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Frequently evicted, Ahmedabad's 'untenable' slumdwellers seek viable rehabilitation

By Mina Jadav* 
Nearly 1,000 residents of untenable slums of Ahmedabad held a public meeting at Sarangpur, Ahmedabad, and then marched to the Municipal Commissioner office at Danapeeth seeking an end to constant eviction of their settlements and decent shelter on February 20. The residents comprise of two groups of workers – seasonally migrant construction workers who migrate from the tribal belt comprising of Dahod in Gujarat and Jhabua and Banswara in neighbouring states and long-term migrants from the Nomadic Tribes and De-Notified Tribe (NTDNT) communities.
Workers migrate with their families. They live in squatter settlements all over the city on vacant plots, railway tracks, and sometimes even on footpath. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) does not enumerate these settlements as it considers the residents as seasonal migrants. Consequently, it has no record of these settlements and does not provide any public services to these settlements. It keeps bulldozing away the houses in these settlements at frequent intervals without giving any legal notice.
The Majur Adhikar Manch (MAM), a trade union of informal workers, has been working with the residents of these squatter settlements for more than a decade. It has compiled a list of 45 such settlements with 2,308 residents, which has been handed over to the authorities. It has also given frequent memorandum to the Municipal Commissioner and the District Collector asking them to enumerate these settlements and adopt a proper policy of rehabilitation.
However, there has been no positive response so far. On February 20, the Manch organised a public meeting at Ambedkar Statue Sarangpur Ahmedabad from 12 noon onwards. The public meeting was attended by 100 residents and their families. The rally was addressed by MAM activists, including Magiben Bavri, Bhartiben Dantani, Shilaben Dangi, Hansaben Valmiki and Hirabhai.
Majur Adhikar Manch has compiled a list of 45 informal settlements with 2,308 residents, which has been handed over to the authorities
Guest speakers who addressed the rally and expressed support for the movement included Mohammad Lakha of the Shramik Sangthan, Minakshiben of the Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangthan, Hemaben Solanki of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch, and Roopabhai of the Bandhkam Majur Sangthan. Representatives from Human Resource Development Centre (HDRC) and Ajeevika Bureau sent their representatives to express support. A number of concerned citizens from Ahmedabad also participated.
After the public meeting, the residents of the settlements marched to the AMC office at Danapeeth and submitted a memorandum to the Commissioner. The memorandum demanded that the settlements be enumerated, there should be no eviction without rehabilitation, and the Government should change its existing policies to keep in mind the special condition of these workers.
As of now the Municipal administration has a policy of using the cut-off date of December 1, 2010 to decide if the squatter family should be rehabilitated. The Union has demanded that this be extended to December 31, 2018. The state should construct family accommodation under its scheme for Shelter for Urban Homeless.
As the Commissioner did not respond positively, the workers started an indefinite dharna at the gate of the AMC that continued late into night. Finally, the AMC called for another round of negotiations. It promised to respond in writing to the demands raised by the residents of the untenable slums. Following this the sit in was ended.
It is noteworthy that Commissioner, AMC, has already expressed his view before the media that there will be no evictions without following proper procedure that comprises of issuing of notices and giving time to produce documentation of residence at the site. He said that no one will be evicted forcefully and AMC has a stock of one lakh houses under its scheme of concessional housing for slum.
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*Secretary, Majur Adhikar Manch

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