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Eviction adds to woes of lockdown-hit bamboo artisans in Rewa

Municipal officials, accompanied by the police, razed down ramshackle huts of 61 people, claiming they encroached upon the Rathara lake in Rewa, to begin a beautification project.

Municipal officials, accompanied by the police, razed down ramshackle huts of 61 people, claiming they encroached upon the Rathara lake in Rewa, to begin a beautification project.  

Municipal officials raze down ramshackle huts of 61 people claiming they encroached upon Rathara lake

Eviction from a slum during the lockdown piqued Dinesh Bansal more severely than it did on two previous occasions. Already battling hunger as scrap warehouses remained shut and savings had drained, the homelessness inflicted an agony he is still scrambling to overcome.

At dawn on May 9, municipal officials, accompanied by the police, razed down ramshackle huts of 61 people, claiming they encroached upon the Rathara lake in Rewa, to begin a beautification project. Ironically, the families of traditional bamboo artisans were resettled there five years ago by the Municipal Corporation, after being displaced from another site.

“During the lockdown we had no work, and then came the earthmovers that morning. We were not even given a notice in advance to move out belongings,” alleged Mr. Dinesh Bansal, 42, who along with others now resides at the parking lot of a set of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) apartments.

‘No supplies’

The families were even promised regular food and water supply. “For the past one week, we’ve not received supplies. What was the urgency to beautify the lake at the cost of our houses during the lockdown?” asked Umesh Bansal, 34.

“They are not going hungry. Even social workers have been providing them with food,” contended P.N. Shukla, Assistant Engineer at the corporation. “And we are fulfilling their housing demand through the PMAY.”

Mr. Shukla further said it was a “policy decision” to resume work, which was stopped owing to the lockdown. In September last year, a meeting chaired by the Rewa Divisional Commissioner decided to free the land of “encroachers” who had “illegally occupied” it by building huts so that the project could be started.

The families, however, claim as the lockdown gnawed away at the wedding season from February to June, when they made ₹25,000-30,000 each year selling bamboo items and utensils, they were left without savings to deposit ₹20,000 for a house under the scheme.

“After paying that, we have to bear monthly instalments. We will remain homeless for a long time as the market is down,” said Mr. Dinesh Bansal, who feeds his family of five as well as his brother’s five children. On some days before the lockdown, he worked as a ragpicker making ₹350-400 a day, however no traders are ready to buy scrap now given transport restrictions. But he has found work at a construction site for ₹300-350 a day.

Claiming that the eviction was forcible, RTI activist Shivanand Dwivedi said, “The families were arbitrarily moved without being provided with alternative housing. And if they could pay for a house, why would they be staying in huts in the first place? And the eviction was sudden. They were not prepared for it.” The Corporation, however, claims it issued an eviction notice a day before the drive.

RTI queries

Mr. Dwivedi filed queries under the Right to Information Act, 2005 with the Corporation seeking information relating to the drive within 48 hours as he claimed the matter pertained to the families’ Right to life and Personal Liberty. Receiving no response, he approached the Divisional Information Commissioner Rahul Singh, who directed the corporation to provide information immediately. “By uprooting a slum of the poor in an eviction drive during the lockdown, their lives are put in a crisis,” wrote Mr. Singh in an order. The information was provided after a second order.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 7:01:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/eviction-adds-to-woes-of-lockdown-hit-bamboo-artisans-in-rewa/article31928638.ece

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