The absence of shelter homes in Mumbai will force nearly 100 residents, including children, to stay under the open sky this monsoon. These families were evicted by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) on Friday from under the Amar Mahal Junction flyover.
Most of the those evicted belong to the Pardhi denotified tribe. Residents claim they have been staying at the said spot for over 20 years and many of them have ration cards listing their residential address as Amar Mahal flyover. Officials said they had carried out the eviction to ensure the safety of the structure.
Activists have questioned the move to force these residents on the streets and leave them to the mercy of the monsoon.
“There is abject failure on the part of the government to create shelter homes that have been mandated by the Supreme Court. Despite the SC’s order that states need to ensure shelters for the homeless, next to nothing has been done in Maharashtra,” said Mohammed Tarique, a member of the SC-appointed committee set up to monitor the compliance of directives for setting up shelter homes.
As per the 2011 census, there are 57,044 people notified as homeless in Mumbai. Activists claim the number is severely under-reported. As per the rules drafted under the National Urban Livelihood Mission-Scheme for Urban Homeless (NULM-SUH), there should be one shelter home per one lakh people.
The BMC runs one shelter home in Bandra, which has the capacity to hold just five people. The Urban Development department, which has been tasked to formulate a plan for shelter homes across Maharashtra, has yet not been able to create new shelter homes.
Ashwini Ramdas Pawar (35), who was among those evicted from under the Amar Mahal Flyover, said she had been staying there for the past 20 years and broke down at the prospect of her children being forced to stay in the open during the monsoon. During the eviction, the belongings of the residents were also burned by the authorities under the garb of clearing and burning garbage.
“Two months ago, a five-month-old child died during a similar eviction drive. We had complained to the State Human Rights Commission, which is hearing our case… I was born here, it is very humiliating when you realise you are treated this way only because you are poor,” Ashwini said.
Activists questioned both the intent and timing of the MMRDA’s action. “We don’t want them to stay under this bridge for eternity. The government needs to make arrangement for them. Right now we are only asking the authorities to ensure that they are not thrown in the open during the rains,” Mohammed Tarique said.