Published: Sunday, Jan 29, 2012,
By Javed Iqbal | Agency: DNA
The residents of Bhim Chhaya at Vikhroli have been on an indefinite dharna since November 19, 2011. While they have been demanding land rights and a right to a home as per the Rajiv Gandhi Awas Yojna, they have also been demanding justice for the death of 14-month-old Jayesh Mohite who drowned in one of the miasmic ditches dug by civic authorities to prevent further ‘encroachment’.
The Vikhroli police, at the behest of angry residents, included the names of Mumbai suburban collector Nirmalkumar Deshmukh and deputy collector Shivajirao Davbhat in the First Information Report (FIR), charging them under Section 299, 304 as well as Section 304A, which states, “whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide.”
The officials filed for anticipatory bail in the courts and the deputy commissioner of police cleared the officials of the charges and instead submitted a three-page report detailing how the boy’s family are encroachers and anti-social elements.
Yet, before they were ‘encroachers’, in May 2011 the government had relented to a 9-day hunger strike by social activist Medha Patkar that had demanded, besides investigating fraud in the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme, to declare 19 settlements as slums under Section 5 of the Maharashtra Slum Area Act. Bhim Chhaya was one of them.
The right of a settlement to be called a slum would’ve given them rights and protected them from further demolition drives; the settlement was demolished repeatedly “from 2001, almost every year”, according to suburban deputy collector Shivajirao Davbhat. The government, however, relegated on its promise and the settlement was exposed to demolitions once again when on November 16, 2011, bulldozers arrived and ran through the settlement, burning down some homes, while ditches were dug up to make the land uninhabitable.
A little less than a month later, on December 12, Jayesh Mohite drowned in a ditch that wouldn’t have existed if the government had kept its word.
Builder lobby involved too