BPCL Blast: Hairline escape from catastrophe which could claim thousands of lives

The blast in the BPCL- Petroleum company at Mahul confirmed one of the fears that the residents of Mahul think can cause risk to their lives. The trauma of blast once again organised the residents of Mahul. All the residents got united under the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan and marched to the local ward office of Municipal Corporation accompanied by Medha Patkar, on 10th August 2018. They also did ‘Thiyya andolan’ for ten days demanding a safer place to live.

Mahul which is located near chembur in mumbai is infamously referred as “where the poor are sent to die”. In the year 2017, 20,000 homes had been cleared in the demolition drive by the municipal corporation, and 30,000 Project Affected People were relocated to the Mahul complex in M-East ward, nearly 12 km away from their original settlement. Alongside the Eastern Expressway, 72 seven-story apartment buildings are located in close proximity to major industrial factories such as the Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum refineries, Sea Lord Containers, Aegis Logistics Ltd, Tata Power, Rashtriya Chemical, and Fertilizers. Since then as this place extremely polluted, rehabilitated people are continuously demanding the government to rehabilitate them to a safer place.

People who were rehabilitated were in constant fear of accident which came true on 8th august when a major fire broke out at Bharat petroleum causing injury to 41 people. For about three to four days, all the people of Mahul were scared and restless as such explosion can cause serious health injuries like loss of hearing or respiratory diseases and as explosion may also lead to collapse of buildings surrounding it. There were several incidents reported of cracks on walls of their houses, broken glass windows. Residents found it difficult to sleep inside their houses during those days fearing another accident. This accident shows that Mahul is very unsafe place for human inhabitants, such accidents may happen again.

After shifting to Mahul the people displaced started facing serious health problems due to inhospitable environment and air quality which lead to death of 23 people. A survey conducted by KEM Hospital and cited by the National Green Tribunal (Western Zone) petition filed by residents of Mahul,  reports that “67.1% of the population had complaints of breathlessness more than 3 times a month.” Other common ailments include skin and eye irritation, choking, vomiting, and hair loss. Sources for the various illnesses include high levels of toluene diisocyanate, nickel and benzopyrene and other volatile organics. The poor drainage systems, solid waste removal, and contaminated water supply all exacerbate the negative health effects of the poor environmental standards.

Taking this into the consideration people of Mahul started protesting against this action of the government, after a continuous protest in various forms they could not achieve their demands. Hence they filed a case against the government in March 2018.

On the day of blast people of Mahul had the court hearing, “On that day we were coming from court, some people left for their work, children left for school and some of us left for home. While going back to their home near Ghatkopar which is approximately 12 km from the spot of the blast, we heard the horrible sound. When we reached home we got to know that it is the blast in the petroleum company at Mahul”.

On 9th August they decided to protest against this. On 10th August residents of Mahul held a protest rally to the office of ward officer Mr. Ghag. Mostly women were leading this protest. He was asked to take responsibility for the safety of rehabilitated people. “When people from various wards are rehabilitated in his ward, then it was his responsibility to tell the government that this place is not livable, now it is his responsibility to take care of us. We demanded him to move us to a safe place. He did not have answers to any of our questions. He said that he will come back to us within 48 hours, but he never turned up. ” said Rekha Ghadge, one of the protestor.

After the rally, we continued our protest with ‘Thiyya Andolan’ for 10 days but no government official came to listen to our grievances. they , then,  gheraoed the house of the housing minister Prakash Mehta and staged silent protest in front of his residence. Minister couldn’t ignore the crowd and came out of his house to address us.  He said that your case is in court so we cannot do anything about this but at the same time expressed his willingness to address the problem in order to dilute people’s anger. “We have submitted memorandum to the housing minister. We will decide our next course of action very soon.”, said one of the protesters.

Meanwhile, on 8th August court said that ‘No one can pressurize people to live in Mahul region, those who got houses at Mahul from government and do not want to live there can return their keys to government and continue to live in their original houses’. Court’s order on the issue of those who got rehabilitated in Mahul is still pending.

