ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Forced ‘Rehabilitation’ in Mumbai

Resettled residents carry out a “save our lives” campaign, but for the state, do they even exist?

The entire process by which the 5,700 families from around Mumbai’s Tansa Lake pipeline were shifted to Mahul is indicative of not only a brutal and deliberate indifference to the very existence of the poor, but also of how the state views its responsibilities towards these citizens. Every stage of the decade-long saga of nearly 30,000 people being uprooted and forced into an area that is commonly referred to as a “gas chamber” and “toxic hell” reeks of political expediency. Their “rehabilitation” from one place to another has been coercive. It has also been done to a site without basic amenities for their daily needs and for them to gain their anyway precarious livelihoods. What is heartening however is that these families have not meekly accepted their fate. They are using various means to bring their plight to public attention and pressurise the authorities.

Maharashtra is estimated to have nearly 30 lakh project-affected persons (PAPs) who are yet to be rehabilitated. In the Mahul case, in 2009, the Bombay High Court asked the state government to evict and clear slum dwellers and their hutments from within 10 metres of the Tansa Lake pipeline because they were considered a security threat. Of the 16,717 hutments, 7,674 were considered eligible for rehabilitation. Even as they protested and pleaded they were assured by politicians (including a minister in the present state cabinet) that their concerns would be taken into account. However, they found that the forcible evacuation through the demolition of their homes left a majority of them with little choice but to move to Mahul. The cluster of 72 buildings each with seven floors, into which they have been located, offers an almost surreal sight. There is no connecting infrastructure and amenities, however poor, that usually accompany such a large residential settlement. Instead, these buildings stand amidst two major oil refineries, one power-generating company, one chemical and fertiliser unit, and other big industrial units.

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Updated On : 11th Dec, 2018
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