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Supreme Court Stops Demolition of 21 Settlements on Railway Line in Surat

10,000 houses on railway land between Udhna and Surat are under threat of forced evictions for a third railway line.

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday, 24 August, ordered the status quo to be maintained and stopped the demolition activities of slum dwellings in Surat, near the Surat Railway station and Udhna Railway station.

About 21 settlements with 10,000 houses on railway land between Udhna and Surat are under threat of forced evictions for a third railway line, the Jalgaon railway line, between these two stations.

After the Gujarat High Court vacated its 23 July 2014 interim order of status quo on 19 August, and permitted the Western Railways to go ahead with the Surat-Udhna up to Jalgaon third Railway line project, the Railways served a notice to the slum dwellers on Sunday, 22 August, to vacate houses within 24 hours.

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On Wednesday, 25 August, the Supreme Court listed the matter for 1 September.

Meanwhile, no alternative accommodation has been arranged, no survey for damage assessment or rehabilitation has been conducted. Moreover, the residents have been demanding houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) for years but without success.

What Happened in 2014?

Back in 2014, the slum dwellers had approached the Gujarat High Court for protection from eviction without rehabilitation, after which the high court had guided the state government and railways to work together to develop a policy/scheme for the rehabilitation of the said slum communities. The state government did not carry out any preventive steps after this.

The Gujarat High Court through a judgment on 19 August vacated the stay and asked the slum dwellers to seek alternate housing from state government through a representation.

The residents have submitted a representation for allotment of alternative accommodations under the housing for all scheme of PMAY to the Secretary of Urban Housing and Urban Development, Gujarat.

The population of these dwellings consists of people from Maharashtra, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar. Most of the residents are informal daily wage workers, engaged in manual labour, as vendors.

The women in the community are engaged in domestic work. There are some waste pickers among the slum dwellers of the 21 slums.

Despite being an old settlement, their requests for basic services like toilet, water, footpath, anganwadis, have so far been ignored by authorities.

The plea filed in the Supreme Court said the petition has been filed for and on behalf of around 10,000 slum dwellers who are living near the Railway lines in the city of Surat.

“They have been residing on Railway land for more than 60 years now. Most of them have proof of residence… voter ID cards and ration cards…” it said, Indian Express reported.

Demolitions and forced evictions without permanent rehabilitation will make thousands homeless, violate their human rights, expose them to COVID-19, disrupt life and work cycles of families, especially women, children, elderly, and people with special needs.

(With inputs from The Indian Express)

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Topics:   Supreme Court   Gujarat   Surat 

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