A four-member fact-finding team constituted by NGO Committee for Protection of Democratic Right (CPDR) has slammed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) demolition drive at Bandra’s Garib Nagar slums as “unlawful” and “irresponsible”. The team, in its report, has also alleged the civic body underestimated the number of people eligible for rehabilitation and accused the police of giving irresponsible statements.
The committee comprised of advocate Suresh Rajeshwar, Salim Saboowalla, Ramesh Bairy and Paankhi Agrawal. Following the fire at the Garib Nagar slums followed by a series of cylinder blasts on October 26, the team visited the area on November 5 and spoke to the residents.
The report says the BMC did not object to or take action when the slum-dwellers started rebuilding the hutments after 2011. It also alleges that post demolition there was no proper guidance from the government or BMC officials for possible relief for these slum-dwellers who have been living in Garib Nagar for years. “The demolition has not just left them homeless but with a great economic burden. They have lost their documents, clothes, furniture, etc. Even as most of these people have been rendered homeless, none have been promised any alternative accommodation,” said Paankhi Agarwal.
The committee has also accused the BMC of beginning the demolition much before the deadline. It has recommended that an FIR be registered against BMC officials for this and for lack of preparation for a possible disaster during the demolition drive.
According to the committee, the BMC has underestimated the number of residents eligible for rehabilitation. “Several residents showed copies of voters’ list of 1993, in which their names were mentioned in the Kherwadi constituency. Yet the BMC issued eviction notice to all the residents and declared them not eligible for rehabilitation,” added Agarwal.
When contacted, Alka Sasane, assistant commissioner of H East ward, said, “CPDR can submit whatever recommendations they wish to. We cannot stop following our duty. By clearing the hutments, we followed the Bombay High Court’s orders. It involved the security of the Tansa water pipeline.”