Many government officials invited to attend the state’s first ever public discussion on slum evictions chose not to attend the event. The Karnataka Slum Janara Sanghatanegala Okkoota, a federation of slum resident organisations, organised the hearing in light of the increasing number of slum evictions in Bengaluru.
The federation invited officials from the departments of Housing Urban Development, Revenue, Women and Child Welfare, SC/ST Commission, Backward Classes Commission, Minorities Commission, Child Rights Commission and the Karnataka Slum Board.
The discussion was held to examine citizenship, urban deprivation and future policy direction. A jury of eight was present to preside over the event as case studies were discussed. Residents and representatives of various slums like Kalasipalya, Pillaganahalli, Gulbarga, and Vinobha Nagar were present. Residents of slums of other districts like, Siddharthanagar (Kalburgi), Alvi Masjid (Vijayapura), Gandhivala (Hubballi), were also present.
While all officials and leaders including Vinay Kumar Sorake, Minister for Urban Development, were absent, only NP Balraj, Technical Director at the Karnataka Slum Board, and an official from the Education Department attended the hearing.
Issac Arul Selva, editor of ‘Slum Jagathu’ and one of the organisers, expressed his disappointment. “When we go into their offices, their response is lax.. they say they will respond in a week or so but they never do. It is difficult for us to visit them again and again.”
Babu Mathew, a member of the jury and a professor at National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, said: “Slum evictions must be seen in the background of what is happening to urbanisation in the context of globalisation. The whole effort is to try and build an urban economy and simultaneously there is complete ruination of agriculture. So, this kind of migration is inevitable. When the numbers are so huge, there is pressure on everything like land and resources.
“But given that the government is inducing these evictions, it is their responsibility to tackle it which they are not doing. They are only worried about using all this land for speculative purposes. To tackle the question of land and housing we need to have a stronger legislative framework,” he explains.
Shivani Chaudhry, another member of the jury and Executive Director, Housing and Land Rights Network, said that there are political and monetary forces who go after the land to displace people who are the owners of these lands. When the government wants people to be recognised citizens, it gives them voter ID cards, ration cards, because they want their votes. But when it comes to land and money, the people are considered as if they don’t exist. The constitution and the laws exist only for the rich, for the poor there is no justice or law.
“People are evicted without any notice and are not even allowed to even collect their things. They build their houses with so much money, sweat and labour and they are just demolished. All their possessions are lost,” she pointed.
She added that if the government focused on rural development, people would not migrate in such large numbers. “Most migrants living in the cities have been displaced several times in their lives. People in power should know about the laws, so, human rights education is very important. The government needs to do what it says.”
A comprehensive report on the discussion will be submitted to the government in the first week of February.
– The report is based on a press release from Slum Janandolana Okkoota, and inputs from Reema Mukherjee, Aparajita Khandelwal (trainee journalists at the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bengaluru.)