Close to 550 families, displaced in a November 2014 demolition drive undertaken by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation, restarted their agitation against the civic body on Friday, almost six months after the construction of their in-situ rehabilitation project was discontinued following the VMC ‘exhausting’ its funds.
The families, mostly Muslims, rejected the proposal of alternate relocation to Tandalja since they do not want to be “ghettoized”. The VMC said that it has discontinued the rental compensation as the families have the option of accepting the new homes.
The families marched in a protest rally to VMC headquarters, holding placards with questions like “Why is the VMC turning back on its promise?”, “Why should poor beneficiary families suffer the corruption of the VMC?”, and “We want our homes”.
Led by Professor JS Bandukwala, Congress corporator Farid Cutpiece and other representatives, the residents submitted a memorandum to VMC Commissioner Vinod Rao, stating that VMC had breached its promise of relocating the families in Kalyannagar.
The memorandum said, “The corporation says that it cannot go ahead with construction because it has run out of funds. The fact is that they had appointed a consultant for the project, CEPT. Later, it changed the consultant to WAPCOS, which said that the project cost would rise. VMC went ahead with the project aware of the rise in cost. Now, it has abandoned the project saying it is out of funds.”
Rao said that disbursement of the monthly rental was stopped as the families were offered homes in Tandalja. Speaking of the deadlock, he said, “There are many people who want to shift to Tandalja. And there are many who have refused.”
He said, “There is no need to send proposals to the Standing Committee for change of this allotment as it is within the powers of the Commissioner to do so. We are hopeful that in the days to come, through talks the families will accept the offer as it is in their best interest.”
A representative of the agitating families said, “The fact of the matter is that the VMC has deliberately stalled the in-situ rehabilitation as the current land of Kalyannagar is now a prime property. We have also learnt that just like Sayajipura and Kalali in 2015, the VMC is facing pressure from a lobby to shift Muslims out of this developing area. Therefore, the VMC has stopped the construction and also the rental disbursement to build pressure on these poor families to resign to their fate and shift to the Muslim ghetto of Tandalja. The VMC is aware that the poor families will not be able to pull an agitation without rental compensations as they have been paying heavy fees for their makeshift homes since they were displaced.”