When High Court Judges usurp land meant for the homeless, where do the homeless seek justice?


Faiza Khan, Khar East Andolan

Posted on May 6, 2012

When you ask about the court cases in Golibar now, the residents will wrly reply with the famous Hindi film dailogue. “Tareek pe tareek! Tareek pe tareek! “. The hearing on this Monday, the 7th of May, will be 20 months since the Golibar criminal case has been in the Mumbai High Court. In 2009, builder Shivalik Ventures had faked signatures of residents of Ganesh Krupa Society (GKS) in Golibar to claim the 70% consent it needed to redevelop the Golibar slum. On that list of signatories was Sulochana Pawar who had died four years before she allegedly gave her consent. Going by the rules of the SRA, this should have, at the very least, led to the ouster of Shivalik Ventures from this redevelopment project.

Instead, the then Slum Rehabilitation Authority(SRA) chief, Mr. S. Zende (remember this name, it’ll come up again later!) asks the residents of GKS to settle for a compromise. The police had been even more nonchalant and refused to investigate the case until the Court directed them to do so. Once on it, they were so baffled by this seemingly obvious case of fraud that for 20 months, they’ve been seeking extension after extension to complete their investigation. The Court has been very obliging. Meanwhile MHADA’s demolition squads, with police protection continue to break people’s homes.

So the government is clearly not on their side, specially after it backtracked on the GRs last year. The police never was. Their only hope of any justice was in the Courts. Until the Nyay Sagar scam came to light.

Akankhsha tai and other women from Ganesh Krupa are huddled around a copy of Janta ka Aaina, a community newspaper. They burst into cackling laughter. “Yeh toh apna Chandrachud hai!“(This is our Chandrachud!). Apna Chandrachud is Justice Chandrachud of the Mumbai High Court who has been hearing the matter of the Golibar GR case in the High Court. Now he’s on the frontpage, accused in a major land scam, along with Justice Khanvilkar who is hearing the Golibar criminal case (of the forged signatures). There are 13 other Judges and ex-Judges accused.
Nyay Sagar and Siddhant are two multi-storeyed buildings built on a plot of government land that was reserved for the homeless. The judges of the High Court led by then Justice Rebello (now Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court) formed Nyay Sagar Co-operative Housing Society in 2001 and in collusion with Vilasrao Deshmukh  de-reserved all but 10% of this land and appropriated it for themselves. This change in the Development Plan of this plot, Survey No 341 (Part) CTS No 629 from being reserved for the homless to Residential was facilitated by some very senior bureaucrats, including Mr. Zende (the SRA chief who asked residents of GKS to settle for a compromise). What is shocking though is that the land was handed over to Nyay Sagar CHS much before it was de-reserved.

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Even the de-reserving was a sham. Once it is decided that the reservation of a piece of land is to be changed, there is a notification which is open to the public for 30 days in case they have objections. This notification was made public on 16.6.2004 but just six days later, on 22.6.2004 ,the status of the land was modified. The Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan has filed a complaint with the Anti Corruption Bureau asking them to file an FIR.

Akanksha tai laughs when she reads the buildings are called Nyay Sagar (meaning Ocean of Justice) and Siddhanth (Principles). But then she asks soberly, “Now where are we to seek justice?”

THE WALL OF SHAME

THE ACCUSED IN THE CASE
1. Shri Vilas Rao Deshmukh, the then Chief Minister,
2. Shri Sangeetrao, the then Collector Mumbai Suburb,
3. Shri SS Zende, the then later Collector Mumbai Suburb,
4. Shri RC Joshi, Principal Secretary, Department of Revenue,
5. Shri Ramanand Tiwari, the then P. Secretary UDD,
6. Other Unknown Govt. Official/s.
7. Justice V C Daga,
8. Justice A M Khanwilkar,
9. Justice B R Gavai,
10. Justice S M Ghodeshwar,
11. Justice S Radhakrishnan,
12. Justice S A Bobde,
13. Justice P V Kakade,
14. Justice R Lodha,
15. Justice G D Patil,
16. Justice F I Rebello,
17. Justice D K Deshmukh,
18. Justice D B Bhosale,
19. Justice D G Karnik,
20. Justice J P Devdhar,
21. Justice DY Chandrachud


A letter from Justice Rebello to ex-CM Vilasrao Deshmukh misusing his official letterhead for a non-official matter
More documents will be made public soon.

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Is hope a fiction for India’s poor?


 
Soutik BiswasDelhi correspondent, BBC
More than half of Mumbai‘s people live in slums

“We try so many things,” a girl in Annawadi, a slum in Mumbai tells Katherine Boo, “but the world doesn’t move in our favour”.

Annawadi is a “sumpy plug of slum” in the biggest city – “a place of festering grievance and ambient envy” – of a country which holds a third of the world’s poor. It is where the Pulitzer prize winning New Yorker journalist Boo’s first book Behind the Beautiful Forevers is located.

Annawadi is where more than 3,000 people have squatted on land belonging to the local airport and live “packed into, or on top of” 335 huts. It is a place “magnificently positioned for a trafficker in rich’s people’s garbage”, where the New India collides with the Old.

Nobody in Annawadi is considered poor by India’s official benchmarks. The residents are among the 100 million Indians freed from poverty since 1991, when India embarked on liberalising its economy.

‘Garbage justice’

Boo’s story – a stirring and gritty non-fiction narrative, one of the best ever written by a foreigner on India – revolves around the self-immolation of a cantankerous, one-legged slum woman called Fatima Sheikh and how her neighbour and a hardworking, young garbage trader called Abdul and his family are framed on a charge of murdering her. Fatima’s death is a liberation from enervating poverty, and a chance for some neighbours to make money from Abdul’s family, who are making a bit more money than the rest from selling recyclables.

This is when Abdul realises that the Indian criminal justice system was a “market like garbage” – “innocence and guilt could be bought and sold like a kilo of polyurethane bags”.

Boo adopted what she calls the “vagrant-sociology approach” and followed Abdul and his neighbours of this unexceptional slum over the course of several years – November 2007 to March 2011 – to see “who got ahead and who didn’t, and why, as India prospered”.

Katherine Boo’s narrative is gripping and well-researched

She used more than 3,000 public records, many obtained using India’s right to information law, to validate her narrative, written in assured reported speech. The account of the hours leading to the self-immolation of Fatima Sheikh derives from repeated interviews of 168 people as well as police, hospital, morgue and court records. Mindful of the risk of over interpretation, the books wears its enormous research lightly.

Boo’s narrative is peopled by a vast range of gripping characters from Annawadi, the world from which New India shies away. An aspiring slum boss woman who volunteers for a local Hindu right wing party. A man who paints his horses with stripes and rents out the fake zebras to birthday parties of middle-class children. A corrupt nun who runs a children’s home. A deranged man who talks to a luxury hotel building skirting the slum.

Then there’s a bunch of young scavengers and thieves, ravaged by rats and high on white correction fluid, who live, work and die quickly. They are the young flotsam that India breathlessly parades as its demographic dividend when, in reality, the children, tired and brutalised, are already past their sell-by-date.

Bleak

The people of Annawadi are also caught up in the hideous web of corruption and official venality which hurts the poor most, and lead utterly dehumanising lives in a city that aspires to become India’s Shanghai. It is far removed from the dreadful stereotype of the happy-poor Mumbai ofSlumdog Millionaire.

Read more here

 

 

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