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

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.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Cyrus Mistry, PM Modi’s brother: What do these accidents have in common? Merc!

By Rosamma Thomas*  In September 2022, in an accident at Palghar near Mumbai, Cyrus Mistry, former chairman of the Tata Group, died in a road accident . On December 28, 2022, a road accident in Mysore left one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brothers injured. What is common in these accidents? The car that crashed into the divider on the road, in both these cases, was manufactured by “prestigious” German manufacturer Mercedes Benz. One former dealer of Mercedes Benz cars in India has been raising issues of the threat to the lives of those riding these cars for many years now. Cama Motors, among the oldest dealers of foreign cars, having started business in pre-independence India, noted over 10 years ago that Mercedes Benz was indulging in corrupt practices . The cars are currently priced between Rs 41 lakh and Rs 2.92 crore in India; few people realize that the pride of owning a Merc comes at considerable risk to life. Cama Motors carefully documented several of the flaws on a websi

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

How local NGO is using art, songs to teach children revive Sundarbans mangroves

By Sara Ahmed*  Located in the low-lying islands in the Bay of Bengal, the Sundarbans straddle the border between India and Bangladesh and cover more than 1 million hectares, making them the world’s largest single contiguous mangrove swamp . A Ramsar site added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1987, they are home to a wide range of critically endangered fauna, including the Bengal tiger, the Ganges dolphin , river terrapin, the estuarine crocodile and the Indian python, along with approximately 428 species of birds , 120 fish, 42 mammal, 35 reptile and 8 amphibian species. Having adapted to the saline estuarine conditions, more than 60 plant species can be found there. Historically, cyclones have posed a greater threat in the Bay of Bengal than they do in the Arabian sea, to India’s west. Between 1891 and 2018, there were 520 cyclones in the Bay of Bengal , compared to 126 in the Arabian Sea. On top of sucking up large amounts of greenhouse emissions , mangroves also act as the f