Chandigarh – Press note on struggle against slum demolition and in demand for housing rights for all

February 16, 2014

घर अधिकार संघर्ष मोर्चा
Ghar Adhikar Sangharsh Morcha

Press Note

Representatives of Ghar Adhikar Sangharsh Morcha, which included the academicians, lawyers, students and residents of Dhanas Rehabilitation Colony, Transit Colony Sector 52, Madrasi Colony inter alia, attended a meeting convened under the Chairmanship of Sh. Satya Gopal, Chairman, Chandigarh Housing Board, which included the heads of departments of Education, Transport, Food Supply and PDS, Joint Electoral Officer, DSP (Central) and other officials of the concerned stakeholder departments in the Conference room of Chandigarh Housing Board, Sector 9. This meeting was in relation to the several demands raised by the GASM for the immediate rehabilitation of the displaced citizens from recently demolished colony No. 5 and also to provide proper services to those residing in the newly established Dhanas Rehabilitation Colony inter alia. The meeting was preceded by massive protest of the displaced citizens at the office of Chandigarh Housing Board, Sector 42 on 11.02.2014 which was called off after an assurance from the DC, Sh. Mohd. Shayin of a meeting of all stakeholder offices on the issue.

The representatives of the GASM and the Colonies apprised the officers, that Chandigarh cannot be ‘a slum free city’, as envisaged by the Administration, unless a more comprehensive rehabilitation plan is not worked out, which covers the increasing number of citizens who have served the needs of the City for long. They were apprised of the fact that post the demolition of Colony No. 5 in November, 2013, thousands had been rendered homeless and without shelter, and measures must be taken to provide them relief immediately.

The representatives addressed the grievances department wise. With regards to the election related matters, the DC assured the delegation that the matter of non issuance of Voter ID cards, and complaints of non-inclusion in the Voter lists shall be addressed with 2-3 weeks, and the same could not be done due to non allocation of polling booths by the Central Election Commission. With regards to Education related issues, on being told the problems being faced by several students in Dhanas and elsewhere in getting admission in Government Schools, the concerned official from the Education department and Sh. Satya Gopal, Chairperson, CHB, assured the representatives from GASM that several letters and circulars have been issued to the Principals of the Government Schools to ensure admission and in case admission is not being granted, then such cases may be brought to his notice and the DPI (Schools).

The delegation complained against the daily harassment and abuse meted out by Housing Board employees dealing with those residing in the Colonies. The delegation specifically complained against Sh. Inder Pal. It was decided that the DC shall enquire into the complaints of harassment against Sh. Inder Pal.

The delegation raised the demand of residents of the problems with regards to the access to the Public Distribution System (PDS), as PDS vendors are not giving ration to those who stayed in the erstwhile Colony No. 5. The Chairman CHB clearly stated that all ration card holders shall be given ration across Chandigarh and any complaints regarding non grant of ration should be brought before him and the concerned Department head.
The DC also assured the delegation that more than 1200 applications that have been submitted to his office, by residents of the erstwhile Colony No. 5 shall be considered.

The delegation raised the issue of lack of adequate public transport services in Dhanas Rehabilitation Colony, to serve a thirty thousand working and student population. It was demanded that the frequency of buses in peak hours should be increased to one every five minutes and for other times it could be one every ten minutes. More number of special buses for students were also requested. The official from the Transport Department stated that these demands will be looked at, and requested the Chairperson CHB for construction of a proper bus stop in the Rehabilitation Colony. The Chairperson CHB directed the Transport Department to take a route optimization survey, in which the GASM offered the help of its experts in Urban Transport.

The GASM demanded that those who have come to stay in the Transit Colony Sector 52 as their houses in Colony No. 5 were demolished should be allowed to stay there, at least on humanitarian grounds especially given the severity of the winter. The Chairperson CHB refused to accede to this demand for shelter giving the excuse that he was merely a executing person, and could not change the law.

The GASM raised the issued that the ‘Chandigarh Small Flats Scheme 2006’ needs to be modified for the benefit of Chandigarh’s residents who been displaced from their erstwhile homes in Colony No. 5, Mauli Jagran etc. The eligibility criteria should be relaxed to make the policy inclusive and care should be taken to also include those who have come to the city between 2006-2014 as well, as otherwise the plan of Slum Free Chandigarh cannot be realized. It was averred that ownership rights should be given to those who are residing in the Rehabilitation Colonies such as those in Dhanas. The Chairman, CHB assured the delegation that the matter would be taken up with the higher authorities.

