India: Change in Government Doesn’t Matter

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India: Change in Government Doesn’t Matter
By: Mohammad Zafar,
12 June 2014

In the history of modern India most of the times state, law and judiciary all instead of supporting or saving poor’s rights, thrashed their rights. They only supported big industrialists and companies. Political parties and their ideologies do not make any differences in these acts. BJP led NDA, supported Sardar sarovar Project and it caused large number of people’s displacement, left front supported UPA government was totally agreed on SEZs. Even left front were ruling in West Bengal when the incidents of Singur and Nandigram had occurred (for more info please see Power and contestation by Nivedita Menon & Aditya Nigam).

One thing is important here, that now these kinds of conflicts are common in most of the parts of country. And government, judiciary & law, all seems to be supporters of rich people and big companies. Sometime state has legitimised the acts of big MNCs or government also did the similar forceful activities to accumulate poor’s land on which people are still struggling for compensation and proper rehabilitation (example of Harsud village in MP where people faced displacement and struggled to get proper habitats and compensations).

Last year in January I saw one such disturbing act of BBMP (Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Palike) at Ejipura slums just in front of the National Games Village, in Bangalore. It was a well-planned act of BBMP and police. By using various tricks (such as telling slum dwellers to remove their stuff, even they tried to remove it forcefully, promising them a new room in some outskirts, which was just a drama) they demolished all the slums which contained more than 1500 households of Slum-dwellers & marginalized People.

The population of Ejipura Economic Weaker Sections society slum consisted Dalit Christians, Muslims and Dalits mainly. There were several linguistic groups (Telugu, Tamil, and Kannada). Basically most of them were came their at the time of construction of National games Village in 1983 and then government ordered them to live in that place. Some original owners in this long duration owned new houses and they provided these slums quarters to other migrant workers. Occupationally most of them were informal labourers, servants in National Games Village, gardeners, drivers etc. It’s interesting that Government decided to demolish slums on Friday (18th Jan 2013) and after a small protest by the people (including some concerned activists) they came back on Saturday (19th Jan, 2013) and early morning they broke half of the slums, their first attack was on the basic needs such as common drinking tanks and common toilets (for further details please check this link

Next day was Sunday and police asked for legal stay orders, Activists tried a lot but they failed to get it because Court was off on Sunday and on Monday when I saw that place it was changed in a piece of land with destructed houses, where people (from some media groups and NGOs) were clicking pictures, people then protested in front of National Games Village and they marched against that demolition, but that all was waste.

Nothing happened because in the eyes of people, BBMP and judiciary, that place was encroached by migrants and it was government’s place. Now it was given for a project of PPP to maverick company and an infrastructure of Garuda mall will come there in couple of years. Nothing happened then, and I am very pessimistic that anything would be going to happen against such slum demolitions because there is a long list of slum demolition in our country and not a single authority is worrying for it, I think. We can see examples of New Delhi (in the name of city’s beautification), Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Bangalore (perhaps list would be too long if we add other examples). It’s painful that we or government cannot provide shelter to people and other than this it breaks shelter of people.

Some middle class people think slums as dark spots of cities. First they (government, industrialists, etc.) force people to leave their land in most of the cases (as it happened in Harsud of MP and in some parts of Gujarat) and then they shift people in some tough conditions of cities where a villager comes in a slum from his/her village of prosperity and face struggle in terms of job, health, security etc., just in the name of Development (as Nehru said once said “if you are to suffer you should suffer in the interests of the country”), I think that’s why more than two thousand families faced displacement and half of them just got rehabilitation or compensation in case of Bhakra Nangal Dam in 1950s (Source: Power and Contestation, by Nivedita Menon and Aditya Nigam). Then in slums also they face destruction and demolition by government.

When I heard about Golibar slum demolition in Mumbai last year, and now again an effort of demolition in Bangalore in Jaibhuvaneshwari nagar slums after Ejipura, I just thought, what is the crime of people if they are living in slums? Isn’t its government’s responsibility to ensure food and shelter of poor instead of destroying it? I think the force and efforts of protesters was not enough in case of Ejipura that’s why civil authorities again tried to demolish a slum of Jaibhuvaneshwari nagar in Bangalore.

 Nivedita Menon and Aditya Nigam’s book “Power and contestation” provides a clear picture of this complexity of the “so called” development, where always poor has to suffer. And more than that in most of the cases police and judiciary worked for them. Even Supreme Court rejected a PIL of Prashant Bhushan (in 2006) against the demolition of slums in Delhi and justices Ruma Pal & Markanday Katju had said in favour of it (slum demolitions) in New Delhi. That order of SC was, “Nobody forced you to come to Delhi. Is there a right to live in Delhi only? Stay where you can. If encroachments are to be allowed on public land, there will be anarchy” (For more details please See, power and contestation by Nivedita Menon & Aditya Nigam). No matter which government was or is in power, the same happened in congress’ regime, same in BJP and same in others. For people of slums the fate is similar in all governments.

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