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Saturday, April 04, 2020

Take 5: ‘We have been told that it does not look good to the visiting saheb… If this is a VIP route, where is our vikas’

Dev Saran slum, which has about 2,000 kuchcha homes, is 2.5 km from the airport where the US President would land. The Indian Express in conversation with Ramanbhai (50), Ratniben (45); Residents of Dev Saran Slum, Ahmedabad.

Written by Ritu Sharma | Published: February 16, 2020 12:20:11 am
US President Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Trump India visit, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, wall to mask the slum area, Dev Saran slum, indian express news ‘Earlier a parda was put up. It is done repeatedly.’ (Photo: Javed Raja)

Ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to India on February 24, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation is building a four-foot-high wall along the road connecting the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport to Indira Bridge, ostensibly to mask the slum area on the route that Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are likely to take for a roadshow during the trip. Dev Saran slum, which has about 2,000 kuchcha homes, is 2.5 km from the airport where the US President would land.

1. Have you heard of Donald Trump?

We have heard that some ‘mota saheb (senior official)’ is coming from America. We have not heard the name Trump. We don’t understand these issues much. We just know that someone important from America is coming.

2. What do you think about construction of the wall?

Nobody told us why this wall is being constructed in front of our slum… We have heard that this is to hide us, the poor. How can we object or complain when we do not have even our own houses? We are daily wage labourers and work in other people’s bungalows.

3. Why do you think the government wants the wall?

If this is such a VIP route, then why have we been deprived of vikas, where is our development? We have been living here our entire lives, how can we leave this place? We have been voting in every election but we have not seen any development here in decades.

4. How long have you been living here?

This is our native place, our ancestors have been living here for the last 100 years. We have been here since this area was a jungle. There were no roads and only a cremation ground nearby, which has now been taken over by the bungalows that you see. We do not have any house anywhere in the country. Already, with this wall construction, we have lost our drinking water facility (One of the public water facilities in the slum with four taps was buried under the debris of the construction.) What shall we do? Where shall we go?

5. Has this happened earlier, during previous VIP visits?

Earlier they would put up a parda (a sheet of green cloth) to hide us. It has been done repeatedly, many times, we have lost count. Since the BJP came to power, they have been putting up the parda. We have been told that it does not look good to the visiting saheb. The parda would later be removed after two-three days.

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