The GASM shall adopt agitational methods if the demands of thousands of deprived and aggrieved citizens will not be met. Any adverse and anti-people action by the Administration shall be met by a strong resistance.
After the meeting, the GASM joined the protesting employees of the Chandigarh Housing Board in solidarity and addressed them. The CHB employees were protesting outside the CHB office in Sector 9, for pension facilities.

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MEMORANDUM OF DEMANDS

  1. That no colony in Chandigarh should be demolished and any Eviction/Demolition Drive planned or conceived should be stopped with immediate effect. Instead, regularization process should be started for all colonies in Chandigarh. Where necessary, all colonies should be developed in an in situ manner i.e. at the same location with all reasonable amenities. This never ending cycle of displacement should be stopped.
  2. That Government should make comprehensive rehabilitation scheme/ arrangements for those who are evicted in recent Demolitions i.e. Colony No. 5, Rajeev Colony, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Colony (Mauli Jagran) etc.
  3. That the conditions for the allotment under Small Flat Scheme, 2006 should be relaxed to cover all evicted and affected families. As nearly 60% of the affected families were selectively excluded from the rehabilitation scheme due to stringent criteria laid down by the Administration, leaving poor people in lurch, hence in violation of Basic Fundamental Right of Life enshrined in Constitution.
  4. That any single proof of residence should only be only criteria to avail benefits of Rehabilitation Scheme. As, the scheme is a welfare scheme and conditions should be construed liberally, and not strictly.
  5. Chandigarh Small Flats Scheme, 2006 should be amended to provide ownership rights to those who have been given flats in the newly constructed Rehabilitation Colonies.
  6. That the Chandigarh Master Plan 2031 may be modified to provide for at least 30% housing for EWS.

Chandigarh Housing Board

  1. That all pending cases along with those staying in Transit Colony, Sector 52, Chandigarh should be decided in a time frame of one month.
  2. That the evicted families those not allotted quarter in pre-fabricated transit colony, Sector -52, and other transit colonies, should be allowed to reside there until final decision regarding permanent allotment under Small Flat Scheme, 2006 is taken.
  3. Any notice, circular, demand for eviction of those currently residing in Transit Colony, Sector 52, Chandigarh must be withdrawn and rescinded with immediate effect. No person should be forcibly evicted from the Transit Colony.
  4. In Dhanas Rehabilitation Colony, 8448 one-room apartments have been built in 4 storey buildings. Flats allotted are 25*12 ft. each. It includes toilet and bathroom (since there is no separate room or construction for kitchen it has to be scraped out of the provided space itself). People are not allowed to do any construction inside or outside the flat As the criteria of allotment under the scheme were such, families with more than one unit have installed curtains and divided the room in two portions. As in most cases, in families having more than 2 units, the rest have to move out. People should be allowed to alter flat as per their requirement.
  5. The Administration ought to allow activities such as Vending, Hawking, setting up small shops etc., related to livelihood in or in Vicinity of Dhanas Rehabilitation Colony.
  6. That the Basic Amenities such as Proper street lights and electricity supply should be provided in Transit Camps and other colonies.
  7. That Proper Health, educational, market and basic facilities such as water supply and health care should be provided to the residents of the Rehabilitation Colony, Dhanas, Transit colony and other colonies. Given that the situation is especially grave in Colony No. 4, the same may be done within a week.
  8. That the officers concerned, dealing with the public, in the offices in Sector 42, 17 and 9, must not misbehave and harass City residents inter alia. Particularly Mr. Inderpal appointed in Housing Board office in sector 42 should be transferred with immediate effect.
  9. There are allegations of corruption in allotment of Flat in Dhanas colony for which independent inquiry should be set up.
  10. A judicial inquiry should be set up to investigate the the use of inappropriate material used for construction at the Rehabilitation Colony, Dhanas.
  11. Electricity supply through contractor should be stopped with immediate effect in colony no. 4 and transit camp and same should be supplied by public electricity supply system.