VIP visits proving catastrophic for this slum

Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee and CNS Columnist
[Video of burning slum] Some 160 families live in a slum opposite the ‘Bhavishya Nidhi Bhawan’ office in Vibhuti Khand, Gomti Nagar, Lucknow. The consist of mostly a scheduled caste community which makes stone items and a muslim community which makes traditional Indian percussion instrument ‘dholak’. In 2009 the Governor was supposed to come and inaugurate the Human Rights Commission office located nearby. So that the poor did not come in the way of Governor, the slum was bulldozed by Lucknow Development Authority. When the Governor’s office came to know about this they felt it would be too embarrassing for the Governor to go and inaugurate the Human Rights Commission after such a human rights violation act had taken place. The Governor never came.

In the meanwhile attempts were made to get these people government housing for urban poor. After five years and as many DMs the survey by District Urban Development Agency, as the first step to move them into government housing, was finally initiated on 17 October, 2014.

On 21st October, 2014 some officials and employees of LDA came with a bulldozer and started burning and demolishing the huts in the slum. Had the fire brigade not arrived immediately the entire slum would have been burned down. People were obviously agitated. They had pleaded with the officials not to destroy their slum, especially on a festival day. It was Dhanteras. But the officials paid no heed. The employees pressed into service were drunk and looked dangerous. One woman Sunita, who was pregnant, got hurt as the bulldozer moved around demonically. People were begging with the officials to stop the plunder. But all the voices of prayers felt on dumb ears. The more the people supplicated, the more devilish the officials seemed to become.

People were puzzled with the behaviour of the state. On one hand a process was on to accommodate them in government houses for urban poor and on another their huts were burned and demolished. Some people were so tormented that they wanted to jam the Faizabad highway running at a short distance away. But ultimately they decided to sit on a fast and decided not to celebrate Deepawali.

It was revealed by the police which arrived after the destruction had been carried out that CM was to arrive on 29th October to lay the foundation of a building associated with nearby located Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Institute of Medical Sciences.

ADM, Trans Gomti, Ashok Kumar arrived after 10 pm at the site. He accepted a memorandum from people where it was requested that FIRs be filed against people who burned and demolished the slum. People asked to be resettled at the earliest so that they did not face an unpleasant situation again as they had to face that day. Finally, they said if at all the CM was going to come on 29th October for any ceremony, they would remove their huts for that day peacefully voluntarily. Any high handed treatment was obviously unacceptable. But they would not leave the land finally until they were properly rehabilitated.

Dr Sandeep Pandey, Citizen News Service - CNS
22 October 2014
(Dr Sandeep Pandey is a Magsaysay Awardee and a senior faculty at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Banaras Hindu University (BHU). He serves as a the national vice president of Socialist Party (India) and is the national convener of National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and Asha Parivar. He has earlier taught at IIT Kanpur and IIT Gandhinagar and did his PhD from University of California, Berkeley)