Shakoor Basti Demolition : Struggle Between Aspiration or Survival

Travelling by Indian railway as one approaches cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, etc one can see shanties and hutments on both sides of railway track. These shanties house poor people, many of them living there for a long time. Many people living there have property papers, voter identity card and ration card. In places like Mumbai, may be in Delhi also such places are controlled by mafia. Problem is people have roof, but no other regular facility like sanitation, water, electricity etc that other people enjoy. Many hutments get illegal power connection. Dwellers openly defecate on the tracks. Railway engineers believe such activity corrodes tracks. Such settlements are safety hazards. But railways cannot evict these settlements, even though these are on railway land.

Recently, National Green Tribunal has penalised Indian Railways for unclean stations and tracks. Consequently, Indian Railway in Delhi decided to clear a slum cluster in Shakur Basti. There are few reasons why this act though legal, is open to criticism. At the time of clearing, nights have been particularly chilly. Railway did not offer any plan of rehabilitation. There was probably not much coordination with state government of Delhi. It is not easy to live under open sky. Moreover, it was alleged that a little 6 month old baby had died during demolition. Though it was later reported that the baby had died earlier.

Predictably, political parties have reached the spot. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has urged the people that he will protect them next time there is demolition. People only have to call him, he will make sure there is no demolition. Not to be outdone, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has called raiway officials animals. Chief Minister cursed that god will never forgive these people.

Question that comes to mind is even after 60 years  post  independence, why people are still living in shanties in sub human condition? Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal may have good intent but lame idea. After ruling more than 50 years, Rahul Gandhi and his party must have a plan that details how no one in India lives in a shanty. No one has to be evicted out of their home and hearth. 

Coming to railway ministry, what are they expected to do if someone occupies railway land? Should railway not build new infrastructure? Many people are moving to cities in search of a job, and for better future of their children. Our cities, including Delhi, are woefully short in providing amenities like housing, school, healthcare to burgeoning population. It is important and practical to create more cities and make our villages and towns livable with employment opportunities. But such a proposal will be stopped in parliament because our socialist parties do not see any merit in giving people opportunities. Our leaders would rather take from rich and distribute to poor. That makes good politics because it is never a solution and it perpetuates the problem.


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