Selective treatment is shown by the media and politicians in eviction cases, say activists

Residents of Campa Cola may have temporary relief but eviction from homes is a regular feature in the lives of slum dwellers here.

In 2004 alone, in the largest demolition drive in Mumbai, as many as 70,000 shanties were razed to the ground and about 3 lakh families evicted to make way for Mumbai’s Shanghai Dream.

Demolition drives continue in the city. For instance, Mankhurd – a surburb in eastern Mumbai and home to the poorest of the poor – houses those who have been evicted from other parts of the city to allow for development activities.

Residents of this area complain of living in sub-human conditions.

“During the demolition drive in the winter of 2004, a young girl who was left homeless died from the cold. Another man died of a heart attack after he saw his home being bulldozed. About 15 people committed suicide in the area,” alleges Santosh Thorat, a local activist and resident of Annabhau Sathe Nagar. Mr. Thorat’s shanty has already been demolished twice.

Most houses in this area were built after 1995 and are therefore considered illegal by the State government.

In the neighbouring Jai Ambe Nagar, residents are prepared for a bulldozer to visit them thrice every year. “We have rebuilt our homes, most of which are made of tin and brick,” says Thorat.

As a result, when Campa Cola was spared the bulldozer, slum dwellers and activists raised doubts over the selective treatment.

Same sensititvity not shown towards poor

“Such a hue and cry was made by the media and politicians. Everyone intervened. Why is the same sense and sensitivity not shown towards the poor?” asks Simpreet Singh of the National Alliance of People’s Movements.

Lack of regulation at fault

Even as the slumlord-politician- bureaucrat nexus is blamed for the mushrooming of slums, experts feel that lack of regulation is the reason for the Campa Cola compound mess.

“If the building was illegal from the beginning, why was it not demolished in the first place? The municipality should have put up boards on the site warning buyers to not purchase flats in the buildings,” says architect P.K. Das.

Observers say there is hardly any affordable housing in the city which is why slums exist.

“The housing stock that is generated is mainly targeted to the higher income groups. There is simply a lack of affordable housing,” says Mr. Singh.