‘Don’t you trust us?’ they asked. We are camped in the debris of our lives. Our children are not reading books, they are learning slogans of resistance. Our RTIs, FIRs, Court Orders, Appeals, Letters written in blood – they all got crushed under the might of the bulldozer. And still they ask, ‘Don’t you trust us? We assure you we will take action…’
Medhatai is ailing, barely able to walk, but still on the 6th day of her fast she agreed to go to the Collector’s office to meet the Chief Secretary, Ratnakar Gaekwad. So we marched again, a thousand of us hopeful now, and waited below. More than 25 of us, representatives of slums across Mumbai, went on to discuss our issues with Chief Secretary, VP of MHADA – Satish Gawai, Suburban Collector – Nirmal Deshmukh and CEO of SRA – S.S Zende.
For over 4 hours, we showed them the rot that has spread in MHADA and the Builder’s lobby in Mumbai. Amongst other things, we wanted a new High Power Committee to be constituted to look into issues of displacement and corruption, with 4 representatives from the Civil Society (NAPM), and the Chief Secretary as Chairman. We were told of the High Court appointed Committee that is already in place since 2005 – the one that has held a full 3 meetings since then!
We asked for all bastis to be declared legal slums within 3 months and to stop all demolitions until then. We asked for a meeting to implement RAY (Rajiv Aawas Yojna) across all slums, so that everyone gets a chance to get a house without the involvement of a cut-off date. Our points were duly noted, but the Chief Secretary refused to make a time-bound agreement. He only gave us the assurance to act on our pleas. This coming from a man who is the head of more than 300 Committees…..We were told we were wasting his time by being so unreasonable, and made to leave.
Reason does slip a little, we admit, when one’s homes are broken down with such impunity. We want solutions, not empty promises. We want a government of action, not of assurances.