Skip to main content

Govt "failure" to offer accommodation to Mumbai toxic hell PAPs led to illegal colonies

By Gajanan Khergamker*
In what is being interpreted a much-awaited display of judicial activism, on April 3, 2019, Bombay High Court Justices AS Oka and MS Sanklecha rapped the State government for dragging its feet on the issue of relocation and examined the Mahul pollution imbroglio against Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and upheld “the right of project affected persons to say that they cannot be forced to reside in an area where air pollution is life-threatening.”
In compliance with a previous high court order, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation had been demolishing unauthorised buildings, including residential and commercial structures along the Tansa Water Pipeline that runs across nine administrative wards of the city. The government had decided to accommodate the displaced persons to an industrial area Mahul but were inundated by a spate of health-related complaints.
Over the years, the dismal condition of living standards of the project affected persons (PAPs), the escalating threat to the health of residents of Mahul and neighbouring Ambapada and a surge in skin ailments, lung disorders even cancers, led to loud demands for relocation to a safer option. In 2015, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Pune too passed an order that said, “…there is a perceptible threat to health of residents of village Mahul and Ambapada due to prevailing air quality in the area”.
The issues in question were grave violations of basic human rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India under Article 21 that related to Right to Life. The quality of water appeared “contaminated”; the space between residential buildings was “used as a dump yard posing serious threat to the health of inhabitants,”; a real “risk of water supply getting contaminated with grey water” and Mahul’s inhabitants being forced to keep windows shut due to “excessive spilling of sewage and grey water and foul smell” according to an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mumbai’s inception report on Mahul.
IIT-Mumbai even went on to caution the state government that with the slightest change due to any geomorphological event, such as land subsidence or sea level rise, the high-tide line can shift landwards and cover the entire built-up area, endangering human inhabitation made for the PAPs that lies right next to the 50 metre buffer from mangroves in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) II zone. The risks were real.
When Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) that lies barely a stone’s throw away from Mahul’s MHADA colony, registered a blast and fire at a refinery on the noon of August 8, 2018, it just made matters worse for the PAPs who realised there wasn’t even an evacuation road should any untoward accident occur.
Mahul’s residents were like sitting ducks. Those who could avail alternative accommodation had left their ‘hell’ for safer zones elsewhere with families or friends leaving behind the handful few to suffer owing to a dearth of options available.
The few suffering, however, weren’t ready to go down without a fight. They surged ahead, voicing their dissent in the loudest manner possible, bolstered by support from Activists Medha Patkar and Bilal Khan who formed the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan to help mobilise the Project Affected Persons and litigate for a solution.
In the biting cold of December 2018, the Mahul protesters gathered with children and the elderly in tow at Azad Maidan to protest the State’s apathy towards their condition. Day after day, speeches and snacks later, they remained resolute despite their dwindling numbers. They even shifted base from Azad Maidan in the nights to a railway platform on CST before being booted out by the police back to their hell at Mahul but they fought on.
And, on Wednesday, their agitations found sweet vindication in the Bombay High Court order. The High Court directed the Maharashtra government to initiate communication with all the eligible persons to be displaced from the pipeline and find out if they would prefer staying in Mahul or take money from the government. The government would then “pay each family Rs 15,000 per month along with Rs 45,000 refundable deposit by way of rent for those persons who choose to forfeit their right to a tenement in Mahul".
The families will then have a month to vacate their structures after which the BMC shall resume demolition work. The bench maintained, "The entire difficulty has arisen because of delay on part of the state government to rehabilitate the project- affected persons”.
"A similar practice shall be initiated with those persons who have already started staying in Mahul. These persons shall be given the option to vacate the flats occupied by them and take the rent amount," said the court.
he court said the government shall deposit a sum of Rs 1.80 lakh (Rs 15,000 per month for a year) along with the Rs 45,000 deposit in the bank accounts of the project-affected persons (PAPs). "After a year, a sum of Rs 15,000 shall be deposited in these persons' bank accounts before the fifth of each month," the court directed.
In its order, the court said the government's failure to make available accommodation to the PAPs has resulted in thousands of illegal structures yet encroaching upon the city's main water pipelines posing a risk to the entire city’s population.
Now, Mahul resident Sushila Pardeshi will finally be able to avail medical help for her uric acid issue that left her writhing with pain in her joints each time she had to travel from her home in Mahul to join in an agitation against the State government at Azad Maidan along with other project affected persons. And, this time around, leave the toxic hell of Mahul for good!
---
*Editor, The Draft. A version of this story first appeared HERE

