Mumbai: A week before rains, BMC's demolition drive leaves hundreds homeless

Updated: May 31, 2017, 17:05 IST | Laxman Singh

The BMC is on a demolition spree along the Tansa pipeline after being pulled up by the high court, but the state has no plan for the displaced slum dwellers despite promises from CM and housing minister

Sunil Chouhan is living on the street with his wife and kids. Pics/Sameer Markande
Sunil Chouhan is living on the street with his wife and kids. Pics/Sameer Markande

This monsoon, hundreds of slum dwellers in Kurla could be left without a roof over their heads after being driven out of their houses in a BMC demolition drive along the Tansa water pipeline. Despite pre-election promises of rehabilitation by housing minister and local MLA Prakash Mehta, two weeks on, the displaced families still have nowhere to go.

Following a Bombay High Court order, at least 700 hutments were torn down along the Tansa pipeline in Ambedkar Nagar and Bhim Nagar, Vidyavihar (East) between May 13 and 15.

Residents said they cooperated during the demolition because state housing minister Prakash Mehta, who is also the local MLA, had promised to give them new homes nearby. The promise was made during a BJP rally just ahead of the BMC election. But now, that the election is done and dusted, the residents have been told to shift to Mahul, Chembur.

"We allowed the demolition to happen peacefully because we were promised accommodation in a nearby area. Because of this, we even voted for BJP in the BMC election," said an angry resident.

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Both the MLA and the local corporator Parag Shah are from the BJP, but locals feel cheated by the party.

"The netas fooled us during the election. It has been more than 15 days since the demolition, but none of BJP leaders have even met us. Now the minister is telling us to shift to Mahul," said another frustrated resident. They have refused to move unless they are given homes in Kurla, where they can still preserve their old jobs and way of life.

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30 years of hard work destroyed in hours

Name: Mangeram
Dhilod (53)
Profession: Mechanic
Resident for: 30 years
Status: Eligible for rehabilitation

"It took me 30 years to build my life but all was destroyed in hours. The government is treating us like worms," said Mangeram Dhilod, who is currently living in a plastic and wood hut on the other side of the road.

Even his garage - the only source of income for his family of nine - has been demolished.

"The BMC has allotted land for a shop in Kanjurmarg. They want me to live in Mahul and work in Kanjurmarg. I will also have to build the garage at my cost. We will continue to stay here, unless the BMC is ready to rehabilitate us in Kurla," he said.

'No work, polluted air will mean a slow death for us'

Name: Pradip Walmiki (34)
Profession: Chauffeur
Resident for: 10 years
Status: Not eligible for rehabilitation

"If we get accommodation in Kurla, many of us will not lose our jobs. Our wives work as domestic help in the vicinity. Mahul has close to no residential buildings and our wives will have no jobs there," said Pradip Walmiki.

But employment is not the only reason nobody wants to move to Mahul. "It is surrounded by refineries, which causes pollution in the area. Living there will lead to a slow death for our children and family members," he said.

Even now, there is no clarity on the rehabilitation plans. "They should have first rehabilitated us and then demolished the houses. It is inhuman of them to force us onto the streets."

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'The Rains will wash our entire life away'

Name: Sunil Chouhan (30)
Profession: Tempo driver
Resident for: 30 years
Status: Eligible for rehabilitation

Sunil Chouhan's two little kids have only just started school, but he no longer knows what kinds of life he can give them.

"They have just started at the local BMC school, and now we are being told to shift to Mahul. My wife will lose her household jobs too," he said.

He added, "I don't know what kind of life I can provide for them. We don't even have a house. We are living on the street. I am worried that in 10 days, the rains will also start. If that happens, the tarpaulin sheets will collapse within minutes and all our belongings will get damaged."

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'This is where my home and my job are'

Name: Anil Shinde (51)
Profession: Activist
Resident for: 25 years
Status: Eligible for rehabilitation

After an accident left him disabled, Anil Shinde managed to put his life back in order by working as a local activist. Living in Vidyavihar for 25 years has given him strong grassroots connections in his work, which he doesn't want to give up by moving to Mahul. "Due to the accident, I can't walk properly. It will be very hard for me to travel from Mahul to my office in Vidyavihar every day. My wife will also lose her household jobs and we will have no income left," he said.

"No one is thinking about the fact that we will have to start from scratch again."

Vacant buildings
In February, around 400 huts were razed along the Tansa pipeline, and all the families were shifted to the to Kurla Rehabilitation Colony (HDIL Rehabilitation Scheme). There are 10 buildings in the colony. Two of the buildings are still vacant (8 and 9), and Ambedkar Nagar-2 residents want to shift there. "This colony is close by, and if we can move there, my wife will not lose her jobs and my children can continue at their school," said a resident.

Deputy Municipal Commissioner (Zone 5) Narendra Barde said, "The slum dwellers have to be shifted to Mahul. The court has given consent to shift them there. There is no place available in Kurla and vacant buildings will be given to project-affected people from the airport area." He added, "We will try to shift them before monsoon."

Despite repeated attempts to contact minister Prakash Mehta and asst municipal commissioner Bhagyshree Kapse (N-ward), neither was available for comment.

Brief history
In 2009, the HC was hearing a PIL about illegal encroachment along the Tansa pipeline. The HC directed the BMC to demolish all slums along the pipeline. The BMC found that there are 15,789 slums along the pipeline. Out of these, 8,790 residents are eligible for alternate housing. The project was divided into four phases and is currently in the second phase.

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