“Look at the condition of this place. Our houses were located here but now it’s all levelled, and we don’t have a permanent roof over our heads. How long should we live on the streets or with our relatives. This was a govt housing scheme, where is the govt?” asks a visibly frustrated Anita Patel.
Anita lived with her family at a low-income housing society, built by the Gujarat Housing Board, in Odhav, Ahmedabad where over 1,000 people resided across 84 blocks.
On 26 August 2018, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation issued an eviction notice at the society asking residents and tenants to immediately vacate the flats. However, just a couple of hours after the notices were put up in the building, two buildings in the society collapsed, killing one and injuring four.
One year later, neither the civic body nor the state government heard the grievances of former residents of the low-income housing scheme who are having a difficult time living on rent or taking temporary refuge at their relatives’ homes.
‘Government Doesn’t Care About Rehabilitation’
Ramji Turah a former resident of the colony told The Quint how the local administration made hollow promises and never fulfilled them.
“We met the local authorities several times. Earlier they used to assure us that homes will be provided at Vatva, and that our cheques have been finalised. But a year has passed and the government has not paid any attention to us,” Ramji Turah said.
However, the residents have received support from Independent MLA, Jignesh Mevani’s Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch (RDAM) in their fight for rehabilitation and resettlement.
RDAM Volunteer Hema Solanki told The Quint the government had barred residents from building shanties in the plot where the low income houses once stood.
“The residents requested the government to relocate them to the nearby AUDA residential blocks temporarily. But there was no response. Then the residents thought of building shanties here, but that too was not permitted. They were told that all the buildings here are dangerous and you can’t live here,” Hema told The Quint.
“My monthly rent is Rs 5,000 and electricity bill is Rs 2,000. To top it off there is recession and small factories are shutting down, so we get work at times or we don’t. Every month I get tensed thinking about the landlord – how do I pay the rent?”Ashok Wankhede, a former resident of the colony
“CM Vijay Rupani had come here and said that in 6-7 months they will relocate us to empty housing blocks, or else they will make temporary provisions. But a year has passed and people have scattered,” Ashok added.
Power of Attorney Holders Have No Claim
Fenil Mevana from RDAM spoke to The Quint about how those who purchased an apartment from the original owner through power of attorney are ineligible for compensation despite spending over a lakh.
Fenil explained, “If I sell you my home, then the property documents will be made on a Power of Attorney with my name on it. But when something happens to the home (like building collapse), only the original owner, which is me, will be eligible for compensation; those who purchased the home on power of attorney will not get anything.”
Maya Naik is a widow who lived in the Odhav low income housing scheme after buying the property through a power of attorney from the original owner.
“I saved every penny I could to purchase this home on a Power of Attorney. The government gave this home away for Rs 60,000 while I purchased it for Rs 1,20,000 – double the money. After the buildings collapsed and the rest of the society was levelled I was told that I will not get a new home now, because the seller is the original owner, and he gets the benefit. Doesn’t the Power of Attorney holder have a right?”Maya Naik, Former Resident of the colony
Authorities Pass The Buck
The Quint reached out to Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner Vijay Nehra several times on the phone; he responded through text and said that Gujarat Housing Board doesn’t fall under the purview of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.
We also reached out to Mukesh Puri who said that only the housing secretary can make a statement on the matter; however, Puri is the Principal Secretary of the Urban Housing Development Board.
Finally we reached out to the collector of Ahmedabad, Vikrant Pandey, who categorically said, “Rehabilitation and resettlement of former residents of Odhav falls on the AMC and no one else.”
The former residents have now written to the President of India with the demand that if they are not rehabilitated and resettled they will be forced to end their lives.