Kolkata, June 6: On Thursday, June 6, Apne Aap Women Worldwide organized a jansunwai (public hearing) in Kolkata to take up the cause of 380 families rendered homeless by forceful eviction that has forced over 1,000 mostly poor people to live in the open and face the threat of human trafficking
The jansunwai was attended, among others, by Miloon Kothari, Founder HLRN and former special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, UN Human Rights Council; Shivani Chaudhry, Associate Director, Housing and land rights network (HLRN); Professor Malini Bhattacharya, former MP, former-Chairperson, State commission for West Bengal; Anuradha Talwar, Social Activist and Taj Mohammad, Advocate, Calcutta High Court, and Ruchira Gupta founder president of AAWW.
Around 383 families, mostly from a minority community, residing in the Topsia locality near Bridge no. 4 have been rendered homeless for almost seven months after they were evicted from their dwellings. The families, most of whom work as daily wage earners – rickshaw pullers, beggars, rag-pickers – were evicted in November last year.
“Around 380 families residing in the area, mostly from the lower caste Muslim communities, working as rickshaw pullers, daily wage earners, beggars, rag-pickers with an average monthly income between Rs.1500 to Rs.2000 had been forcefully evicted on Nov 10, 2012 with the help of cadres from political party in presence of police without any prior notification. Till date they have not been provided with any rehabilitation, other than a paltry amount of Rs.12,000 per household,” said Anuradha Talwar.
These families have not been able to find any place to stay and currently they are living under the open sky with constant threats of rape and murder from the local hoodlums and criminals.
Ever since the eviction, incidents of trafficking have increased manifold, and the children have stopped attending school. The efforts of the families to get the Police to register cases of missing children are in vain.
Ruchira Gupta said that after the eviction, incidents of trafficking had increased manifold and the children had stopped attending schools. She said four children were reported to be missing after the eviction. She demanded adequate housing for the victims, a creche for children who were forced to drop out of schools and identification of the goons.
“We have not found any place to stay and are living under the open sky with constant threats of rape and murder from local hoodlums and criminals. We don’t have any security of life,” said Seikh Tinko, one of the victim of Topsia eviction. Tinko added, “As of now, four children and one woman have gone missing. One woman has been murdered too.”
“The eviction defied all land acquisition laws,” member of the jury Taj Mohammad, also an advocate, said.
“The vulnerability of the children, especially the girls, is tremendous. They are in constant danger of being trafficked or being subjected to sexual exploitation. The government must immediately arrange for a night shelter for the people who have been evicted so that they do not have to sleep under open sky and a creche where the women can safely keep their children when they go out for work. Adequate housing, which is an integral part of the right to life, must immediately be provided to them,” said Miloon Kothari.
“The government had already mentioned that they would improve the living condition of the people living in the pavement but as a matter of irony they are themselves responsible for ruinment of the condition of these people. Moreover the government is still mum on this matter,” said Talwar.
“Apne Aap Women Worldwide, is looking at creating a civil forum through which we would try to garner support for the victims of eviction in Topsia.The organization also wants an impartial assessment of the case by key civil society members and look for their suggestions and recommendations to take the case of Topsia eviction victims forward through written representations, legal inputs and social action,” said Ruchira Gupta.
“Our purpose is to show the government the plight of the people to take adequate steps in rehabilitating the evicted dwellers so that sex-trafficking can be minimized apart from providing them with a decent living condition,” Gupta added.