The city’s Fatehgunj area witnessed tense moments as angry locals attacked officials of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC), overseeing a major slum demolition operation under the “slum-free Vadodara” drive. As many as seven earth moving machines or JCBs pressed into action by the civic body, rummaged through several of the 400 slums in the Kamatipura area, leading to stone-pelting by angry residents who had fought for several months against the VMC’s demolition notice served earlier this year.
On Sunday, angry residents took away their belongings from their homes as the JCBs entered the slum area, but soon began attacking VMC officials for “bringing down their ancestral homes”. Residents said that their homes had been built as long as 50 years ago and thought it was “unfair” that their relocation had been promised under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) on Dabhoi road and Kisanwadi area, instead of an in situ location. This precise demand saw residents knocking the doors of the High Court, seeking a stay against the VMC’s decision to demolish the homes in June this year, until the corporation relocated them in the vicinity of their present homes.
On Sunday, police resorted to lathicharge to disperse the angry residents attacking officials while the officials went about executing the demolition orders.
In June, the VMC deferred the demolition drive after issuing notices to about 400 slumdwellers in the sensitive Kamatipura area. The VMC has provided the alternate homes in farther areas of Kishanwadi and Dabhoi road under the JNNURM, but residents are opposed to the idea demanding rehabilitation in situ, as per the JNNURM guidelines. Ashfaq Shaikh, a resident said, “They have forced us out of our home in violation of the JNNURM rule which clearly states that alternate homes must be given in the vicinity. They arrived with seven JCBs and police to intimidate us as they knew we would not have vacated our homes otherwise. We have been living here for generations and have been registered as voters from here. Politicians have come here to ask for votes. Now that our poor homes have become an eyesore in the city, we must be shunted out in the name of redevelopment.”
Residents had appealed to the VMC for an in situ rehabilitation as far back as in November 2013, when the first notice was issued. They also filed a second application on April 25. However, the VMC had rejected both the requests and ordered that the residents shift to their new JNNURM relocation apartments in Dabhoi road and Kishanwadi, resulting in much political tug of war over the issue, with Congress taking on the VMC on the issue. However, on Sunday, the VMC officials managed to pull down almost half of the 400 slums in the area.
VMC Encroachment removal officer Mangesh Jaiswal said, “The residents lost their cool and attacked officers from the department because they do have emotional attachment to their homes. One of our clerks is injured, but the police has brought the situation under control. We have completed demolitions of about 275 slums so far and the remaining will be executed on Monday morning.”
Jaiswal said that although most families had already evacuated the homes after the recent notice of the VMC a few days ago, some families that were living in the area, were asked to move out in the morning, leading to the conflict between locals and officials. No police complaint has been registered by the VMC.
According to JNNURM all slum dwellers must be provided with security of tenure. As far as possible, city governments must try and provide tenure to slum dwellers on-site or at sites nearby within 1-2 km radius to ensure that their livelihoods are not affected.
The VMC has taken up series of demolition of slums, but no public consultation was done on the fact that these slums should be relocated or developed in situ, less than 50 percent of the residents are being provided alternative arrangements, in many cases the hearing is on and the matter is sub judice.