Days before United States president Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's scheduled visit to Ahmedabad, at least 45 families living in a slum near the newly-built Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera area, have been served eviction notices by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. The development comes days after the AMC allegedly began building a wall to hide a slum along the route the US president is likely to take.
The slum dwellers have questioned the timing of the move, claiming that they have been staying at the same place for more than a decade. Officials have, however, denied any connection between the high-profile visits and the eviction notices.
"You have encroached upon a plot of land belonging to the AMC. Evict the plot in another seven days with your household chattels, otherwise, a departmental action will be taken to evict the land. If you have to make any representation, you can do so on 19 February at 3 pm," reads the notice issued by the Estate and Town Development Department . Though the notice was issued on Monday, it was dated 11 February, according to which the deadline is Tuesday, says a report in the Indian Express.
The slum, which reportedly houses families of more than 200 registered construction workers, is located alongside a road connecting Ahmedabad to Gandhinagar, around one-and-a-half kilometres away from the Motera stadium, which is being readied to host Trump and Modi.
Modi and Trump are scheduled to address over one lakh people at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera on Monday, as part of the "Namaste Trump" event. Trump is scheduled to take part in a roadshow in Ahmedabad and to visit the Sabarmati Ashram on that day.
A slum-dweller, Shailesh Bilwa, on Tuesday told PTI that officials of the AMC have visited them several times in the last seven days.
"We have been living here since over a decade. We had never been served any eviction notice in the past. Why was the notice served to us now?" questioned Dinesh Adravani, a daily-wage labourer who said he had been asked to vacate his shanty by 18 February. He said slum-dwellers like him had no alternative shelter if they are forced out.
"We are ready to vacate, but we need an alternative accommodation, otherwise we will be forced to live on pavements. We live here with our family members comprising women and children. We pray to the government to provide us with an alternative plot where we could live," said another resident Shailesh Bilwa.
He claimed that officials of the AMC have been asking them to vacate the plot for the last seven days. "Some of them even threatened to use force against us," he alleged.
Meanwhile, Deputy Estate Officer (West Zone), AMC, Chaitanya Shah said the eviction notice had nothing to do with the scheduled "Namaste Trump" programme.
"They (slum-dwellers) have been served the eviction notice under the provisions of the Town Planning Act and has nothing to do with Trump's visit. The plot belongs to the AMC. The notice was served as the site survey conducted in January found that the plot had been encroached upon," Shah said.
The AMC had also come under criticism for the construction of a wall at Sardarnagar, which is situated along a road that leads to the Indira bridge on the outskirts of the city from the Ahmedabad International Airport.
The Gujarat Congress had alleged that the wall is being built to keep the slum colony, where people live in poverty, out of sight of the US President.
"The BJP government and the AMC are trying their best to hide reality from Trump. Instead of alleviating poverty, the ruling dispensation is hiding the poor by building a wall. It proves that poverty has increased manifold during the BJP's 25-year rule in Gujarat," said Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi.
The Shiv Sena also hit out at what it termed as Modi's plan of "Garibi Chupao" and alleged that the preparations underway for the US president's visit reflected a "slave mentality" of Indians.
AMC officials refuted the allegations and claimed that the construction of the wall, around four feet in height, was approved much before Trump's Gujarat visit was finalised.
"This wall, around 500-meter-long and four feet high, has nothing to do with Trump's visit. A wall was already there since many years. After it got dilapidated, we decided to build a new one. An online tender was also issued over a month back, much before Trump's visit was announced. This is compound wall is surrounding our plot," Deputy Municipal Commissioner KB Thakkar told PTI.
He also added that it was unclear whether the road along which the wall was being made will be used by Trump's motorcade.
Another AMC official said that efforts were being made for the upgradation of the Sardarnagar township. The wall was being built to "protect a nearby green patch from garbage dumping by slum-dwellers", he said.
This is not the first time that such "beautification" efforts are being undertaken by authorities at the time of visits by dignitaries or other high-profile events.
Ahead of the Vibrant Gujarat summit which took place in Ahmedabad in 2017, civic authorities had covered the Saraniyavaas slum near the Indira Bridge with a green house shade cloth, leading to a feeling of alienation among the slum dwellers, said a report in the Ahmedabad Mirror. The report goes on to say that the roadsides shanties of daily wage labourers had been pulled down in Gandhinagar as part of the "facelift".
Ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, around 2 lakh people across 19 sites in the National Capital had been forcefully evicted, a study by the Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) had revealed. The Public Works Department had also planted bamboos and other plants to cover up "unpleasant sites", including a slum at Nehru camp, says a report in Outlook. The Delhi government also launched a controversial drive which aimed to rid the city of beggars.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Feb 24, 2020 07:50:42 IST