Co-Written by Ankit Jha & Anand Lakhan
On the morning of May 23rd 2018 more than 110 houses were demolished at Bhuri Tekri in Indore by Indore Municipal Corporation. Houses were demolished for the rehabilitation of people under the in-situ slum redevelopment component of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban (PMAY-U). Most of the residents belong to Dalit community. In an earlier drive carried out by IMC in 2017, more than 500 houses were demolished and were forced to live in the tin-shed transit camps with minimal basic amenities. People so often sarcastically call these houses as “Silver Palaces” which is not suitable for human habitation. After the initial demolitions, more than 150 houses refused to move and struggled to save their houses. In the process, they sat on indefinite strike which continued for more than 3 months. They got assurance from the MLA that their houses will not be demolished. Also the Executive Officer of PMAY said that no houses will be demolished till the people want it. Later on the day of demolition said “No one demolished their house willingly, there has to be some force from outside”. Residents were threatened to leave their houses and asked to demolish them. People refused to do so.
The eviction was carried out from morning 7.30 am to evening 6.00 pm with more than 100 police officials, 200 IMC officers and workers, 100 ‘bouncers’ and 10 bulldozers and dumpers deployed on the site of eviction. 3 women were detained in the morning as they refused to let IMC demolish their houses and were sent to Mahila Thana, Palasia. They later got bail in the evening. A similar incident had happened during last year’s demolition when a woman was detained and her house was demolished while she was in custody. IMC is repeating history not only by retaining 1st rank in Swachhta Sarvekshan but also by committing the similar offences again and again. The atrocious move by IMC does not come in isolation as they use bouncers to threaten children and women. The use of bouncers give them free hand in creating a situation of internal conflict among people and they demolish the houses.
The most important part is that National Forum for Housing Rights (NFHR) filed a complaint in National Human Rights Commission, No 1270/12/21/2017 against the threat created by IMC to the people. A direction was also issued to IMC from NHRC on 3rd November 2017. The case is still sub-judiced with NHRC and IMC has demolished the houses. IMC used all possible tactics (from internal conflicts to black magic and even buying few residents) to ask people to vacate the houses but they failed. They claim they want to build LIG, MIG and commercial constructions and the profit earned will be used for subsidising the EWS units.
Forced Eviction and violation of human rights:
It is just after a week after the results of ‘Swachhta Sarvekshan 2018’ were announced and Indore retained the number 1 rank in the list. There were no warnings given to the residents before evictions. A report done by The Wire (Sukanya Shantha, Oct 2nd, 2017) shows that some irregularities happened to achieve the number 1 rank by Indore in 2017. Toilets were installed in Bastis before the ‘Sarvekshan’ (survey) and later uninstalled and in few cases as they couldn’t install the Toilets, they demolished the settlements. Similar case has occurred in Bhuri Tekri, where people paid for construction of individual toilets and in less than a year their houses have been demolished. Toilet is being considered as the most basic amenity under present societal condition and political regime. But the demolition of houses having built toilet recently, is a clear violation. More than 100 families are still living in open, threatened by IMC officials. This is a serious case of human rights violation by authorities as people are forced to live in open in the acute heat of Malwa region.
Supreme Court of India, in its order in UP Avas Evam Vikas Parishad v Friends Coop. Housing Society Ltd (1996) stated that the right to shelter is a fundamental right, which springs from the right to residence under Article 19 (1) (e) and the right to life under Article 21. These people have been denied their right to life. According to the UN Guidelines on the Forced Evictions, there shouldn’t be any kind of eviction till a provision of compensation, restitution and rehabilitation made to the affected families. But it was found out during the process of evictions that there were not enough transit houses made for the people to be relocated. Also there were some some injuries to people amid the process. Gopal Rana, one of the old resident fall from the wall and is serious during the IMC eviction drive. In evening, Sharda ji, local female resident, also fainted due to pressure & threat created by IMC. She was taken to Kanadiya Police station and then to hospital by local police.
