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Chhattisgarh plans to demolish workers' houses to 'facilitate' industrial units in Bhilai

Counterview Desk
The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), India’s top civil society network, has asked Bhupesh Baghel, Chhattisgarh chief minister, to urgently intervene and stop the eviction of workers in the Bhilai Industrial Area and the demolition of their houses in Bijli Nagar in order to ensure that about 100 people do not become homeless.
Pointing out that more houses are likely to be demolished, in a letter to Baghel, NAPM said, move is in violation of workers' housing rights, pointing out, it is sought to be carried out in order to set up new industrial units even as no provisions have been made for workers' resettlement or rehabilitation.

Text:

We, the members of National Alliance of People’s Movements have received some disturbing information about violation of the housing rights of workers in the Bhilai Industrial Area.
It is reported that around 30 houses of factory workers are slated for demolition in the coming week in Bijli Nagar area of Hathkhoj basti, Bhilai, which will make more than a 100 people homeless, including around 50 children.
The basti has been in existence for over 30 years, but is now slated for demolition as the land belongs to Chhattisgarh administration’s Department of Industry and Commerce, which needs to set up new industrial units. The workers have been given no alternative accommodation and no provisions have been made for their resettlement or rehabilitation.
These houses have been built by factory workers employed in nearby factories over decades of hard and strenuous work. Over the years, their basti obtained legal connections for water and electricity. Not only have the residents have been faithfully paying their utility bills, they have also been paying property taxes for their modest tenements.
Yet, the bulldozers came on July 17, 2020 and starting tearing down the basti. They have pulled down around 10 tea-shops and small commercial establishments before the people convinced them to give them a few days to collect their stuff. The rest of the demolition is expected to continue in the coming week.
These 30 houses are only the first lot to be demolished. The Bhilai Industrial Area is dotted by many such “illegal” worker bastis, since no provisions for housing of workers have been made in much of the industrial area.
Bulldozers pulled down 10 tea shops and small commercial units before people convinced them for time to collect their stuff
When land was first acquired decades ago for the creation of Bhilai Industrial Area, numerous promises were made for housing the industrial labour in clean and spacious labour camps and worker colonies – but these were never built. The land acquired was allotted only to industrial units, with no thought towards the housing of workers and their families.
Now, when the workers have toiled hard to build their own homes and colonies, they are being thrown out in the middle of a raging pandemic and a depressed economy.
This forced eviction and demolition of workers' houses during a public health crisis will accentuate the disastrous consequences of this move for the workers families and expose them to the Covid-19 further.
We earnestly demand that:
  1. The demolition of establishments in Bijli Nagar area of Hathkhoj be stopped immediately.
  2. The residents of Bijli Nagar be adequately resettled in alternate housing, close to their places of work, with access to schools and hospitals. 
  3. No one be forcibly moved during the monsoon period and Covid period. 
  4. The owners of houses/shops/buildings that have been torn down be adequately compensated. 
We look forward to compassionate action, respecting the rights of workers.
---
Click here for signatories

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