Apathy for the demolition goes ahead unabated

Slum razing renders malnourished kids homeless

Anahita Mukherji TNN 

Mumbai: An emaciated eightmonth-old called Tauheel Shaikh lies cradled on a weighing scale, which pegs his weight at a mere 3 kilograms. For his age, he is obviously malnourished. His was one of the 100-odd homes that were demolished last week in the Rafiq Nagar slums of Govandi that are abutting the dumping ground. 
    Ironically, it was a spate of infant deaths in this very same slum that spurred the state government to work on a scheme to fight malnutrition two months ago. 
    A five-minute walk from Tauheel’s house lies a two-and-a-halfyear-old girl called Sania who weighs 4 kg and can neither walk nor talk. She was too weak to utter any sound when rats nibbled at her face one day. Sania is amongst the “lucky” ones whose home mis
sed being demolished. 
“Between April 2010 and March 2011, 20 children under the age of five have died in Rafiq Nagar. Many of the children were malnourished and died of disease,” said Dnyaneshwar Tarwade, assistant director, Apnalaya, an NGO that works with slum communities. Last week, their 
homes were demolished. A young mother, Tasleem Shaikh, was tending to her five-day-old baby when the demolitions began. “The police hit me with a stick and threw me out of my house,” she says. Tasleem, who works as a ragpicker, has five children to look after. A broken door lies on the floor of Zeenat Bi’s home; she spent Rs 4,000 on waterproofing her home before the monsoons. She now spent another Rs 1,500 to buy a large political banner which serves as a roof. 
    “On May 25, after two days of negotiations, police officials announced over a loudspeaker that they would only demolish 50 slums that had come up along the nullah that separated the slums from the dumping ground. But BMC brought along four bulldozers and began flattening many more homes inside the slum,” said Tarwade. Demolished slums fall in grey zone 
    BMC site engineer A S Patil said that the original plan was to demolish all the 700-odd shanties in the area, but the civic body had to stop at 100 due to public pressure and lack of police protection. He said the slums are unauthorized because they came up after 1995. However, the state government has announced plans to extend the deadline to Year 2000. Most of the homes flattened in last week’s demolition fall in the grey zone between 1995 and 2000.


CHILD OF A LESSER GOD: A woman weighs a severely malnourished child at the Rafiq Nagar slum in Govandi


Residents can approach CM: Minister 
    On the demolition, Varsha Gaikwad, minister for woman and child development, said that the living conditions at Rafiq Nagar were very poor, and it would be better if the slum dwellers were shifted out. When Gaikwad was told that many of the slum dwellers were living there before the year 2000, she said they were eligible for rehabilitation and could approach the chief minister over the issue. She said the ministry would help the slum dwellers by putting them on to the chief minister.