Even as about 500 families displaced during the Kalyannagar demolitions continue to await rehabilitation by the civic body, the VMC held a hushed meeting on Sunday evening to decide on the allotment of houses 320 families in Sayajipura, selected vide a JNNURM draw on April 8. A meeting was held at the office of the Municipal Commissioner HS Patel and attended by MLAs Yogesh Patel and Rajendra Trivedi, Mayor Bharat Shah, executives of the VMC and representatives of the displaced families, including activists Dr JS Bandukwala, Zuber Gopalani and Shaukat Indori to decide on the fate of the allotments.
The VMC, which is trying to convince the families to relinquish their claim on the Sayajipura apartments, for which the civic body had conducted a draw earlier this month, offered that it would construct a new apartment in the Muslim neighbourhood of Tandalja.
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According to VMC officials, the proposal to construct a colony in situ in Kalyannagar from where the families were displaced in November has ‘fallen through’ due to technical reasons.
An official said, “It looks highly impossible to construct houses in Kalyannagar although we were trying to work out a solution on that front to appease the families as well as locals in Sayajipura, who opposed the move of the Muslim families there. However, it is not possible to construct in Sayajipura and the displaced families are unwilling to move to Tandalja.”
Activist Indori, who was part of the meeting said, “The VMC as well as the BJP MLAs have made it clear that the situation in Sayajipura has turned sour and it would be difficult to move the families there, given the stiff opposition from the residents. To that, we have asked them to give us the flats in Kalali, as per their original affidavit in the Gujarat High Court. The officials, however, appear unwilling for the same. They have instead offered to construct a new apartment for the displaced families on a plot reserved for a school in Tandalja. The Kalyannagar families are unsure about this offer as the process of construction could take many years, leaving them in a lurch.”
The activists have urged the VMC to hand over possession of the ready JnNURM flats in Kalali or Sayajipura so as to ensure that the students from these families are able to seek admissions in the primary schools of their vicinity to not lose out on another year of academics. Dr Bandukwala said, “The children already lost out on their schools when they were displaced midway. It is very important that the allotment of the homes is completed by the first week of May so that the children will be able to enroll into schools nearby before the date of admissions passes. However, the VMC is absolutely unconcerned about this serious situation.”
Bandukwala has also made a public appeal to the people of Vadodara to join the protest on “humanitarian grounds”.
In an open appeal to the residents, through a letter, Bandukwala has said, “Muslims are being forced to live in select ghettos like Juhapura in Ahmedabad and Tandalja in Vadodara. This is untouchability, similar to Segregation in South US and Apartheid in South Africa. The crisis must be resolved… If we fail, the poor children will give up their studies and become child labourers… I urge the people of Vadodara, including the BJP leaders, to not let this tragedy strike our children.”
Mayor Bharat Shah and Municipal Commissioner H S Patel remained unavailable for comments.