Slum dwellers say no notice was given of the demolition

Mumbai: The Western Railway (WR) and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) demolished nine slums at Garib Nagar adjacent to Bandra (east) railway station on Monday afternoon due to illegal encroachment on the land that belongs to both the authorities. The slum dwellers were not issued a proper notice and said that they were shocked with the action, since the authorities did not give them an opportunity to vacate their homes.

Around 100 people who resided in these ground storey slums removed whatever furniture and utensils that they could grab at the last minute, just as three JCB bulldozers razed their shanties within an hour. These slums were constructed by the residents after the 2011 Bandra slum fire in which their houses were burnt to ashes.

A notice, without signatures of concerned officials, to empty the space was issued to one of the slums on December 31. A senior officer from the railways, who led the demolition, told the Free Press Journal, “We will issue them an official notice soon and demolish the other slums constructed on the land that belongs to the railways. Rehabilitation of the people is not the responsibility of the railways so we are not concerned if time is given to the people to clear their homes or save their possessions.” These nine slums were destroyed based on this unofficial notice.

The slum dwellers who were left with all their belongings but no place to go said, “We understand that we are staying illegally on a piece of land that does not belong to us. But instead of destroying our houses every time, can the authorities provide us with some shelter? We are willing to go and settle in any place but cannot afford such frequent demolition.”

This is the fifth time that the slums in that area have been razed. A slum dweller said, “I have my tenth standard preliminary exams and all my books are destroyed. If not a notice, the authorities should have at least given us some time to safeguard our assets.”

Prashant Gaikwad, assistant municipal commissioner of BMC, said, “We demolished the slums that were encroached on the footpaths while the railways destroyed those on their land. The railways do not follow a practice of issuing a notice so we carried out the demolition as all of these were new structures.”

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Free Press Journal