The Bhopal Municipal Corporation’s notice to around 600 families to vacate their houses — identified as dilapidated — triggered protests from residents who alleged that they were being targeted for being Congress supporters.
The BMC identified dilapidated structures in the city on Saturday after heavy rain battered the state. Of the 600 families served eviction notices, 150 families stay in Janata Quarters at Aishbagh and they have been given a deadline of three days to vacate their houses.
“We have been asked to shift just because this government thinks we are a huge vote bank of the Congress. Why are only our houses listed as dilapidated structures? There are more than 1000 buildings in Bhopal, which are in bad shape, but they are not notified,” said Shahwar Khan, a resident of Janata Quarters.
“Just because a roof fell doesn’t mean our entire colony is dilapidated. We all can see what the civic body and government are trying to do by targeting only Muslims.”
Civic body officials said evacuation notices were given to minimise loss of life and property during floods. “In May, the BMC issued notices to owners of these buildings before the monsoon arrived. Since they did not vacate, fresh notices have been issued to them,” said a BMC official.
Mayor Alok Sharma said, “We are only facilitators. The housing board should have repaired the buildings. If we are told to shift the luggage of these families to some other place, we will do it. Our job is to manage the disaster.”
Activists said the BMC had notified the families only once and did not take action after serving the notice. “Heavy rain for more than 48 hours prompted the BMC to ask people vacate their houses in three days. How is it possible for over 600 households to leave their houses in monsoon at a short notice,” said Pradeep Khandelwal, a social activist.
“Even if the structures are dilapidated, why didn’t the BMC issue notices more than once? Why do the authorities wake up after a tragedy? Had the Maihar incident not taken place, BMC would not have swung into action.”
In Maihar, two people, including a woman, were killed after a three-storey Housing Board building collapsed due to heavy rain.
Urban administration minister Maya Singh said, “These houses were notified 10 years ago, but the families are not ready to listen. We will hold a meeting tomorrow. We are left with no option but to shift the families as we are responsible for their safety.”
Corporator Fehmida Akbar Khan said, “We will talk to the collector tomorrow. It’s impossible for people to shift right now. The monsoon is already troubling them. People have repaired their houses. Some of them have bought houses only recently.”
Khan, a resident of Aishbag, alleged that BJP corporators were behind serving of eviction notices. “Poor people living in this area (Aishbagh) are being targeted for not being ruling party’s voters.”