Updated: September 3, 2020 2:32:11 pm
Nearly six years after the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) displaced about 1,921 families of the Kalyan Nagar slums, close to 500 families that are still awaiting rehabilitation have approached the civic body seeking their rental allowance that was discontinued five months ago.
In a letter to the VMC Commissioner, social activist Dr J S Bandukwala has urged the VMC to continue payment of the promised rental allowance of Rs 3,000 to the families until they are handed over the possession of their homes. “The monthly support of Rs 3,000 was stopped five months ago. It is not good that the promised rental has been withdrawn much earlier. I urge you to restart the rent,” Bandukwala stated in the letter.
He has also urged the civic body to check the houses built under the Maneja housing scheme where several families were rehabilitated in 2014, raising fears on the condition of the construction as well as threat to the minority families. “The houses in Maneja are in a bad shape and will need to be pulled down soon. There is also a communal threat in the area and a communal outbreak could be very problematic. These families should be shifted to another housing scheme of the VMC,” the letter further stated.
Bandukwala, who has been agitating for the right of the families since November 2014, has also urged the civic body to accommodate close to 70 families who did not accept the earlier rehabilitation at Maneja in Vadodara in 2014 and have been living on their own in the vicinity of Kalyan Nagar.
The project has been much delayed after taking off in 2015, following a compromise reached between the agitating residents and the VMC, after the civic body had unceremoniously cancelled the allotment of homes in Sayajipura housing scheme to 450 Kalyan Nagar families through a draw citing objections from “Hindu residents” of the area.
The civic body’s housing project officer, who had been handling the Kalyan Nagar issue, retired on August 31 and the VMC has also seen the appointment of a new Municipal Commissioner in P Swaroop last week.
While Swaroop did not respond to calls and text messages seeking a response, a senior officer of the housing department said that the rental allowance to the families was suspended in March as funds has dried up owing to the Covid-19 lockdown. The officer also cited the non-payment of the amount of Rs 4.11 lakh due from the beneficiaries as per the arrangement made in 2018 to restart the construction.
Bandukwala told this newspaper, “I have urged the VMC to keep its promise of paying the rental allowance till the time that they hand over the possession of the flats. While the beneficiaries will have to also keep their word on payment of dues, the VMC should also keep its promise. We are also urging the VMC to accommodate those who have been left out of all rehabilitation schemes and continued to live in the vicinity of the razed site on their own.”
The VMC had, in November 2014, under the Smart City Project, demolished 1,921 homes of poor and lower middle class families in Kalyan Nagar. Of these families 1,440 were shifted to the BSUP housing in Tarsali, Pratapnagar, Maneja and Kishanwadi. The VMC decided to rehabilitate the remaining 550 Muslim families in the BSUP housing scheme in Sayajipura area and even completed the process of the housing draw in February 2015. However, following ‘protests’, purportedly by local Hindu residents, who opposed moving Muslim families into their neighbourhood, the VMC withdrew the decision, leaving the families in a lurch.
Ever since, the VMC has been unable to resettle the families, despite its promise in May 2015 for the construction of in-situ homes in Kalyan Nagar, based on a compromise reached to end the then agitation of the families. Event-ually, the VMC cited exhaustion of funds meant for the construction, bringing the construction under the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) to a grinding halt in March 2017.
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