The slum dwellers residing along the rail tracks are rushing to railway offices to show relevant documents as rail authorities have issued notices to demolish their structures. These slums have been built illegally on rail land though now they are asking for alternative accommodation. As of February this year, there were around 24500 unauthorized structures that have illegally encroached upon the 57 hectares of railway land on both Central and Western Railways.
On March 31, several slum dwellers and encroachers staying on railway land, came to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) hoping to meet the Central Railway officials. The authorities have asked them to show relevant papers to prove that they have been residing on these lands for a stipulated time.
“Covid has already affected our lives with no jobs and pay cuts. I am trying to meet ends by doing odd jobs. And now the railways have sent us notices to vacate our homes and if not cleared then will demolish it using bulldozers,” said Ghulam Kadir Khan, who is staying on encroached rail land in Kurla.
On Central Railway there are 13839 structures occupying 37 hectares of rail land while on the Western Railway, 10572 structures have encroached rail land of 20 hectares. These are namely those encroachers who have been staying on railway land and are now been vacated by railway administration.
“Every election we have been voting based on valid documents. Before elections; politicians make tall promises and we are given importance only then. And all of a sudden we have been tagged as encroachers although we are staying here for years together,” said Aatish Lokhande from Dombivali.
The railway officials claim that the Indian Railways do not have any policy to rehabilitate these encroachers on rail land. And so, they will have been given eviction notices. Only those whose slums fall under a project being undertaken under Mumbai Urban Transport Project; could get alternative rehabilitation only if they manage to show relevant documents to the authorities; explained a railway official.
Earlier last month, the Minister for State for Railways Raosaheb Danve had stated that rehabilitation of these families residing illegally and encroaching railway land is the state government’s responsibility. In December 2021, during hearing of the encroachment issue, the Supreme Court directed the Railways to evacuate the encroached railway land across the country on priority basis.