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1,500 Mumbai slumdwellers face eviction without rehabilitation by May first week: Mangroves cell "clampdown"

Bheemchhaya slum area
By Our Representative
A new threat looms large over around 1,500 slum-dwelling families of Mumbai: The Ghar Bachao – Ghar Banao Abhiyan (GBGBA) has claimed that the Mangroves Cell of the Maharashtra forest department is likely to evict around 700 families after April 23 in Cheeta Camp and 800 in Bheemchhaya, Vikroli, Kannamwar Nagar in the first week of May.
Alleging that none of these families will be provided with any rehabilitation package, the GBGBA , in a statement, has said that over the last one year, the Mangrove Cell has evicted “more than 4,000 families in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai without providing for any rehabilitation.”
Suggesting that the eviction is taking place on the basis of a Bombay High Court order regarding protection of mangroves in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai in the year 2005, the statement says, “The Court ordered to declare mangrove areas and the area in the buffer zone of 50 metres as ‘protected forests’, disallowing all construction activities in such areas.”
“Ten years after passing the order, the forest department suddenly started evicting slums near the mangrove areas in complete violation of the Indian Forest Act, 1927, which contains a full procedure of settlement of rights of the people living in forest areas”, the statement says.
“The Act stipulates that settlement must be completed prior to constituting any land as ‘reserved forest.’ This procedure has not been completed yet”, it points out.
Noting that the eviction has caused “serious deprivation” to the lives of the affected families, the statement says, “The education of school going children is severely affected, old persons find it difficult to find assistance during the time of crisis. Women have to compromise with their privacy.”
“The slums are not created with a sole aim to encroach upon a piece of land. Slums are the outcome of the state’s failure to address the issues of livelihood, availability of equal opportunity, housing and so on”, the statement says.
“Instead of intervening and solving the existing problems, the government attempts to brand slums as colonies of criminals and mafias while forgetting the hard work of the labourers from the same slums”, it says, adding, “These labourers have helped citizens of the same city and the government by providing their services through constructing roads, tall towers, providing services as taxi and auto-rickshaw drivers, fruits and vegetable sellers, carpenters, electricians, domestic helpers etc.”
“The Mangrove Cell’s objective to conserve and rejuvenate the depleting cover of the mangrove areas along the coastline of Maharashtra state is highly appreciated and welcomed”, the statement says, adding, though, “The government, at the same time, must also think about the housing rights of the families under the threat of eviction.”
The statement, written by prominent social activist Medha Patkar, quotes Jaya Kharat, a resident of Bheemchhaya slum in Vikroli and a mother of three children, who works in the Dattak Vasti Yojana, collecting waste from the slum areas, as saying that she is worried about her children’s education.
“If demolition happens, all my three children will not be able to attend school since we will be thrown on road with no shelter and food”, Kharat adds.
“People are in trauma after they heard that the Forest Dept. would build a wall around their slum and evict them again,” says Vilas Raipure, a resident of Chikuwadi slum, has been quoted as saying.

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