Respite for slum-dwellers

"No demolitions during monsoon"

Special Correspondent

MUMBAI: Thousands of slum-dwellers, evicted during demolitions earlier in the year, have received an assurance that there will be no more demolitions during the monsoon. This was conveyed to them by Congress Member of Parliament from Mumbai Northeast and president of the Mumbai Region Congress Committee (MRCC) Gurudas Kamat, after a marathon two-hour meeting between him, Dharavi Congress MP, Eknath Gaikwad and representatives of the slum-dwellers, led by Narmada Bachao Andolan leader and social activist Medha Patkar.

Cut-off date

While the slum-dwellers are demanding that they be allowed to return to the plots from where they were evicted, and that the cut-off date be further extended to 2004, Mr. Kamat said that neither was within his powers to grant. "On most issues we are on the same wave length as the slum-dwellers," Mr. Kamat told the media. However, he said the matter of where the slum-dwellers should be relocated had to be worked out with the Maharashtra Government.

He also ruled out extending the cut-off date to 2004. "We went to the electorate last year with a promise that we would extend the date to 2000. And that is what we are trying to do. There was no discussion about extending it any further," he said.

The Bombay High Court had earlier asked the State Government to present its case on how it has arrived at the cut-off date of January 1, 1995 and to hear arguments on extending it to 2000. While Ms. Patkar argued that the court did not prevent the State Government from extending the date to 2000 and that this was within its executive powers, Mr. Kamat said that the Government had been advised to move the court as this involved a change in the law.

Mr. Kamat said that if they did not, there could be innumerable legal tangles that the Government would have to face.

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