The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation on Wednesday demolished nearly 69 settlements in Motera area, nearly a month after they were surveyed as part of a social impact assessment for the Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar Metro Rail. While Ahmedabad-based trade union Majur Adhikar Manch claimed in a release that there was no notice issued before the demolition, AMC’s deputy estate officer of west zone Chaitanya Shah said that the demolition was in “due process of law”.
“We had given them notice for eviction in February 2020, to which they had responded and we had then passed a final order. This order was challenged by them (slum dwellers) before the Gujarat High Court. The Gujarat HC had dismissed their petition and ruled in favour of AMC. We sought the demolition because this was illegal encroachment as per our town planning scheme.”
Mina Jadhav, secretary of Majur Adhikar Manch said, “An eviction notice was last given on February 16, 2020 to the slum dwellers prior to (former US) President (Donald) Trump’s visit. The notices were responded to by February 19. Several of these families have been here for over 10 years. The settlement came to media attention last year ahead of President Trump visit and nothing happened thereafter…the then AMC municipal commissioner (Vijay Nehra) had also given an interview in a national newspaper at the time, saying there will be no eviction without rehabilitation. Then suddenly they bulldozed through the settlement without any prior notice, leading to loss of possessions such as clothes, utensils etc for these families. Several families are not even in the city at present.”
On February 25, this year, the Gujarat Institute of Development Research, at the behest of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is funding the project, had undertaken a social impact survey of the 69 slum dwelling families, the union said.
The union claimed that it has lodged a formal complaint with JICA, demanding full compensation under the provisions of the social impact assessment of the project, compensation for trauma suffered, an inquiry into the episode and fixation of responsibility, and stopping all work on the project until the resettlement is complete.
An official with the Gujarat Metro Rail Corporation (GMRC) Limited, special purpose vehicle of Government of India and Government of Gujarat, confirmed that GMRC engaged GIDR to conduct a social impact assessment survey on February 25 this year but had “no role to play in demolition.” The official said, “The social impact assessment was engaged by GMRC for the purpose of planning (of phase 2). Assessments are done along the route as well as in the areas surrounding the route. Once planning is complete, it goes to the management (division of GMRC) which if approved, then goes to the concerned rehabilitation department and a decision is taken on compensation.”
In June 2020, 60 slum dwellers had moved Gujarat HC challenging AMC’s final order of March 18, 2020 wherein the AMC had directed the dwellers to immediately vacate their hutments, failing which, AMC would themselves take over the possession of the lands of the petitioner.
The court order notes that following the eviction notice of February 2020 by AMC, the slum dwellers were afforded an opportunity of personal hearing twice the same month and the dwellers. One of the dweller-petitioners had also submitted a birth certificate of 2007, contending that he had been occupying a hut in the said premises before December 1, 2010, thus submitting that they would therefore be eligible for the rehabilitation scheme of AMC. However, the court was unconvinced by the argument since only one of the 60 petitioners provided evidence of residence prior to 2010. While ruling in favour of AMC, the court had also noted that “a modicum of reasonable notice for removal, say two weeks or 10 days, and personal service on the encroachers…is necessary,” and if the encroachment is not removed within the specified time, AMC would be at liberty to have it removed. The court also added that in case of resistance from the dwellers, “appropriate and reasonable force can be used to have the encroachment removed.”
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