Their homes were broken. Their elderly ill-treated and their women misbehaved with. And all this in upscale Bandra. To our horror we found out that the brutal attack on the families residing in Pereira Wadi, a 125-year-old gaothan in Pali Naka, is truly shameful and not worthy of any civilized society, irrespective of whether the collector has approved it or the revenue minister has given it his blessings. The story of Pereirawadi has all the angles to it – builder, criminals, corrupt and totally compromised political system and brazenly weak, harassed citizens who do not know how to defend themselves. And at the end of it all – it is also a mockery of not just justice but also human rights. The police misbehaved with women and citizens saying that the project had the blessings of the State Revenue Minister Narayan Rane and his son Nilesh Rane. This week the Mumbai High Court directed the state to provide immediate accommodation and rent to those who were rendered homeless in Pereirawadi. It also ordered the state to appoint a senior official to do a ground survey and investigate the allegations made by the affected residents, maintaining that chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had ordered a stay on the implementation of the SRA scheme and demolition “sensing some sort of scam”. The Slum Rehabilitation Scheme is possibly one of the most misused instruments of urban development that currently exists in this city. The worst part is that the SRA can be easily manipulated to make any minority decision look like a majority 70 per cent point of view. All you need are some forged signatures of dead or ailing people, something very common when it comes to property issues. In this case residents say that their neighbor Cyril Macwan in league with the developer Dilip Bobde Patil played mischief. Cyril Macwan however says he has played clean. Land grab in the name of SRA has become an easy game and it’s happening every day in this city. Builders go to a huddle of families living in a building or a cluster of buildings and buy off the greedy ones among them. The greedy ones create trouble in the society and break the spirit of camaraderie that holds the community together. Once that’s done, how difficult is it to get a few signatures and fake the rest to make it look as if 70 per cent of the community are on one side and the rest are blackmailers holding up redevelopment projects in the hope of getting more money? It’s the easiest thing in the world. And if the victims are old and ailing, it’s even easier to threaten them into silence, pay them a pittance and ask them to get out while they are still alive. The few who resist are then regularly harassed and intimidated till they too succumb and, before you know it, the old structures are down-and the 70 per cent view has prevailed, as per law. The remaining 30 per cent obviously don’t count, either as human beings or as members of a civil society. So the cops are then brought in to clear them out. Unfortunately, the politicians-builders-bureaucrats nexus where all politicians across political parties become united have now stooped to levels where they are successfully hammering the poor off the streets, breaking down the slums to built magnificent malls, multiplexes, apartments all for money. The Chief Minister and his brigade of ministers and officers can go on giving n number of justifications of land grab SRA like schemes with promises to write new futures. And someone has to make a few sacrifices for this. But the question is: Why must the poor and the old and the weak only have to make these sacrifices? Everyone is dreaming of a new Mumbai, a clean Mumbai, a futuristic Mumbai by removing the poor, weak and non influential out of the way. The state might justify that this is the price the city has to pay for progress but why must the old families of Pereira Wadi and other helpless always end up paying the price? Why change Mumbai at the cost of violating the human rights of the weak and the poor? With Archana Tripathi and Rajeev Mishra, Zeba Warsia for NMTV News.
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