Friday, December 09, 2005

Day of demolitions

Demolitions go on unabated in Delhi's Patel nagar and Mumbai’s Ulhasnagar. Ndtv showcased the story of one Mr. Matherani (no relation, so far as I know, to the man who rocked the congress's boat) who moved into Ulhasnagar in 1950. He narrated a heart-rending story of a time when one had to go to kalyan to buy even the most basic of groceries. "We have developed this town with our own hands," he claimed. "How can we be packed off like this?" Headlines Today showcased an illegal building bang opposite the municipal corporation's office in Ulhasnagar. Why was its construction not stopped at the foundation stage? What is the point of showing rule books to unsuspecting residents who might not have known anything about the legality of the premises they were buying?

Despite the legality of the process and the need to check unauthorized construction, demolishing people's homes and destroying their personal belongings is hardly the way to go about administering a master plan. In India, people often deplete their life-savings in constructing a home. The government has no right to demolish these structures without suggesting alternatives. Slum dwellers too are given alternative dwellings. Instances of legalization of unauthorized colonies have been witnessed in the past. Perhaps that can be done. In the meantime, the residents must keep up their fight to demand redressal from the government. The courts are the villain of the piece with both the SC and the Bombay HC quashing residents’ plea. But if the government can sidestep the judiciary when it comes to quotas in pvt. colleges, there is no reason why it should have to continue with the demolitions.

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