'Prime land sold at throwaway prices'
CHENNAI: Sustained efforts are being made by governments to drive away the poor and the downtrodden from cities under the guise of modernisation and improved infrastructure, alleged Medha Patkar of the National Alliance of People's Movements here on Monday.
Addressing media persons, Ms. Patkar said the Urban Renewal Mission, Special Economic Zones and modernisation of transport services in major cities would not benefit the poor. All these projects were aimed at benefiting multinational companies and those at the higher strata of society.
While she was not against improving infrastructure in metropolitan cities, it should not be at the cost of the poor. Her organisation was for an alternative urban development which was pro-poor and which would not affect the livelihood of the poor and slum-dwellers in cities.
Ms. Patkar, who is leading a "campaign yatra" from Mumbai to Kolkata stressing upon the need for right to livelihood and housing, said that in the last 10 years thousands of people had been evicted from cities resulting in their deprivation of livelihood and education of children. The Urban Renewal Mission was being implemented in major cities by spending thousands of crores to attract foreign investments while the actual needs of the urban poor such as patta for their houses, basic amenities, fire-proof houses for slum-dwellers and housing for the homeless were yet to be realised. Similarly, the Central and the State Governments were keen on creating more and more SEZs by allotting prime land on the periphery of cities at throwaway prices to big companies. Besides, promoters were given many incentives, including tax-free holiday and subsidised power supply while similar concessions to farmers were denied. Describing the promoters of SEZs as "land grabbers," she said they were not interested in providing more employment to people in the nearby areas but were interested in grabbing the "valuable land."
"Mega projects" such as the metro rail system and modernisation of airports would severely affect the slum and pavement-dwellers in major cities.
How many people would be benefited by the airport expansion project here that would lead to eviction of an entire village in Pozhichallur, she asked.