Forced eviction in Mumbai: Dalits made to survive in darkness, making them even more vulnerable

santa cruz
Broken settlement in Santa Cruz

Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan (GBGBA), Mumbai, writes to the Registrar, National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi, complaining against  “brutal eviction of a poor Dalit community without rehabilitation”:

This is to bring into the attention towards a demolition of a community residing in between the city with no prior notice and also creating an inhumane environment in the entire community. This community resides on a pavement in Santa Cruz (East), opposite Vakola Police Station near a skyway. The community has been residing in this area since 1990, with a population of around 129 individuals in 30 households now. The community comprises of Dalit population.

Majority of the individuals in the community have no fix occupation service, they work as the daily wage workers, sewage cleaners, temporary cleaning stuffs in offices, domestic workers and also few are engaged in garage and other low earning places. The community has been shifting its location from many a years due to demolition by the government for environment protection. But by making the population vulnerable, will it bring actual protection to the environment?

The demolition of the community has become a regular part of settlement as it has been taking place since past 10-15 years. The most recent demolition that took place was on the 10th of March 2017. An individual of the community describes this situation as, “we were cooking our daily meal, when the BMC (Bombay Municipal Corporation) vehicles came and started breaking our tents and threw mud and soil in our food. Almost of the community was broken and we ran to the highland situated near the community.’’

This incident led to demolition of 20 households out of the 25. It was found out that, a higher rank of government official was to pass by the community, as it is on the way from the airport, thus to make the “real status of the poor” unseen. Another individual of the community said, “We were asked to be in the highland near the community, and after the government convoy passes by, we can again come back and settle down.” This was said by the police officers to the community people. But, will it be a correct form of democracy by hiding the real status of the people of this country in front of the government officials?

Here, we would like be drawn towards the socioeconomic status of the population of this community. The community holds every legal document like Aadhar card, PAN card, Voter ID, ration card (of category in below 1 lakh of annual income). Income certificate is not available as they don’t have a fix source of pay. The various occupations that this population is engaged in are:

  • Daily wage labourers – 40%
  • Sewage cleaners – 16%
  • Construction workers – 5%
  • Domestic workers – 4%
  • Beggars – 15%
  • Helpers in garage (temporary) – 20%

The community resides on the footpath near the Western Express Highway, which is a very busy area, with thousands of cars passing by every minute. The entire footpath was provided with street light facilities. But after this community has shifted into it, which is just one fourth of the footpath, the street lights under which the community resides by, has, been shut down. This is a very silly action the municipal boards, which have made the community, suffer to extreme.

potable housing unit
Priya with her mother in a portable housing unit

Now the entire community survives in darkness which has made them much more vulnerable. The community comprises of children which are the main victims. They are now left with no social security, no education facilities, no proper environment for development, vulnerability towards issues like alcoholism, drugs, gambling and so many.

Young girls have no protection and environment to develop their secondary health. Also no proper introduction to adult health is circulated in the community. The health status of the community is strictly degrading, as with increasing value of every sector, no health service is accessed to them. Government hospitals do serve a basic amount which is also difficult for these community people to pay by. The most observed scenario of the community is, unhygienic living condition and no water facility. Drinking water is scarcely available, which leads to poor sanitation and household cleanliness.

They have to wait for hours to collect water from the BMC which is situated in faraway places. No toilets are available in the area as a result of which they have to open defecate in the nearby areas. From time to time the slum dwellers get displaced as a result of forced eviction and are left with no shelter. This poor homeless people collect waste materials of bamboo, asbestos roof to build their temporary houses where they can live similarly like a bird constructing their nest to live.

Just like how easily a bird’s nest can be destroyed, this homeless people also 3 gets destroyed and demolished once the BMC authorities evict their houses. This led to sheer violation of Right to shelter. It’s the sole responsibility of the state to look after the vulnerable section of homeless people. Young girls are suffering from diseases which are born out of unhygienic sanitation facilities. Children are malnourished as well as deprived of proper vaccination which has developed a weak immune system, creating serious and continuous health problems not so good.

One of the affected women said “I have no security of my life as I have no daily income; I use to beg and carry out my days. My parents have expired and now I have no such security to rely on.” Another pathetic information which have made us question about the so called good days of the government is, a child speaks, “I want to sleep once in a bed; will I ever get one? I cannot go to school, I want to read and write and become famous someday.” Thus it is a keen request to this Hon. Commission, to look upon the reckless violation of the basic rights of these under privileged people who have no strong support to speak about their situations.

The Fundamental Rights speak about “right to live”, “right to speak”, “right to educate” and so on. But do these rights are granted and protected in the case of all the individuals/citizens of our country? The democracy allows people to vote for their rights for the good governance and fulfillment of their basic needs. However, the question we would like to raise is whether any government has the power and mandate to carry out such brutal rule on them?

It is a humble request before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to look into the atrocities faced by community and also other such communities which are or may have been demolished to this minute. The basic necessities of life should be allowed to these people so that democracy in the country works in unbiased manner.

Signed  by Medha Patkar, Bilal Khan, Uday Mohite, and Dashrath Yadav

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