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Ahmedabad authorities issue eviction notice to tribal basti amidst Covid-19 crisis

By Mina Jadav*
Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) officials have tarted serving notices to migrant workers of Motera basti, ordering them to vacate the premises in a week’s time. The basti is close to the Motera Stadium, the second largest sports complex in the world, where where Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a rousing public welcome to President Donald Trump on February 24.
The basti residents are tribal construction workers who have migrated from Dahod district to work in the construction industry of the city. Majority of them have not even come back to the city after they went back to their homes when the lockdown was imposed on March 24.
The serving of notices shows that during the post-Covid-19-induced lockdown and exodus of migrant workers from cities, nothing has changed for the municipal authority of the largest city in Gujarat. The exodus of migrant workers during different phases of the lockdown drew widespread media and state attention. It was widely accepted that the exodus happened because the migrant workers do not have decent living space in the cities, they work in.
Ensuring decent living spaces for migrant workers is one of the action agendas in the relief package announced by Central government – Atmanirbhar Bharat. The government has announced creation of rental public housing and migration-specific housing. However, AMC continues to function in the old mindset.
The Motera basti shot into national and international limelight during the Trump visit to Ahmedabad in the month of February 2020. The AMC authorities tried to clear away the settlement in a hurry without following due procedure. 
After extensive media coverage of the AMC attempts, the then commissioner issued a statement in the media that nobody would be evicted without being given alternative rehabilitation. According to him, the city was building 1 lakh houses under the Prime Minister’s Affordable Housing Scheme.
The new order asking the hutment dwellers to vacate their houses within a week claims that workers have not been able to prove their residence prior to the year 2010 that is considered as the cut off date for being considered eligible for rehabilitation. The fact is that some of the hutments are older than 2010 and can be seen in Google maps from that time.
However, the residents do not have proof from that time. The trade union representing the workers, Majur Adhikar Manch, organized a sit-in on February 20, just ahead of the Namaste Trump show at Motera stadium, in front of the AMC office. One of the major demands was that the cut off date for eligibility for rehabilitation should be brought forward to December 31, 2018.
The Majur Adhikar Manch has taken strong exception to the inhuman order of eviction. It has demanded that AMC should take back its order asking the residents of Motera basti to vacate their houses in a week’s time. It must not evict any migrant worker without providing alternative rehabilitation.
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*Secretary, Majur Adhikar Manch

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