Despite Union Minister of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation Ajay Maken’s plea to the Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan for stopping the demolition of the houses of slum-dwellers, 43 houses were pulled down at the Golibar slum here on Wednesday, under the supervision of the Collector’s office.
The activists of the National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) have alleged that Shivalik Ventures, which develops the prime property of 125 acres called Golibar, carried out the demolition in connivance with government officials.
The Golibar project has been marred by a controversy for the past five years after it was alleged that Shivalik Ventures forged documents to secure the consent of the slum-dwellers for the demolition of the houses, built for rehabilitation on the Railways and the Defence Ministry land.
The Defence Ministry has approached the court, claiming its right to the land, and the Railways have taken an undertaking that the buildings will be demolished whenever it requires the land back.
On Tuesday, Mr. Maken wrote to the Chief Minister saying: “I, however, would request you to … ensure that wherever, as in these six Slum Rehabilitation Scheme … projects under inquiry, there are prima facie illegality, no irreversible damage or eviction of residents should be permitted to be done with police force — the aim solely being that of protecting the already marginalised urban poor.” Golibar is one of the six projects which have come under the inquiry.
However, government officials said they did not receive any instruction from the Chief Minister’s office. “If the letter has been sent to the Chief Minister, his office will send the necessary reply to the [Union] Ministry. However, we did not get any order from our higher-ups. We are working as per the court orders,” said P.R. Rokade, Deputy Collector (Encroachment Removal).
Sumit Wajale of the NAPM alleged that the officials were working for the builders and not the government.
“The demolition drive is purposely undertaken to finish off the resistance even before the inquiry is concluded,” he said.
He accused the builder of having drafted guards from private security agencies for the demolition drive.