 

Houses of 1400 poor Dalit and Muslim families under threat of demolition in Mumbai

Houses of 1400 poor Dalit and Muslim families under threat of demolition in Mumbai

No eviction without rehabilitation

Due process of law to be followed before carrying out the demolition drive

 

Mumbai | 6th May, 2018: Amidst hollow populist claims of ‘Housing For All’ and ‘Affordable housing’, the government-administration of Mumbai is once again threatening to demolish homes of around 1400 poor Dalit and Muslim families.

Two slum areas-Bheemchhaya in Kannamwar Nagar, Vikhroli and Cheeta Camp in Trombay are set to be razed to ground by bulldozers.

Bheemchhaya is a Dalit majority community with 800 households while Cheeta Camp is a Muslim majority slum community with 600 households. The demolition will be carried out by the Maharashtra Forest Department.

Government claims that these areas are notified as forest and needs be free of encroachment. However, without following the due process of law and making enough provisions for grievance redressal, the Forest Department has announced the demolition of Cheeta Camp will be carried out tomorrow and Bheemchhaya on later dates. No notices of demolition have been served to the affected families.

These slums are protected as per Maharashtra Slum Act but the Forest Department has notified these areas as ‘reserved forest’ and is disrespecting the housing rights of the slum dwellers by refusing to rehabilitate the protected slum dwellers.

Heavy police forces are deployed for the demolition drive. Local police station of Cheeta Camp is terrorising Muslim youths and threatening them of dire consequences if they try to resist the demolition drive.

While in Bheemchhaya, Forest Department has issued orders of demolition on false grounds without providing the aggrieved slum dwellers any mechanism to appeal against the order. This action will amount to violation of section 3 of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 which prohibits eviction of member of a Dalit Community without following due process of law.

This government is disregarding the vulnerabilities of the Dalits and minority communities in this country by demolishing their only shelter. This will lead to further marginlisation of these communities.

Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan appeals to the state government of Maharashtra to stop this demolition of homes of vulnerable families with children.

We also appeal to members of civil society, political organisations and concerned citizens of the city to stand up against this injustice. We appeal everyone to visit Bheemachaya and Cheetah Camp to initiate dialogue with members of the community and persuade the state government to resolve matters by dialogue and mutual consent rather than brute police force. The city belongs to everyone and it is the government’s responsibility to ensure housing to all. Instead, for years what Mumbai is witnessing is ‘snatching away’ of homes, life and livelihood by that very state that should protect the poor, vulnerable and marginalised.

We must come together to prevent another gross injustice in the name of demolition that will be remembered as a dark chapter in Mumbai’s history.

 Please phone and write to request to stop the demolition:

 

Sr. No. Name Designation Phone Email
1. Shri. Devendra Fadnavis Chief Minister of Maharashtra cm@maharashtra.gov.in

 

Off. 022-22025222, 22025151
2. Shri. Sudhir Sachchidanand Mungantiwar Minister for Finance and Planning, Forests min.finance@maharashtra.gov.in Off. 022-22843657
022-22843647
3. Shri. Vasudevan N. Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest ccfmmumbai@gmail.com

 

Off. 022-26591586

Mob. 8879085704

Contact: 9958660556

Maharashtra government failing in its commitment to address housing shortage

Press Release

Maharashtra government failing in its commitment to address housing shortage

Utilised only 0.444% of the total fund allocated under ‘Housing For All’ scheme for the current fiscal year

Mumbai | 20th February, 2018: Like every year, Maharashtra government failed to utilise funds allocated for constructing affordable housing as part of its ambitious plan to curb homelessness from the state. A total of Rs. 1,381.951 crore were allocated for the current fiscal year under the ‘Housing For All’ scheme out of which 0.444% were spent on housing, remaining 99.556% is unspent as on today.

 FY 2017-18  In Rs. Crores
Name of the scheme BE Expenditure in treasury % spent % unspent
22162996-Housing for all- Grants to Implementing Agencies (60% Central share) 1125 5.001 0.444 99.556
22163007-Housing for all- Grants to Implementing Agencies (40% State Share) 256.95 0 0 100

Source: https://beams.mahakosh.gov.in/Beams5/BudgetMVC/MISRPT/DeptExpActScheme.jsp

Though, the Maharashtra govt have an ambitious plan of constructing 1.9 million housing so as to address housing shortage in Maharashtra, in reality only 23,000 houses have been constructed till date as per the latest report by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affair. These 23,000 houses are in fact houses constructed under the old housing schemes like RAY, CLSS etc but now have included under the current ‘Housing For All’ scheme. BJP government whether at center or in state is good at showing dreams but fails in realising them especially when poor is going to get benefits. ‘Housing For All’ looks like a distant dream given the present pace with which housing being constructed.

