The Sanjaynagar slum rehabilitation project ran into another controversy Wednesday. Armed with Sama and Karelibaug police cover, the Vadodara Municipal Corpora-tion (VMC) encroachment department deployed its JCB to bulldoze two tenements and a provision store, but without an initial notice to the owners. According to the Mukhyamantri Gruh Yojana (MGY) department, the plot falls in the survey number of the Sanjaynagar. However, when the District Inspector of Land Revenue (DILR) was unable to conclusively prove the VMC claim with a manual land measurement, the JCBs withdrew “for a day”. According to Amit Parmar and Shivnarayan Chauhan, owners of the two tenements in the Nehru Nagar settlement, adjoining the Sanjaynagar plot, the VMC has been “eyeing” their land in order to benefit Ahmedabad-based Manav Infrastructure, that has been awarded the work order for the redevelopment.
Parmar and Chauhan claim that they have been under “immense pressure” for the last seven months as alleged “dealers” have been forcing them to evacuate the plots. Chauhan also runs a provision store attached to his tenement that the VMC claims falls under the Sanjaynagar survey number. On Wednesday, when the VMC sent its bulldozers, Parmar and Chauhan, contacted advocate Shailesh Amin, also the Vadodara City Congress vice-president, for help. Parmar said, “We had purchased the lands on which our homes stand from the original owner Bhagusinh Fatehsinh Rathod for about Rs 80,000 at least 15 years ago. We are the legal owners of this plot and we know that it does not fall under the Sanjaynagar survey number. For if it did, they would have demolished it in the same phase. We have never been served a VMC notice to evict the property, including today, when they menacingly parked the bulldozers outside our house and tried using brute force to evict us. We contacted Amin for help, who arrived and handled the matter in a legal manner.”
Amin says that when he sought the land revenue records from the officers, based on which they had arrived to demolish the structures, the VMC officers fumbled. “They did not have any record to show. They said the VMC MGY department has realised that this portion of the plot is also part of Sanjaynagar. It is an indigestible afterthought by which the VMC is working. When the officers summoned the district land revenue department, they arrived and took measurements but could not conclude that the plots owned by Parmar and Chauhan fall in Sanjaynagar. The JCBs were forced to withdraw,” Amin said.
Parmar and Chauhan say they are exasperated by the harassment. “The people who are pressurising us to compromise our plot for flats in the developer’s scheme say they are falling short of land as the developer has ambitious plan. They need to offer a common plot to the redeveloped slum colony as per the rule of construction and they do not have a portion for that, according to their present plan. They feel our two homes will benefit them to meet the requirement,” Parmar, who works as a school van driver, said, adding that the police have refused to register a case of harassment on previous occasions calling the matter a “civil case”.
Chauhan, whose provision store is his means of livelihood to sustain his family of a 15-year-old son and wife, said, “They are offering me one flat in their new redevelopment scheme in lieu of my plot where my house and shop stands right now. Why should I exchange my precious property for a flat? And, how will I earn a living when they are not even willing to compensate?”
Municipal Commissioner HS Patel and MGY Executive Engineer Rajendra Vasava remained unavailable for comment. However, Mangesh Jaiswal, Director of the encroachment department, said, “The demolition work belongs to the MGY department, as per their instructions, we went there to execute the direction. However, the DILR has said it’d bring in machines to measure the plot again tomorrow.”