On the eviction of slums in Kolkata: A leaflet

Click here to read leaflet [PDF, Bengali] »

Feb 15 2010. From the Brihottoro Kolkata Khalpar Basti Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (Greater Kolkata Slum Eviction Resistance Committee), an organisation resisting the eviction of slums in Kolkata.

Why this eviction? And why this declaration of war?

Friend,

Elaborate actions are afoot in various parts of Kolkata to evict slums, for the beautification of roads and canals, and for the “improvement” of the environment. The slum-dwellers lining Tipi, Manikhal, Chariyal and other canals, as well as Narkel Bagan and Hatgachhiya, face the prospect of being displaced from homes that are four decades old. The Kachharipara slum, Hosenpur Purbapara slum, and a number of other places face the same fate.

To put a human face on this eviction, a portion of the displaced are being offered single rooms in the outskirts of the city. Drinking water, access to schools and hospitals, and the various other services a citizen needs are severely limited at these locations. The rooms remind you of gas chambers.

The rest are told that they are illegal occupants. They have no rights.

The reality is that “development” is another word for opening up the city for capital investment, ultimately to transform it in accordance to the needs of wealthy people. It is to make room for them that the government and administration have drawn up a program of eviction, with money from the Asian Development Bank. The Kolkata Environment Improvement Project (KEIP) and Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Rural Mission (JNNURM) are schemes that have been started with the aim of driving out poor working class people from the heart of Kolkata.

Since the 1990’s, Kolkata has been transforming, with big flyovers, wide streets, Multiplex shopping malls, apartment complexes, clubs, INOX, Swabhumi, Nolbon, Water Park, Nicco Park, and various other entertainment centers cropping up. There is no place there for the working class of the city – the hawker, rikshaw driver, small trader, small shopowner, slum-dweller, cleaner, and others.

These people have been removed from their original places in the city and put into places like Nonadanga, Kasba, Kalagachhiya, ShampamirjaNagar. There they remain, bound by the State’s legal bindings, much like the open jails of Lalgola in Murshidabad.

They have lived in Kolkata for a long time. Their labour has been used by the wealthy, their votes have been obtained by political parties of all hues. And yet, in today’s scheme of development, they have no place. They have been evicted from the dwellings, and have lost their livelihood and way of life.

Let us protest these development policies of the Central and State governments, let us speak out against the demolition of slums in any part of the city. Let us stand beside fellow citizens as they fight for the right to have a home to live in.

************

Invisible City: A documentary on the eviction of Ballygunj Rail Colony dwellers in Kolkata

With English subtitles