However, it is a different thing that even the full utilization of funds might not be able to address the problem of housing/homelessness as our analysis of the present housing scheme-‘Housing For All’ or ‘Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana’ finds certain loopholes.

‘Housing For All’ or the ‘Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana is more or less formulated on the same lines as were previous housing schemes were made. Hence, it contains the same loopholes. Our analysis of the ‘Housing for All’ suggest that a large chunk of population that is either homeless or not living in dignified housing or slums, will not be able to get the benefits of this scheme. Two of the four provisions (‘Credit Linked Subsidy’ and ‘Affordable Housing in Partnership’) of ‘Housing For All’ scheme are basically modeled to facilitate in purchasing of affordable housing. As per the latest information received through an RTI, alone in Mumbai there are around 20 lac families having an annual income less than Rs. 1lac. Under the prevalent rates, no housing under any affordable housing segment can be availed to a family belonging to this income level.  The third provision of PMAY is ‘in-situ slum rehabilitation’ based on the ‘cut-off-date’ model which means that some of the member of a slum will be held ineligible hence not getting the benefit of the scheme. Lastly the ‘Subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction/enhancement’, which is available to only those people who owns a piece of land. The last provision is at least not for slum dwellers who never own a piece of land. In a nutshell, the poorest of the poor might not get housing under PMAY.

The existing approach to address the housing problem will not work. There is a need for overhauling the housing schemes and policies so as to ensure that poorest of the poor have a protection of minimum and a dignified housing.

Conclusion and recommendations: 

The latest report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing recommends Indian government to formulate a law in order to address the housing problem:

“However, the Special Rapporteur is concerned that short-term schemes will not be sufficient to address the housing situation of those who are most disenfranchised and discriminated against with respect to housing. As a next step, and in keeping with the political commitments made under the New Urban Agenda,55 India needs an overarching, visionary and coherent piece of legislation based on human rights. A national housing law that aims to address growing inequalities and offers a long-term road map is essential. In addition, the economy of India is and will continue expanding, which suggests that it will continue to have the necessary resources to implement the right to adequate housing across the country.”

India has recognized and ratified housing as a basic human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. But in the paucity of a law, the housing rights of the most marginalized section of the society living in informal settlements or slums have violated innumerous times across India. Shift from considering housing a commodity to a necessity for every citizen is required.

Contact: 9958660556

Rehabilitation plan for Tansa Pipeline Project Affected openly violated Right To Education Act, 2009

Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan filed complained with MCGM

Demand compensation and strict action for violation of the Act

Mumbai | 18th December 2017: Apart from other major problems in Mahul, Mumbai-the rehabilitation site for the Tansa Pipeline Project Affected Families, the sample survey (of 130 children) carried out by the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan (GBGBA) revealed that major provisions of Right To Education Act, 2009 are openly violated in the rehabilitation process which resulted in dropping out and traveling to really far off places to attend schools. This is in complete contravention to the core principles of RTE which also include free and compulsory education.

Since the demolition was carried out in the middle of an academic year, children had to continue their schooling in their old schools at original places. The rehabilitation site is variably at a distant place from the original places. The distance range from 10KMs to 20KMs. This has put a financial burden in the form of transportation cost on the poor families. Survey reveals that at least Rs. 200 is spent per day on to and fro transportation cost. This is really a huge cost for a family belonging to EWS or LIG. Majority of the PAFs belongs to these economic groups.

Survey also recorded that in some cases where the parents cannot afford this transportation cost have simply stopped sending their children to school.

Due to the long distance between new home and old school, most of the mothers stay at school until it is over so as to save the multiple traveling cost.

 

No arrangements were made by Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai to accommodate children in a new school at the rehabilitation site so that their academic year is not affected. MCGM is the responsible body for carrying out rehabilitation of the Tansa Pipeline Project Affected Families.

