Video Producer: Maaz Hasan
Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
On 24 August, around 500 slum settlement of jhuggis were completely razed to the ground near the Surat Railway Station by Western Railway leaving those families homeless. I had visited those families in Surat's Mafat Nagar, Angashi Nagar, and Milan Nagar days after their homes were razed.
My words won't be able to explain and my heart would not be able to feel the amount of pain and helplessness they were going through. The environment was filled with agony as tears were rolling down the cheeks of the residents.
It's been over three months since the incident took place, the situation hasn't improved. In fact, it has gotten worse.
These people continue to live around the wreckage of their homes without a roof over their heads. And when I tried to speak to them about their situation, they couldn't control their emotions and they were all in tears.
"It's been three months since my room was demolished. I have young daughters. When I go to sleep at night, I fear for my daughters and pray nothing wrong happens to them. I am unable to sleep all night. I don’t know how I can go to work, take care of my children's education, earn money, and pay the rent. As a woman with two young daughters, where do I go? Such is my situation."Manju Ben, Resident
Pinky, a resident of Mafat Nagar who got married 15-20 days ago, says her family is also very scared of sleeping fearing any wrongdoing might happen in the night. She says there are quite a few thieves around and their humble belongings get stolen many times.
"We have a lot of problems in bathing, having food. Nobody goes to work. My siblings fall ill, and we don’t even have the money to buy medicines. We have a lot of problems. What do I even say?"Pinky, Resident
Most of them I spoke to said that these are the worst times of their lives as they have to live in the open amidst the pandemic braving the changing weather conditions without basic amenities food, shelter, and work.
Even since our house was razed, we don’t even have work. We don’t have money. We haven’t been able to move away from here. To go anywhere else, we would need money for the security deposit of another room. We don’t have money for the security deposit.Saiyed Minaz, Resident
"For the last three months that we are here, we have faced rain and cold. A few days ago, when it poured, we had to sleep while getting wet in the rain. It was cold. If we would have gotten sick, we didn’t have money for medicines. We don’t even have blankets. We have two bedsheets and we are five members in the family. How will we manage?" asks teary eyes Minaz.
Residents of the localities want the government to intervene in the situation and provide them alternate housing solutions under various housing schemes.
"I request the government to allot us a house. We won’t stay here. We have lost our jobs too. I have just one earning member and four kids to feed in the family."Manju Ben, Resident
There are around 21 settlements with about 10,000 slums, on the railway land between Surat and Udhna. They had been living there for over five decades.
On 19 August 2021, the Gujarat High Court vacated its 23 July 2014 interim order of maintaining the status quo, which permitted the Western Railways to go ahead with the Surat-Udhna to Jalgaon project to lay a third railway track. The Railways served the notice to the slum dwellers to vacate the land within 24 hours. On 24 August, the Railways went ahead with the demolition.
The matter was heard in the Supreme Court. The Apex Court, on 25 August, ordered to maintain the status quo on demolition and the next hearing is due on 14 December 2021.
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