Being a Bombayite (born, studied and worked here all along) I have myself observed the hypocrisy of Maharashtra's government officials/ministers and Bombay's municipal authorities (BMC) on what constitutes legal and illegal. Builders and companies influence them to break development rules and all other statutory norms in order to carry on reckless construction of commercial and residential properties. The police and BMC , as their agent, then complete the circle of hypocrisy by demolishing the shanties of the poor calling them illegal.
This is the state of affairs all over India, and even other countries like China, Indonesia, Malayasia and maybe even South Korea. The law is manipulated to either benefit the affluent and influential or to deny democratic rights to the poor and un-influential.
Anyway, here is that email I referred to above:
Subject: [nbapresslist] Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan Members Assemble in Thousands....
* Thousands of urban poor- un-protected workers, fisherfolk, slum dwellers, street vendors of Mumbai assemble on the occasion of first convention of Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan.
* What right does governments have to demolish our homes? echoes the question.
* Challenging State's hypocrisy booklet 'Who are Encroachers of Mumbai' and a periodical 'Andolan Ki Awaaz' released amidst resolution to strengthen the struggle of urban poor for justice and dignity.
On 2nd June thousands of urban poor of Mumbai representing the more than 7000 members of Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan converged at Azad Maidan to participate in the first convention of the Andolan. Women in large numbers and in majority, attended the convention that went on till 9 p.m. to discuss and strategise on issues ranging from right to housing to the encroachments of the elite, right to basic services including water, health, education and food, and the obstacles in realising the same. The Convention had attendance of unorganised sector workers, slum dwellers, fish workers and hawkers.
The convention was inaugurated by Justice (Retd.) Suresh H, and addressed by Laxman Gaikwad-leader of Denotified Tribals, Medha Thatte(Shramik Mahila Sangatan, Pune), Neera Adarkar(Girni Kamghar Sangharsh Samiti), Shailesh Gandhi(NCPRI) Right to Information Activist, Shaktiman Ghosh(National Hawkers Federation), Seemantani Dhuru(Avehi-Right to Education Campaign), Adv. Shakeel Ahmed, Neha(CEHAT), Anand Patwardhan (Documentary Maker), Sambaji Bhagat (Cultural Activist), Medha Patkar (Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan-NAPM,NBA) and others.
While inaugurating the convention Justice Suresh raised the question 'what right does governments have to demolish the houses of the poor when right to housing is part and parcel of Right to Life guaranteed under the Constitution of India?' He declared the policy of Government of Maharashtra of applying cut-off date as inhuman, illegal as well as violation of the Constitution. He gave the call of raising struggles at multiple fronts to oppose the anti-people policies of present day governments, be it setting up of SEZs or repeal of Urban Land Ceiling Act.
His call for struggle was seconded by Laxman Gaikwad, leader-activist associated with the de-notified tribes of Maharashtra. He drew the attention of those present towards the irony of how historically and even today, those who are earning their bread-butter by engaging in back breaking labour are labelled as criminals and encroachers, while those who are real criminals are holders of sets of power as MPs, MLAs and corporate heads.
Raising the issue of real encroachers of Mumbai, a booklet 'Who Are the Encroachers in Mumbai' was released on the occasion by Medha Thate. The booklet contains detailed cases of the encroachments of the elite over lands in Mumbai. The quoted cases include those of Atria Shopping Mall constructed by encroaching over land reserved for housing the dis-housed, 60 storied twin towers- illegally constructed over land reserved for a 12 meter wide road; scam of Hiranandani Gardens for which 230 acres of land has been leased out at the rate of 40 paise per acre. After the release of the booklet, members of Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan resolved to enter upon one of these encroachments and demand their removal in near future. A fortnightly 'Andolan Ki Awaaz' was also released during the sammelan which will be regularly brought out by the Andolan.
The issue of Hawker's & Street Vendors was raised by Shaktiman Ghosh of National Hawkers Federation who lambasted the UPA government and respective state governments of not implementing the National Street Vendors & Hawkers Policy in spite of the orders of the Supreme Court. He drew attention towards the exploitation and harassment that the hawkers have to face even in left ruled state of West Bengal. Hyder Imam of Pheriwala Vikas Sangthana, an affiliate organisation of the Andolan drew attention towards the fact that everyday, lakhs of rupees was being collected from hawkers of Mumbai by the nexus of Police-Municipal Authorities-Politicians who are violating the citizens' right to life. While on the lands reserved for hawkers as retail markets are being encroached by the builder mafia as in Walkeshwar where a 40 storied building has been illegally constructed or be it the case of McDonalds Restaurant outside VT Station which has been challenged by Sangthana in the High Court, two sets of laws are being applied; one for the rich and other for the poor.
Urban Poor's right to basic services like housing, water, health, education and food was asserted by speakers like Sailesh Gandhi, Neha, Semantani Dhuru, Mahatam Mouraya, Kausalya Salvi, Prabjot Kaur and others. Rights of these services were forcefully reiterated by the slogans of thousands of members of the Andolan that were present for the Sammelan. Role of financial institutions and corporates like World Bank, ADB, McKinsey International, Reliance, in
encroaching and violating the constitutional and human rights of urban poor like during the implementation of Bank funded MUTP or drafting Vision Mumbai statements.
In the afternoon a delegation from the Sammelan went and met the Chief Minister, Shri Vilas Rao Deshmukh. He was made aware of the issues being raised by those present and asked to give a date on which there could be a conclusive meeting, this demand was accepted and in the next few days such a meeting would be taking place.
The Sammelan ended with those present taking a pledge to continue with their struggle of renewing cities based on the principle of equity and justice with renewed vigor and strength.