More than 100 slum-dwellers facing threat of eviction without adequate compensation or rehabilitation gathered together and peacefully held a demonstration on 22nd April at Patna, urging the governing authorities to respond adequately to their plight.
The slum dwellers were the affected residents of various slums abutting the Roopaspur Road in Patna, such as Prem Nagar, Abhimanyu Nagar, Chulai Chowk etc. Roopaspur Road is presently seeing great influx of development and under its proposed road widening scheme would involve demolition of various slum communities that abut it at present. The proposed road widening is for construction of 927m-long Rupaspur-Bailey Road railway overbridge which in name for easing traffic for one sect of society represented by new posh housings and apartments.
PRIA,under its initiative of Strengthening Civil Society Voices on Urban Poverty, has been working along with Dalit Mukhti Mission in these and other slums of Patna. Over the last year, the activities carried out in these slums had informed the slum dwellers of present Slum Policy of Bihar, Mission programmes such as JNNURM and Rajiv Away Yojana etc. The slum dwellers thereby were equipped with awareness of their rights and the accountability of the governing bodies.
On 22nd April when the slum dwellers held a demonstration, it was due to their acquired knowledge that there can be no eviction of the slum dwellers without adequate compensation or rehabilitation either in-situ or at an appropriate location, even if they are not legal residents of the said piece of land.
The residents of these slums were in fact given an ad-hoc ‘notice’ through loudspeakers by said authorities on 18th April to evict their homes within 24 hours. Residents revolted against this fake notice and correctly demanded for a rehabilitation scheme to be discussed with the residents prior to any eviction or demolition.
This situation in Patna is not unique, rather is one of the common challenges of the urban poor throughout the country, who become the victim of disparity under the name of development and progress. However, what is unique is the strength and power of knowledge and collectivisation that the slum dwellers of these communities depicted in their courageous demonstration against dubious actions of the State!