Govandi slum residents scramble for documents after demolition | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

Govandi slum residents scramble for documents after demolition

BySabah Virani
Feb 19, 2024 05:36 AM IST

Residents of Panchasheel Nagar in Mumbai face uncertainty after tenements were demolished without proper documentation. They struggle to prove their eligibility for compensation.

Mumbai: Panchasheel Nagar in Govandi, also known as Tata Nagar, was engulfed in uncertainty on Sunday. Residents of around 250 tenements in the slum settlement which were demolished on February 6 and 7 had erected a few temporary structures using plastic, tarpaulin and bamboo for shelter. But they continued to remain on edge, scrambling for documents that could prove they were rightful residents, eligible for compensation and rehabilitation.

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The Jan Haq Sangharsh Samiti (JHSS), a citizens’ group focussed on housing rights that is helping the residents, contends that each family lost at least 25,000 in housing material and belongings due the demolition, which was in violation of due processes.

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Rules mandate that authorities must prepare an annexure of slum dwellers with documentary proof before demolition to identify pre-October 1, 2000 residents who are eligible for free rehabilitation. Those found ineligible are allowed to file appeals under section 35 of the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act, 2971 within 30 days.

But no such annexure was prepared before the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation demolished tenements in Panchsheel Nagar, leaving the residents without a shelter over their heads and with a question mark over their future, said Shubham Kothari, a volunteer with JHSS.

“In a meeting with officials of the M East ward on Thursday, they agreed to give the residents seven days’ time to submit their documents, after which they will prepare the annexure, and then take action,” said Kothari.

The demolition affected both pre-2000 residents as well as newer settlers, including those who moved in during the pandemic, unable to afford the high cost of living elsewhere in the city. Nearly all families lost a lot of their belongings including identity documents during the demolition and were now scrambling to arrange for papers that could prove their right of stay, said residents.

“The house I am living in was my grandmother’s, who stayed here for over 15 years till she died six years ago. She passed it on to me as my parents are no longer alive,” said Shalini Kamble, 48. “I have a few documents, but the others were lost during the demolition along with my other belongings, so I’m trying to arrange for them.”

Lalita Suresh, 50, from Uttar Pradesh, who moved into the settlement with her two sons after the pandemic, was far more worried as she had lost her Aadhaar card during the demolition. “This place felt like my village when I shifted here, which is why I liked it even though there was no electricity and water. Now, we don’t know what do to,” said Suresh, who works as a cook to get her younger son through college. Her husband passed away in 2014, and her elder son who is not as educated works in a mall.

“The BMC knew fully well when newer residents like Suresh built their tenements from scratch on this land. But they said or did nothing. Now, when they’ve settled into their lives and taken on loans, the BMC decided to act,” alleged Kothari.

The BMC claims that the plot on which the tenements stood is reserved for a shelter home, old age care centre, Aadhar centre and skill development centre for women employees. Demolitions were carried out at the site in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2020, and residents of tenements demolished earlier this month were served notices in October 2023, said an official from the M East ward.

The JHSS, which is planning to approach the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission and the Maharashtra State Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Commission within the next few days, has been organising various activities such as a community kitchen, sessions with lawyers, film screenings and medical camps to raise awareness among residents and keep them motivated for the long battle ahead. On Saturday, 10 lawyers spoke to them about the rights of the slum dwellers, and how they’ve waned in recent years as norms around demolitions have been diluted.

Lalita Suresh said her worst fears were allayed owing to the support of JHSS while Kamble said she had become more aware of both her rights as well as the BMC’s responsilibities.

“I used to work as a garbage sorter in the Deonar dumping ground, and now I run an organisation of waste pickers. We are doing work for the BMC, reducing the burden of their waste at prices which make paying rents in this city difficult. The BMC should be supporting us instead of demolishing our houses,” said Kamble.

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