Dharamsala Slum Demolition: Apathetic Mayor & civic body take U-turn on rehabilitation, leave dwellers homeless

“We have been living here for generations. Now that Dharamshala has been included in smart city project our poor homes have suddenly become an eyesore in the town and are being shunted out in the name of development.”

While serving notices and eventually run earthmovers on the slum, the statement given by Mayor of Dharamsala city, Rajani, emphasized that the civic body was committed for the welfare of the community,

We have assured them all the facilities at the place where they want to shift. They have been asked to shift to Sarah, Gamru or Passu villages. We are ready to provide them toilet facilities in these villages. Some of the slum dwellers have already shifted to alternative places,

had said the Mayor.

However, after demolition, the civic body and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor backtracked. They left about 800 dwellers of the 30-years-old slum at Charan Khad in Dharamshala city homeless, forced to spent five days under open sky. Even monsoon arrived early this year and didn’t spare them after MCD demolished their homes without actually making any alternative arrangement for shelter.

View Pictures/Videos: Dharamsala Slum Demolition : 300 families kicked out, left on roads in pre-monsoon rains with absolutely no rehabilitation

After the demolition, when the Mayor was asked about her assurance given to dwellers about rehabilitation, she said,

We can only suggest a place and no guarantee could be given in case they faced an opposition from the locals. We can’t also ignore the concerns of local people.

Member of Passu village panchayat, said the administration had not taken them into “confidence” before deciding to allow the slum-dwellers on their common land.

We will not allow them to settle on our land,

villagers said.  It isn’t expected from the Mayor of the city to not take the locals residing near suggested areas in confidence.

In reality, these were just lies to facilitate eviction and MCD was hoping that (after living in this slum for 30-years) these migrant laborers would just go back to their home states, Rajasthan and Maharastra.

Watch Video

Credits: Video and Editing: Sumit Mahar, Himdhara Collective  

Even criminals including cold-blooded murders and rapist are given fair trial and provided shelter, food, and basic facility while in prison. However, locals welcomed MCD’s step. The city applauded the action as the slum dwellers were nothing more than disgusting people and slums are filled with anti-social elements, thieves, criminals, drug paddlers, drunkards, and of course, migrants. It won’t be wrong to say that people growing up in slums tend to develop antisocial tendencies. Majority of people showed hate and expressed disgust. People are of the view that the slum-people are actually never poor. They have TVs, refrigerators, and stuff that even lower middle class can’t afford. But people tend to forget that quality of life matters a lot and slum is the last place where anyone should expect to find it.

Locals even claim that they are feeling secure now irrespective of the fact that 800 dwellers including infants and school going children were now homeless, facing hostile response from everyone except some NGOs and kind hearted local activists. No newspaper or media asked people the real cause of formation of slums. Is it so hard to predict future of children growing up in highly unhealthy and psychologically abnormal environment. All children are born with same innocence, but their perception of the world is shaped by the society and the environment in which they are brought up. And we all know how we see  and think of ‘slum people’. We have forgot that they are creation of our ignorance and corruption in our government machinery.

Take a look at the little protest that some school could show. Resistance was met with deployment of police force at the slum.

Homeless dwellers in this case are mostly daily wagers.

Due to the fact that our belongings are lying on the road, most of us who are daily wagers have not been able to earn their living, said a group of dwellers.

According to Hindustan Times, now homeless dwellers have managed to rent small pieces of lands in nearby areas including Passu, Dhagwar, Barwala, Mohli and Badol village. The plight of the families isn’t over because it will take time to resettle, build a new slum. A critical question that must be answered by the MCD is why civic body demolished a slum if it is allowing formation of new ones in nearby places. Five or 10 years later, government would again send noticed for eviction followed by same chain of events.

We have been turned into aliens in our own country. Are we paying price of Dharmashala included in smart city project?,

asks Pinkey- the class 12 student, who led the protest by her community when their shanties were being razed and now helping them in whatever way she can. The unfortunate turn of fate is already caused Pinkey to skip her first term examination. She isn’t the only one. Other school going students from slum, who were seeing some hope to get out of the trap of poverty through education, were shown their place.

With Inputs from Hindustan Times Talking to Himachal Watcher, Mansi Ashe, an activist, told us how NGO run by the monk was bringing the change in the life of ‘slum children’.

 You can’t believe!  The children into studies don’t lack in talent. They speak fluent English and some of them even topped their class. Three of them are in reputed institutes like Symbioses, and reputed engineering colleges in Karnataka and Kerala,

said another source, a local journalist associated with English daily.

When Himachal Watcher talked to one of the activists, Mansi Ashar, she told us,

We have been living here for generations.Now that Dharamshala has been included in smart city project our poor homes have suddenly become an eyesore in the town and are being shunted out in the name of development. They are forcing us out of our home. It’s a violation of human rights as well as right to life given by the Constitution of India. The eviction drive has already affected the livelihood of our community members as they are not able to go to work. If not found for a place is resettlement many families will be driven into hunger,

said Pinky.

About places suggested by MCD, she said

However, local people are not allowing us to put up our homes there. Even some of the community members were beaten up by the locals when they went to new locations suggested by MC near Passu village. MC officials who had assured help in resettlement also took a U- turn when the villagers protested and maintained that they never suggested the slum dwellers to resettle on the location.

The Union Cabinet led by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, approved “Housing for All by 2022”  Mission and assured rehabilitation of slums by providing them subsidized homes, while the Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act, 1956, states that eviction of slums without notice and without providing an alternate housing arrangement is illegal. But fortunate people think these dwellers are just nuisance and it is absolutely ethical to leave them homeless.

Slum rehabilitation of slum dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource and promotion of affordable housing for weaker section through credit linked subsidy were two essential parts of this mission.

With Inputs from Hindustan Times and The Tribune

Stay updated on the go with Himachal Watcher News App. Click here to download it for your android device.