About Bhuri Tekri:
Situated on the hilly terrain, Bhuri Tekri can be said one of the most inaccessible settlements which has been turned habitable only because of its people. It was earlier an extraction unit. Residents say that most of them used to work here and began to live here thereafter. It was part of Gram Panchayat and was sparsely dense with around 200 families who had been living there since 20 years. An almost inaccessible terrain to live with wild bushes and extraction unit. There was no fixed water source people had to walk at least 3 to 4 kms to fetch water. Earlier there was a very minimal payment for the work so they considered living near to the workplace how so ever unsafe it was. People used to get Rs 10 for a Truck load of “Muram (red building material), Bolders (pebbles) and Eran (Stone)”. Women were obviously less paid than men counterparts. The extraction work stopped here in early 2000s and it was very fearful area. All the centres of basic amenities were quite distant be it nearest public transport centre and ration shop. In the process of growth, Community does have 5 handpumps, 01 bore-well, individual toilets constructed under Swachh Bharat Mission (people paid their contribution for more than 800 toilets), newly constructed Sulabh International Community Toilet, Government Primary School, 02 ICDS centres etc. People had well-constructed housing structure amongst whom few have taken loan under Indira Awas Yojana as it was earlier under Gram Panchayat. It was among 29 villages included in the IMC in 2013.
Details of Plan:
Bhuri Tekri was selected for the In-situ slum redevelopment under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana for providing housing to people under Economically Weaker Section (EWS). The land is said to be a government owned and District Collector in a letter dated 19th October 2016 transferred the land to IMC for rehabilitation of residents. In the site specific DPR presented by IMC which was also finalised by State and Central Government, the housing was made for the 726 people of Bhuri Tekri. Other than EWS units, LIG, MIG and commercial constructions were also planned for the locality and IMC claims that money raised from these housing will be used for subsidising the housing for EWS units. As per the DPR, the construction cost of units were proposed to be Rs 8.00 Lac of which Rs 1.5 Lac will be contributed by Central and State Government each and Rs 3.00 Lac will be contributed by IMC (which obviously will be raised through profit from different housing units) and Rs 2.00 Lac will be the contribution made by each households for their house. A heavy cost is being spent on the construction and maintenance of temporary shelter (transit camps). In the first phase of demolitions carried out in 2017, more than 500 houses were demolished and they were relocated to transit camp.
The main problem with the plan is that no vertical of PMAY(U) speaks of Relocation of several settlements at one place. Not even Affordable Housing in Partnership says so. Moreover since people are living here for more than 5 decades here, they must be compensated for the loss. Not with house but land as it was part of Gram Panchayat earlier. Their land is used as a resource to generate profit by IMC and they will do so by constructing LIG and MIG houses. In-situ redevelopment by definition means that redevelopment of the same settlement. Moreover do the residents belong to EWS category at all? These questions are important ones to understand.
What lies ahead?
There’s an uncertainty what lies ahead for the people of Bhuri Tekri. With houses turned into debris, and transit camps not available people are living in open. They do not want to leave the place which they made livable. They do not want to give up their hope for a better house on the same land. About 50 to 60 structures are still there and they will not be demolished till new transit houses are made. In the whole process and brutality and fear, Police tried to fill in the human rights gap. They refused to cooperate with IMC as there were not enough transit houses for people. It was police which understood the misdeed of IMC as they allotted one transit house to several families. Police warned IMC and said they will not cooperate till proper arrangements are made for people. There are two more settlements selected for the in-situ redevelopment under PMAY in Indore. They also seem uncertain about their future. Indore is facing the same debate of Housing Problem versus Housing Crisis. Actually it does not have any, but they wish to be the best in everything. These wishes have a heavy price to be paid. A house for a house. A history for the future. A fundamental right for the political dream.
Ankit Jha and Anand Lakhan are housing rights activists