An exercise to bring together ragpickers in the city and form a cooperative will begin soon.

Representatives of the homeless and ragpickers will go to Pune to see the working of a cooperative formed there along with representatives of the GVMC to see its working. The Municipal Commissioner has been approached and he approved the proposal.

Disclosing this at a meeting of homeless and ragpickers here on Tuesday, former Union Energy Secretary E.A.S. Sarma and member of the National Forum for Housing Rights (NFHR) Pragada Vasu wanted the homeless to assert their rights. Ragpickers are reducing the burden of the GVMC by their work. Mr. Sarma told them that it was their services that were running the city. There were officials who were empathetic to their cause and they should approach them and seek their due. That was how the present Municipal Commissioner sanctioned night shelters at Bhimnagar and TSR Complex.

Stressing the importance of passing the Bill conferring housing rights, he said when the Railways attempted to evict those living under the Kancharapalem flyover at Ramamurthy Pantulupeta, he wrote letters to the District Collector, the Municipal Commissioner, the Chief Secretary, the State Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. While the Collector had stopped the eviction, the commission would take it as a complaint and the process would continue.

Mr. Vasu said the homeless were concerned whether housing plans in tandem with employability were made part of the revised city development plan and 40 per cent funds were being spent on slums and inclusive development was taking place.

The forum was working in 19 States and the meeting was intended to take stock of the situation after one year.

He said while the Forest Rights Act was passed, the problems of slum dwellers, who were mostly brought from villages to work as cheap labour in construction and other sectors, were not taken care of. While those at Sevanagar were shifted affecting their employment and education, in some Railway sites in situ development was proposed. Lack of housing policy for slums was resulting in haphazard shifting of slum dwellers.

Advocate Abdul Raqueeb alleged that under G.O. 166, government sites under encroachment of influential people were regularised but those in smaller sites were rejected.

Swarna Kumar of Mahila Action and Teddu Sankar of Fishermen Youth Welfare Association spoke.

Former Union Energy Secretary E.A.S. Sarma says ragpickers are reducing the burden of the GVMC by their work