Comments

TRENDING

Arrest of Fr Stan Swamy: UN makes public letter seeking explanation from Govt of India

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Government of India (GoI), three senior United Nations (UN) officials – Elina Steinerte, vice-chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues – have said that the arrest of veteran activist Father Stan Swamy in October 2020 marks “the escalation of harassment the human rights defender has been subjected to since 2018.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Farm laws 'precursor' to free trade deal envisaged by US corporates to allow GMO

By Rajiv Shah Did the Government of India come up with the three farm laws, first rushed by promulgating ordinances in June 2020, to not just open the country’s agricultural sector to the corporate sector but also as a precursor to comply with the requirements of the United States for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as envisaged by the outgoing US president Donald Trump?

Modi govt 'implementing' IMF-envisaged corporate takeover of Indian agriculture

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak* The surge of wealth of Indian billionaires and the Modi-led BJP government’s onslaught on poor, marginalised and farmers continue to grow simultaneously as masses face annihilating pandemic of coronavirus. There is 90 % rise of Indian billionaire’s wealth over last one decade. It is not accidental.

Differing from Ambedkar, Kancha Ilaiah holds a 'different' theory of caste system

By Banavath Aravind* I was introduced to Kancha Ilaiah’s work when I was about 20 years old. He was then in the midst of a controversy for a chapter in his book "Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution", which termed the Baniya community as social smugglers. During many of his debates, I had come to notice his undeterred fighting spirit in trying to bring up certain fundamental social issues that were hitherto undiscussed. I eventually came across some of his works and started reading them silently. I’m deliberately stressing upon the word ‘silently’ here, as this was the kind of silence particularly associated with sensitive social issues like caste, religion, etc. But, as I write this essay, I feel silences on sensitive issues should be broken. Ilaiah opened up an entirely new debate that had the vigour and strength to counter the systemic Brahmanism. His methods of research were also novel in terms of going back to the roo

New trend? Riots 'expanded' to new rural areas post-2002 Gujarat carnage: Report

A VHP poster declaring a Gujarat village part of Hindu Rashtra  By Rajiv Shah  Buniyaad, a Gujarat-based civil society organization, engaged in monitoring of communal violence in the state, in a new report, “Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?” has said that a “new trend” has come about in communal violence in the state, where the parts of Gujarat which didn't see communal riots in 2002 are experiencing “regular bouts” of communal violence.

Fr Stan's arrest figures in UK Parliament: Govt says, Indian authorities were 'alerted'

London protest for release of Stan Swamy  By Rajiv Shah Will Father Stan Swamy’s arrest, especially the fact that he is a Christian and a priest, turn out to be major international embarrassment for the Government of India? It may well happen, if a recent debate on a resolution titled “India: Persecution of Minority Groups” in the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament is any indication. While Jesuits have protested Fr Stan's arrest in UK and US, the resolution, adopted in the Parliament, said, “This House has considered the matter of persecution of Muslims, Christians and minority groups in India”.

A new fad in India, coding-for-toddlers culture needs to be 'nipped' in the bud

By Aditya Pandey* We are all aware of the dire consequences of subjecting young kids to intense academic pressure from an early age. In India, we have coaching institutes like FIITJEE and Resonance offering programmes for 6th standard kids to prepare them for “NTSE, IJSO, PRMO and other Olympiads”. The duration of these programmes is around 175 hours – hours that could've been spent playing games and making friends instead.

More than 5,200 Gujarat schools to be closed down, merged, says govt document

RTE Forum, Gujarat, releasing fact-sheet on education By Our Representative A Gujarat government document has revealed that it is planning to close down 5,223 schools in the name of school merger. The document, dated July 20, 201 was released by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Gujarat. It shows that the worst-affected districts because of this merger are those which are populated by marginalized communities – especially tribals, Dalits and minorities, said RTE Forum’s Gujarat convener Mujahid Nafees.

Consumption pattern, not economic shock behind 'poor' child health indicators

By Neeraj Kumar, Arup Mitra* The findings of the latest round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2019-20 covering 22 States/UTs under Phase-I  present a somewhat disappointing picture of children’s health in India. Majority of the experts, based on prima facie evidence, just highlighted the deteriorating sign of child health in terms of increase in proportion of stunted and underweight children in most of the phase-I states/UTs over last two rounds of NFHS (2015-16 to 2019-20).