements on the first anniversary of the smart cities that ran on many national daily on Saturday last carried announcements worth thousands of crores of rupees. Crores of rupees were also spent on advertisements and the fancy event, which was organized in Pune on Satarday to celebrate the first anniversary of smart cities. All this was meant to grab eyeballs of the readers to assure that how much the Government of India is committed to bring ‘Achhe Din’. However, the rampant demolition drive taking place in various cities by evicting poor, presents a contracting picture.
The ambitious ‘smart cities’ plan is accompanied by two other plans concerning urban ‘development’ – Atal Mission for Urban Transformation and Rejuvenation (AMRUT) and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). Here is a review of the execution of plans on the ground:
In Maharashtra, the government offer rehabilitation to the slum dwellers of pre-2000 year. Even under PMAY, the central govt. has left it on the state government to decide cut-off-date, which means that only those persons who will respect the cut-off-date will get benefit under PMAY while the rest will be left on the mercy of the state to be evicted anytime. The Delhi High court had once noted that eviction without rehabilitation is a violation of ‘bundle of rights’.
In case the post-2000 families think of affordable housing which would be built under PMAY, it will not be economically feasible for them to actually afford it. Since the EMI and the monthly maintenance will consume a considerable amount of their family income, i.e. Rs 6000 per month.
Suppose if these families are from Mumbai and choose to accommodate themselves in a night shelter, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai has nothing to offer them. BMC has recently responded to an RTI query that it has not constructed a single night shelter in the city as per NULM. Central govt. which has released a fund of Rs. 152 crores for the current fiscal year is lying rotten from which not a single penny has been spent towards construction of night shelter.
PMAY plan is lagging behind as per its phased plans as far as Maharashtra is concerned. The houses built under various schemes are exploited for the benefits of real estate industries and corporates. Maharashtra govt. has gone one step ahead in exploiting officially. It is allotting housing meant for EWS and LIG to its MPs and MLAs.
The recently released Development Plan for Mumbai has all the more dangerous plans for urban poor. It has not shown any existing slums in Mumbai and assuming the all the slum dwellers will be able to buy ‘affordable houses’ which would be constructed by SRA and other agencies. The concept of Public Housing has been systematically kicked out.
In Bhubaneswar, it was revealed through an RTI query that 50,000 people of 10,000 families residing in 24 slums across the capital city of Bhubaneswar will be evicted to pave the way for implementation of Smart City projects.
The local administration had on 17th June, evicted 300 families flouting all rules and regulation and violating Supreme Court’s judgment against demolition during monsoons only to pave way for ‘smart cities’. This was a 30 years old slum. No relief has been given to evicted slum dwellers till today.
In a similar fashion as above, more than 1200 families were rendered homeless last month in Indore only to pave way for ‘smart cities’ plan, against the High Court’s order.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech at Pune on Saturday had termed migration as opportunity and not problem. But it seems that the official in his administration does not agree with his thought. The local administration always brand every poor migrant as an ‘encroacher’ who manage a temporary shelter in a city in the absence of any affordable shelter and evict them as and when required violating various fundamental rights of these individuals. He also termed cities as ‘growth centres’. But whose ‘growth’?, he has left us in ambiguity with this term as all the ‘development’ plans precede eviction/displacement to pave way for big corporate to earn profit from the acquired land.
We would only urge the PM to stop making jumlas and spending crores on advertisements but come up strict laws and rules to protect the rights of the poor. It is a high time that the Government of India formulate a legislation which would ensure poor citizens their ‘right to shelter’. Urban poor have been lured during election times with various housing schemes and policies. These schemes and policies changed every time with the change in power. So, only a legislation can guarantee a shelter if it comes into being.
Prepared by Medha Patkar, Subadra Kedare, Uday Mohite, Neha Jaimati and Bilal Khan