A river’s revival amidst saga of tears - Hindustan Times
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A river’s revival amidst saga of tears

Jun 14, 2024 09:22 AM IST

Amid an unprecedented eviction drive, the Kukrail riverbed is being freed of encroachments. Almost half of the Akbar Nagar slum is already gone, and the rest is likely to be history soon, paving way for a much-needed revival of the river. Unfortunately, this has come at the cost people being displaced and losing livelihood. As hundreds of families move out to new settlements, we look into the two aspects of the story - efforts to reclaim a river that turned into a nullah and people’s struggle to reboot their lives.

LUCKNOW As JCBs continue to roll, razing illegal structures on the Kukrail riverbed and unblocking underground aquifers in the process, the river water is now mixed with tears from the eyes of those leaving behind their broken walls – what they once called their home.

An aerial view of Akbar Nagar after the demolition drive by the Lucknow Development Authority. (HT Photo)
An aerial view of Akbar Nagar after the demolition drive by the Lucknow Development Authority. (HT Photo)

Almost half of the Akbar Nagar slum is already gone, and rest is likely to be demolished over the next one month. A much-needed revival of Kukrail river is underway, but unfortunately at a cost of human sufferings.

The over 10 lakh sq ft land is being freed from encroachments that will help the river breathe and flow smoothly. Much to the relief of Indira Nagar, this change will ensure that stormwater does not stagnate.

The Kukrail river rejuvenation – the process of reviving/restoring the natural flow and health of the river damaged due to human activities – has led to relocation of at least 2,000 families, many of whom earned their livelihood on the riverbank they encroached.

People moving out with lock, stock & barrel, cops and labourers doing their job and loudspeaker warnings to leave the place amid the demolition drive is a common sight at Akbar Nagar.

While the demolition is completed in Akbar Nagar 2, the bulldozers moved to Akbar Nagar 1 on Thursday evening. There are crestfallen people all around. One of them is Shabana, 45, who stood with her sewing machine and watched her two-storey house being demolished.

“I’m a single mother of two sons and stitching work is the source of income. I invested all my money into this house and education of children. The place where I have been rehabilitated will not serve any purpose for my stitching work,” she rued.

Mohammed Rashid, who too works as a tailor, shared the financial impact of relocation. “My only source of income was this rented shop. I took a loan for my daughter’s marriage last year and have to repay 16000 every month. My livelihood is gone. How will I repay my loan now,” he asked with moist eyes.

Salman, a rickshaw puller from Akbar Nagar 1, expressed concern over the reduced availability of clients in Vasant Kunj area, affecting his ability to pay his monthly instalments for the new house. “If we were illegal occupants, why were we given facilities like water, roads, and electricity,” asked Shabana.

FUTURE OF POOR KIDS HANGS IN BALANCE

Talim (education) of over 200 children at a madrasa in Akbar Nagar 1 has come to a halt with the demolition drive set to begin here from Friday.

On Thursday, around 15 employees of Madrasa Arabia Khadim-Ul-Uloom were busy vacating the educational institute by sending the children to their relatives’ homes in Lucknow and other districts.

“Around 100 children have been sent to their kins’ homes while we’re trying to send the others to their home by the evening. Poor and mostly orphan children were living here and getting education with food and lodging,” said Mohammad Naseem, principal and manager of the madrasa.

According to Naseem, the madrasa was established in 1987. Currently, there is a hostel at the rear side with three floors having enough room to accommodate 200 children and 15 employees.

“It was a source of education and food for many of poor children. Electricity and water connections have been stopped. We never thought we would have to face this situation,” said Naseem. HTC

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