June 15, 2007

To develop

You know what "development" is, don't you? Over the last few months, several areas of the city I live in have tasted it. For one example, if you have travelled along the stretch of road from the Phoenix Mills mall area and the signal at Dr E Moses Road, you will have noticed the families in houses on the left. Kids having baths, women sweeping in front of their homes. You know.

Well, sometime in the last month, development hit that stretch of road. All the houses have been demolished. More space for those signs of development, cars. When I passed last week, I saw one man sitting on a chair atop the rubble, staring vacantly at the passing traffic. Another sign of development.

Similar development is striking Ahmedabad too. Here's a message that just came to me. (Because of some ISP problems, it reached me too late for the appeal it mentions).

***

Sambhav, a voluntary organization, has been working towards securing the right to a dignified life for people belonging to Denotified Tribes, particularly focusing on those living in Maninagar, Ahmedabad. These people have been rendered homeless by the demolitions conducted by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. These demolitions, which have been done more than 12 times during the past 10 years, are done under the pretext of using the so-acquired land for "developmental activities".

To protest against the brutality and inhumane behavior of the AMC and Police, people went on a "peaceful hunger strike" on March 22, 2006 for one day under the leadership of Dr. Ganesh Devy. The aim of this strike was to sensitize the Corporation Authorities about the problems which these people are facing due to the demolitions. Due to this strike, Mr. Anil Mukim, the then Municipal Commissioner and Mr. Sacha, the then Deputy Municipal Commissioner promised to provide alternative land to 112 families. However, till date, these promises remain unfulfilled. Along with this, a number of applications were written to the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner of the AMC to help these people settle at some permanent place but these too remain
unanswered.

The insensitivity of the police and the administration and the absolute emptiness of all the promises made by them was brought into glaring light by the recent shocking incidents which took place on the 7th and 9th of June, 2007. On the 7th, the AMC visited Maninagar yet again to carry another round of demolitions. As a result, the entire population of the region, which largely consists of children and women, was left without a place to hide from the scorching afternoon sun. With the mercury rising steadily, these people have been left at the mercy of nature, with no shelter anywhere. As the people were coming to terms with this demolition, violence and brutality of an unprecedented nature was witnessed in the area on the 9th June. Whatever little belongings these people had were confiscated by the
Municipality. A large number of women were brutally beaten and those who tried to resist were locked up in jail for more than 24 hours. Their rations and even the food which was being cooked were thrown away. Whatever was not thrown was taken away, thus depriving the families of food and other necessities. Women, with infants who were in need of nursing, were refused the permission to carry the infants with them to jail. One of the women, who had recently undergone a surgery, was refused medicines in jail and was kept in a room with no ventilation, even while she pleaded to be allowed near a fan. The policemen beat the women again in jail and even though they were released later due to the intervention of other organizations that were aware of this cause, their belongings still remain unreturned.

To express our anguish at these happenings and to mark our solidarity with the people of Maninagar, we have decided to observe a 24-hour fast beginning on the morning of the 14th June, 2007. Since we would not want to disturb the peace of the city, we have decided to observe this fast from wherever we are without gathering at any one place. This will begin tomorrow at six am in the morning. Those of us who are on fast will be allowed to drink only water. You too can be a part of our struggle and contribute in your own way; you are welcome to observe this fast along with us, giving the people of Maninagar, the much needed strength of belongingness and unity. Please do get back to us with your ideas and your inputs. We once again appeal to you to join in this moment of anguish and observe a day's fast with us.

***

My friend Kerim Friedman has a Flickr slideshow from Maninagar here.

6 comments:

HyperTree said...

It angers me so that there are so many who are so unethical! If we do not force these people to remain destitute and poor, and instead usher in development, then how could those such as us pity them?
Without making sure these people continue to suffer in poverty -- which is what derailing development and maintaining the status quo would do -- how could we maintain what is ethical and what is not, and thereby feel good about ourselves?
My blood boils at these callous development-ers I tell you!

csm said...

dd - this stretch along with the one on pd mello road (fort to carnac bunder) are now rehablitated at lallubhai compound, mankhurd/deonar (near deonar municipal colony).
it has been just over a month there for the families there.
the place houses nearly 11000 tenements for families affected by MUIP and MUTP.
it is certainly worth a visit.

P2C2U said...

I've spent major portions of my life in both Ahmedabad and Bombay. It's scary what is happening.

I used to live in Vastrapur, at the outskirts of Ahmedabad. I remember a time when there were a dozen or more mango trees in and around our buliding. There used to be two large empty compounds where kids would play or people would generally meet up in. They've both been taken over for building more shopping malls and the mango trees are gone.

What frustrates me is that everyone knows how arid Gujarat is. Yet all they do is cut down trees, put up more concrete structures and reply on water from the Narmada to relieve their problems.

People I know say that Modi has brought prosperity to Gujarat. They all have blinkers...they don't see the whole picture. It makes me feel very helpless.

Anonymous said...

I feel for those people. Govt. should make some alternate arrangements. I suppose its done and mentioned by csm.

What I find interesting here are the names.....
Dr. Ganesh Devy
Kerim Friedman
and the blog written by Dilip D :)

I am sure all this help and standing by those people got them at least 10 families to agree to change their faith, even if they don't get a home to live. Well, that's any way AMC's responsibility......

Corporate Serf said...

Dilip,

All very distressing. But you would rather depend on hunger strikes after the fact and "sensitivities of police and administration" before the fact, rather than explicitly spelt out fundamental property rights for all and no right of the state to loot / acquire anything (whether in the name of development or in the name of improving the lives of poor or in the noble cause of changing the landowning distribution)

Why this futile protest when because of the absence of absolute property rights, similar abuses will crop up again and will need to be fought?

-- serf

Dilip D'Souza said...

CSerf, it strikes me as futile to go tell people being ousted from their homes that their best recourse is to skip any form of protest, mourn the state of the country that has not adequately recognized property rights, and then demand that the laws now do recognize property rights.

We each deal with the situation we have around us. Yes, we all would like the country to go in certain directions, and setting property rights in stone may be one of them. But until that happens, what should a person who suffers injustice do? Demand property rights and subside?