Civil society group to contest slum demolitions during monsoon | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Civil society group to contest slum demolitions during monsoon

Jun 08, 2024 06:44 AM IST

A GR issued by the state government’s urban development department dated June 29, 2021 categorically notes that “unauthorised constructions on all government, semi-government or private land in the state should not be demolished during the monsoon”, i.e., between June 1 and September 30 every year

Mumbai: The Jan Haq Sangharsh Samiti, a rights-based civil society group, plans to send legal notices to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) and Central Railways (CR) over the demolition of slums during the monsoon in violation of a 2021 government resolution (GR). The aim of the notices is two-pronged – seeking rehabilitation and compensation for tenements that have already been demolished and preventing such demolitions in the city during the ensuing monsoon season.

On Friday, many of the evicted families were seen squatting on the footpath, without a roof over their heads and their belongings strewn all over, exposed to the vagaries of the weather. Some families struggled to arrange money for paying deposits so they would secure accommodation elsewhere. (Hindustan Times)
On Friday, many of the evicted families were seen squatting on the footpath, without a roof over their heads and their belongings strewn all over, exposed to the vagaries of the weather. Some families struggled to arrange money for paying deposits so they would secure accommodation elsewhere. (Hindustan Times)

The basis of these legal notices is a GR issued by the state government’s urban development department dated June 29, 2021, which categorically notes that “unauthorised constructions on all government, semi-government or private land in the state should not be demolished during the monsoon”, i.e., between June 1 and September 30 every year. The resolution was issued keeping in mind hardships faced by evictees in finding alternate housing during the monsoon months.

The plight of such evictees was evidenced at Jai Bhim Nagar in Powai, where around 650 tenements were demolished by the BMC on Thursday amidst stone-pelting and lathi charge. On Friday, many of the evicted families were seen squatting on the footpath, without a roof over their heads and their belongings strewn all over, exposed to the vagaries of the weather. Some families struggled to arrange money for paying deposits so they would secure accommodation elsewhere.

Shyamnarayan Tiwari, a resident and local leader, said a notice board intimating them about the demolition was erected in the area on June 3. “We replied to the notice within a day, asking the BMC to delay the demolition on account of the monsoon. But they did not pay any heed,” said Tiwari. “Our children are enrolled in schools in the neighbourhood and the academic session is due to start in a few days. But since our houses have been demolished, we don’t know how our children will continue with their studies,” he added.

Residents of the area had also moved the city civil court after they were served a notice for demolition in 2017. “Our next hearing date is June 26, but still the BMC went ahead with the demolition,” said Tiwari.

After the demolitions on Thursday, the BMC claimed that the State Human Rights Commission had ordered it to clear the encroachments, and it was waiting for the termination of the model code of conduct to act on the same. Two FIRs were also registered on Thursday against the 200-strong mob that allegedly pelted stones at the police and BMC officials, with the accused being booked under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Bombay Police Act, and the Public Property Destruction Act. “We have arrested a total of 61 persons in connection with the two FIRs after going through CCTV footage of the incident. They were produced in court on Friday and remanded to judicial custody,” said senior police inspector at Powai police station, Jitendra Sonawane.

The Jan Haq Sangharsh Samiti plans to raise all these issues faced by Jai Bhim Nagar residents and seek compensation for them through one legal notice. Another legal notice the group is working on pertains to Anand Nagar in Turbhe, Navi Mumbai, where around 15 tenements were served notices warning them of demolitions on Monday, June 10 – the day the monsoon is scheduled to reach the city. The notices, which will also be sent to the divisional railway manager of Central Railway, will stress that though some structures may be unauthorised, they are protected under the 2021 GR.

Meanwhile, the Chandivali Citizens Welfare Association appealed on X to the Chief Minister to make temporary arrangements for those rendered homeless in Powai, writing, “Tonight, there are hundreds of homeless people on the footpaths of Hiranandani Gardens in Powai. There are kids, ladies, and old people without food and water.”

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