Mumbai’s Slum dwellers rendered homeless
Photo-documentary on Slums-
Mushrooming of Slums is the bane of Mumbai, hence it is nick named Slumbai. Out of its 19 million population 60 percent of them resides in the slums. Overflowing sewage drains, lack of sanitation, street side strewn with decaying garbage, kids squatting on roads sides, stench hitting the nostril, these are the scene one encounters visiting the slums area in Mumbai.
Mumbai’s vast middle class people looks down upon these hapless slums people treating them as untouchables but at the same time have no qualms in using the services of these very people as house maids. After visiting one of Mumbai’s famous slum areas of Anna bhau Sathe Nagar (ABSN) located off Mankurd –Govandi highway in the central suburbs, my perception of Slum people underwent a heart change. When I came back home I told my wife that slum people are also human being like us
On 14th May at 12 noon Mumbai’s Additional Collector Mr Danajay leading a contingent of 250 armed policemen accompanied with 6 bull dozers descended on ABSN. Out of about 3000 huts, about 500 of them were razed to ground, as if it was carpet bombed. The slum dwellers appeared shell shocked and desolate not knowing what hit them. The bull dozer razed and mowed down the thatched huts one after another. Policemen displayed utter brute force raining lathi (police baton) on the poor slum people who tried to stop them in vain. They left the aged and children homeless exposing them to the scorching heat.
Aftermath of the demolition operation, some NGO had set up make shift medical camps distributing medicines freely to slum people. There were long serpentine line of mothers holding crying babies in their arms and aged men waiting for their turn to collect free medicines. Social activist Medha Patkar and Bollywood actress Shabana Asmi visited ABSN site lending their moral support to slum dwellers.
Azam khan a vehicle driver laments ‘I and my family have been staying here for so many years, my children were born here. Now we are homeless and nowhere to go. Just few days before the demolition the collectors men came to my hut and scribbled a number at my door, later I had realized that my hut was marked for demolition ’
Laxmibhai working as a rag picker pours out her heart ‘Ever since my hut was destroyed I have stopped going to work. I have no money to buy food to feed to my starving children’
Her friend latha another rag picker said ‘We were given only 36 hours notice to evict the area. Where will I and my family go? This the only hut we had to sleep (pointing out to her razed hut) and now that is also gone. We are staying in the open ground with no roof to protect us from the oppressing heat. All my four children are suffering from heat boils and running temperature’
Nasrani a housewife says ‘They took away all our belongings like cots, utensils and even clothes. Some of the houses were set on fire by the police. Now what will happen of us?’
The Maharashtra State government in its attempt to make Mumbai into a world class city on lines of Shanghai model, few years back had come out with a policy of slum redevelopment and rehabilitation Scheme. It is meant to provide housing to slum people. Private builders were allowed to build houses on slum areas for the slum dwellers and some part of land the builders could exploit building flats for sale in the open market. The government had set 2000 as cutoff year for slum dwellers eligible for free housing. Those slums that came up after 2000 were considered as unauthorized and illegal hence subject to demolition. It was considered that slums in ABSN fall under unauthorized category so it was razed to ground. Political parties use slum people as vote bank during time elections. They make tall promise to slum people but once elected, conveniently forget them. At the time ANSN was being demolished none of the local elected representative came to their rescue. ABSN slums are located on prime land in the heart of the city and going by the high land price prevailing in that area it would fetch a fortune Slum dwellers suspect that the government is forcibly evicting them off the ABSN area making way for the private builders to rake in the moolah. Meanwhile the slum dwellers are left out in the lurch bracing for a bleak future.