 

​Non-functional local sewage treatment plant has caused sewage to overflow making the streets filthier. School going children making their way to school from one those streets in Mahul rehabilitation site​

 

RTE provisions stipulate the provisions of schools upto 5th standard and 8th standard within 1KM and 3KM respectively with free transportation so that the travelling cost can be waved off. This is to ensure that transportation cost should not become deterrent in sending children to school. However none of these basic provisions of the Act seems to be taken into consideration while making rehabilitation plan for the Tansa Pipeline Project Affected Families. GBGBA has filed a complaint today before MCGM against the violation of the Act and has sought quick action with a warning of mass action for inaction.

Medha Patkar Anita Dhole Patil Uday Mohite Bilal Khan

Contact: 9958660556

Urgent: Appeal for Legal Assistance on Housing Rights of Mumbai’s Urban Poor

Ghar Bchao Ghar Banao Andolan (GBGBA), an autonomous grassroots movement of the poor working class in the slums of Mumbai, since 13 years has raised the issue of absence of basic amenities in many of Mumbai’s slums before the Maharashtra Human Rights Commission. Demand was also raised to set up a time bound grievance redress and service delivery system, in the absence of which requests remain pending for years. The Commission suggested us to refer to ‘Right to Service Act’ while making any request for basic amenities in the slums from the Mumbai Municipal Corporation.

We are, at the moment, focusing on provision of water and sanitation in slums. We have proposed to the Mumbai Municipal Corporation certain ways by which the provision of water and sanitation can be made in a fast track mode. However the Corporation still not seems to be serious about making provision on urgent basis. We are planning a series of meetings with local ward officers of Mumbai Municipal Corporations with the reference of the Act. Since the Maharashtra state ‘Right to Service Act’ and its Rules are only in Marathi, it is difficult for some of us to refer to and effectively use specific provisions of the Act/Rules. The Commission is also open to make recommendations, if the the said Act/Rules don’t have provisions for ensuring basic amenities in a time-bound manner.

It would be a great help if someone (preferably a person knowledgeable in law) volunteers to carefully read the Act/Rules and help us find out relevant provisions which we can be relied upon while meeting the ward officers.  Kindly respond as soon as possible. 

Please write to: gbgbandolan@gmail.com or call @ 9958660556 

Background:

GBGBA has been consistently organizing the working class, toiling people Mumbai’s slums since 2004 and has fought numerous battles with the authorities to ensure basic right to the city and its services.  About 10,000 protesters from slums in 2013, along with social activist Medha Patkar took out a massive rally on the streets of Mumbai, raising issues ranging from eviction to fraud in rehabilitation projects (detailed article about the protest can be read here). During a ten days protest, a delegation led by Medha Patkar met Mumbai’s Municipal Commissioner. The delegation complained about the absence of basic amenities in slums. The Commissioner was prompt in issuing directions to concerned officers and so were several GBGBA activists in following up with the concerned departments. But even after 4 years, , no significant progress is seen on the ground, as on date. The attitude of the Corporation makes one wonder if they think the slum dwellers are ‘water-proof’ and ‘sanitation-proof’ and that people in the bastis can survive without these services for years together !

The unavailability such services have forced slum dwellers to opt for private water purchase at higher and arbitrary rates and defecate in the open. GBGBA also made a parallel complaint to the Maharashtra Human Rights Commission during the ten days protest about the absence of basic amenities.  The Commission took cognizance of people’s plight after four long years and started hearing in April this year. During the first hearing, the Commission asked the Mumbai Municipal Corporation to sit with the delegation of GBGBA and find out a solution to make provision of basic amenities in Mumbai’s slums. A meeting was called by the Corporation on 30th June. GBGBA raised certain issues of homelessness in Mumbai and proposed fast track methods for making provision of water and sanitation on an urgent basis. Everything was taken on record and was forwarded to the concerned department in the same manner as was done in 2013 by then Municipal Commissioner. During the second hearing on 4th July, GBGBA expressed its dissatisfaction with the Corporation’s way of dealing the issue and demanded a time-bound service delivery system. The Commission had then asked us to refer to ‘Right To Service Act’ while making any request for any service and also assured us to pass suitable orders to ensure basic amenities if ‘Right To Service Act’ do not have enough provisions in the next hearing. Commission has given more than two months time to Mumbai Municipal Corporation and GBGBA to get the matter resolved before the next hearing which is posted for 28th August 2017.