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Modi’s ‘Taj Mahal’ to displace 35,000 families,says IIM-A study

They say its Modi’s ‘Taj Mahal’,but the Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project,which is expected to attract maximum attention during the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit 2009...

Written by Ujjwala Nayudu | Ahmedabad |
January 14, 2009 3:12:43 am

They say its Modi’s ‘Taj Mahal’,but the Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project,which is expected to attract maximum attention during the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit 2009,will displace around 35,000 odd families from the riverbed and the surrounding areas,according to a study conducted by the Indian Institute of Management,Ahmedabad (IIM-A).

Navdeep Mathur,a professor at IIM-A,said: “We conducted this study as part of the PGP-PMP course on displacement and rehabilitation issues in the governance. According to the interaction with community leaders and activists,we came to know that nearly 35,000 families will be affected”.

Mathur’s team visited the riverbed area in October,followed by a field visit two weeks ago in January. He added: “There is no clarity on the counting of project affected families. We found out that the there was little or no communication with the communities”.

The survey of NGOs ­- Action Aid and Sabarmati Nagarik Adhikar Manch – and social activists stated that about 35,000 families will be affected,which is in stark contrast to the 4,400 figure given by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) initially. The locals of the riverbed,with the help of activists,had filed a petition against the AMC in the Gujarat High Court.

Girish Patel,a social activist and an advocate,said: “The court had ordered an interim,asking the AMC not to displace people without constructing relocation dwellings for them. The AMC did not give a final reply and thus the interim is still pending in the court”.

According to Patel,the AMC kept postponing the matter and didn’t respond to the court’s letters. However,it had admitted to the court in 2005 that 8,000 families would be affected by the project. “The AMC was also going to form a committee to look into the matter of rehabilitation,but it never took shape. While our survey has shown that 35,000 families will be affected,the government is still sticking to 8,000 families”,said Patel.

As per the decision of the high court,the families displaced by the project had to be rehabilitated by the AMC. But the findings of both the activists and the IIM-A team show unfulfilled promises.

Mathur said: “The court order clearly asked the government to construct dwellings for the people. Moreover,some relocation sites we visited didn’t even have basic amenities. The government should have formed the rehabilitation policy before designing the project. The rehabilitation houses should have been constructed much before proposing such a project”.

Dilip Mahajan,Executive Director of SRFDCL,claims,”According to our 2003-04 survey,7,500 families will be affected. We have submitted the rehabilitation plans to the court. Under the JNNURM schemes,19,000 houses will be constructed,out of which 600 are ready and 180 families have already moved in”.

The 1976 cut off date,which is the benchmark to rehabilitate people,is also seen to be a major hazard to thousands of families residing on the riverbed. Mathur said: “I find this cut-off policy absolutely absurd”.

Talking about the slum policy,Patel added: “The government has time and again showed that they do not believe in this policy. The AMC needs to push the cut-off dates. Earlier when it tried to push the 1976 cut-off to 1995,the state government opposed it.”

Amidst the long-drawn dispute of the number of project-affected people on the riverbed,the government has already finished constructing the diaphragm wall of the Railway station to Vasna Bridge,404 of the retaining walls,35 per cent of the earth filling and the walkways.

The 100 roads on the either sides will be constructed soon.

* 177 families were evacuated due to the construction of the Vasna Pirana Bridge and have been temporarily relocated at Pirana
* 140 families from Khodiyarnagar were evacuated and asked to go to Santosh Nagar due to the construction of a drainage line and have been temporarily relocated at Pirana
* 415 families near Nehru Bridge were asked to evacuate,according to an urgent displacement asked by the AMC from the high court. The AMC procured permission to displace the families by showing the blueprint of houses to be constructed for this segment. But the residents have not vacated their houses this time. They have demanded to see the alternative houses first and thenmove.
* 150 families were evacuated from the riverbed to build the retaining walls and no relocation has been given

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