“Government not sympathetic, making their plight worse”

Extending support to those protesting against eviction at the Nonadanga slums on the eastern fringes of the city, human rights activist Binayak Sen visited the area on Friday and heard the grievances of the residents.

Dr. Sen said: “It is a matter of shame the way the people are being treated — no drinking water, no food grains through the public distribution system, no schools and no medical facilities.”

The slum dwellers announced that they would take out a rally in the city and meet West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on May 17 to demand shelter and proper rehabilitation for their families.

Last week, Ms. Banerjee said there had been no eviction from slums in the State and those seeking shelter could approach her.

The residents told Dr. Sen they were being put behind bars for protesting against the eviction and charges were being brought against them over being involved in Maoist activities.

A resident, Sudip Mondal, broke down as he narrated how his one-year-old son was also arrested along with others for participating in the protest.

Observing that such an attitude on the part of the state was not good for democracy, Dr. Sen said there was a need to develop tolerance for dissenting opinions.

“The basis of our democracy is that there should be tolerance for dissent. If the tolerance is not there, democracy cannot function,” Dr. Sen told journalists.

He said referring to people as Maoists “is a shortcut which the state is using against the people.”

Pointing out that most of the families living in the slums were those displaced by natural calamities and deprived of their livelihood, Dr. Sen said: “The state should be sympathetic to them but on the contrary it is making their plight worse.”

Calling the situation a “big crisis,” Dr. Sen said the state needed to change its policy to provide people a better life.