Bombay HC order misused, houses of poor demolished, for saving private builder: CPDR report

A huge settlement known as Ambedkar Nagar in Cuffe Parade, comprising of daily wage earners from the underprivileged sections  was recently demolished in Mumbai by the Mangrove Cell of the Maharashtra Forest department in line with the Bombay High Court order to protect mangrove cover in the city. More than 1500 families have been evicted by this massive demolition on May 3 and 4. All the evicted families have now been forced to live in open in the sweltering heat and fast approaching monsoon. No relief has been offered by the government to people who are facing a situation nothing less than a disaster.

A fact-finding team from Committee for Protection of Democratic Right - a civil rights organization visited the demolished site on 10th May, 2017 on invitation from the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan. Today, the team has released its report based on their visit. 
 
Major findings of the report are:
1.      The demolition was prima facie illegal as no adequate notice had been provided.
2.      Undue excessive force was deployed to carry out the demolitions.
3.      The forced eviction which has rendered thousands homeless constitutes violation of the Supreme Court judgments which uphold the right to shelter as a constituent of the fundamental right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the constitution.
4.      The demolition has affected access to education of the children in the basti and constitutes violation of fundamental right to education.
5.      The Bombay High Court order against destruction of Mangroves is being used in an arbitrary and unjust manner against slum dwellers while exemptions are being granted to private builders.
 
Activists from Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan (GBGBA) have been continuously contacting the Forest Dept. for relief to the evicted people. However no help reached so far. Instead of providing any relief, the forest officials mock the situation. In a meeting held under the chairmanship of Principal Secretary (Forest), Mr. Vikas Kharge with the activists of GBGBA, one of the officials came up with a strange suggestion. He suggested that, “we contact all the rich people of Mumbai, collect money from them, buy land out of that money and build houses for poor”.
 
The Mangrove Cell is displaying extreme passion about saving mangroves in the city however; they show little concern for the lives of human being especially small children who are facing life threat after becoming homeless. Without human being, environment has no value, similarly without environment human life will be pathetic, and so an approach is needed where both can co-exist.
 
Mangrove Cell is being discriminate and anti-poor in its actions. It has been observed that major violators are being systematically ignored while only settlements of poor are targeted.  No action has been taken on Essel World which is openly cutting mangroves in Gorai to make a resort there.


Mangroves being cut in Essel World

Similarly, controversial Adarsh building also stands intact even after order of Bombay High Court to demolish it. 
 
Adarsh Society building just infront of the Ambedkar Nagar, which stands demolished today

However, all the passion of the Forest Dept. seems to be go down whenever there is a violation of environmental norms in constructing metro yard at Aarey forest or constructing the Coastal road.
 
The Forest Department is planning to continue demolition drive till May 31st in more slums near Mangrove areas. These arbitrary actions need to be stopped as it is putting lives of many poor at risk. This is also putting the future of children living in these settlements in danger.

The entire report of the Fact Finding Team by the CPDR may be read here.