West Bengal evicts ecological refugees occupying prime real estate in Kolkata


Author(s): Sayantan Bera, Down To Earth, April 11, 2012

Seven hundred rendered homeless; activists demanding homes for them branded Maoists
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Mahadev Mandal came with his family to Kolkata after the Aila super-cyclone hit Sundarbans in 2009. He works as a rickshaw-puller and is one among the 200 families in the squatter colony

Nearly 200 squatter families living in Nonadanga in east Kolkata for the past few years are in the process of being evicted by the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA). On March 30, the slum was bulldozed amid heavy police presence and some hutments were set on fire. The recurrent thunderstorms over the past few days has meant sleepless and soiled nights for nearly 700 people who have been rendered homeless. They work as house helps, rickshaw pullers and construction labourers. Many of the families came to Kolkata in search of work, after the Aila super-cyclone ravaged Sundarbans in 2009, Down To Earth found on its visit to the site. Several families were former squatters who were evicted earlier from the Tolly Canal, for expansion of the Metro Railway and from a cement factory site in south Kolkata.

tsunami
Evicted families have refused to move without rehabilitation

While the government claims the squatters settled only two months back and are not eligible for either compensation or rehabilitation, the families have started a resistance movement backed by civil rights groups. On April 4, as the families took out a protest march they were caned by the police, injuring among others a pregnant woman and children. Nearly 70 people were arrested and released later, except for seven who the police accused of having Maoist links and “possibly stockpiling arms” at the eviction site. They include prominent civil rights activists, Partha Sarathi Roy of Sanhati and Debolina Chakrabarti of Matangini Mahila Samiti, who were part of the Singur and Nandigram movements that led to the toppling of the 34-year-old left rule in the state. After winning a landmark victory last November, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had declared her plans to transform Kolkata into London. This does not augur well for slum colonies. According to a 2003 UN Habitat report, one-third of Kolkata lives in more than 5,500 registered and unregistered slums.

Read more  here

PUDR – Condemns Attack on Nonadanga slum dwellers by West Bengal Police in Kolkata


Statement from PUDR – Condemn Attack on Nonadanga slum dwellers by West Bengal Police in Kolkata

10.04.2012

PUDR strongly condemns the violent demolition of the Nonadanga slums on March 30th in Kolkata, and the subsequent police brutality on peaceful anti-eviction protests followed by the vindictive arrest of activists.

Nonadanga is the area where the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) has been resettling slum dwellers evicted from various parts of Kolkata over the past five years under the BSUP (Basic Services to Urban Poor) scheme of the JNNURM. The resettlement projects have been run by KMDA and the Kolkata Environmental Improvement Project (KEIP) jointly. Preliminary reports indicate that slum residents also include refugees from Singur and Nandigram, as well as people displaced by Cyclone Aila. So, by no stretch of logic are these slum-dwellers ‘encroachers’ as claimed by the state government. In fact, the land in Nonadanga is very close to a prime city location and the present drive to clear the space by the Trinamool government is the first step towards its plans of handing over this land to real estate companies for ‘beautification and development’.

The brutality of the State police force in dealing with peaceful demonstrations, openly captured by television crews, needs to be strongly condemned. Such as the lathi-charge on the protest rally by slum residents on April 4, that left many injured, including a pregnant woman, Rekha Patra, and a 3 year old child, Joy Paswan. On April 8, a peaceful sit-in demonstration by the residents and activists was broken up by the police despite them having prior permission from the authorities. The police have resorted to mass intimidation of slum dwellers and other protesters along with arrests of activists opposing the demolition. 7 activists of whom 2 are women have been charged under sections 353 (assault on public servant), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to public servant), 141 (unlawful assembly), 143 (punishment), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapon) and 149 (common objective of disruption) of the IPC and are in police custody till the 12th of April.

PUDR notes with concern that this demolition, attacks and arrests come in a continuum of a worsening democratic rights situation in West Bengal. Another alarming phenomenon is the bringing out of the ‘Maoist’ bogey to define all democratic movements as if that gives the state unmitigated rights to disregard the law and crush people’s movements and aspirations with armed might.

Condemning the blanket ban announced by the State Government on all protests on this issue throughout the state, PUDR demands:

* That the eviction drive be stopped,
* The immediate and unconditional release of all arrested activists and the withdrawal of false charges against them,
* That the demolished slum be rebuilt with proper facilities in the same spot
* That the guilty Police officials be punished, and
* That the Government stop attacking the fundamental right of people to voice their protest against injustices.

Signed
Preeti Chauhan & Paramjeet Singh, Secretaries PUDR

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