At Kapurai in Vadodara, about 130 odd families, mostly Muslims, who were allotted homes under the Basic Services to Urban Poor (BSUP) scheme after the demolition of the their slums at Sulemani Chawl, have been living without electricity and water supply since they moved in about a month ago.
On May 31, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) had demolished 318 homes in the Muslim-populated Sulemani Chawl as part of “Slum free Vadodara” project and started working on resettling them in Kapurai area on Dabhoi Road, where upper caste Hindus reside. Kapurai is located near Hanuman Tekri, where the infamous best bakery burning case occurred during the 2002 riots in which 14 people were killed. The bakery was run by a Muslim family.
On the eve of demolition of the Sulemani Chawl, the VMC officials carried a survey and identified 318 families staying in the area. On verification of their documents, the VMC zeroed down on 232 families that were eligible to get alternative housing in a housing scheme for the urban poor. Officials said that the civic body also conducted a draw to allocate houses to the beneficiaries from Sulemani Chawl.
However, on June 2, the residents of Kapurai wrote to the authorities, opposing the VMC’s decision to relocate the displaced Muslim families there. A delegation of residents met VMC standing committee chairperson Dr Jigisha Sheth and handed over a letter to her, stating that Muslims will “hamper the peace-loving nature of our locality”. The letter also accused that the daily activities of Muslims residing in Sulemani Chawl involved “assaulting and abusing”.
However, the authorities made it clear that they will go ahead with the rehabilitation of the displaced Muslim families to Kapurai. The residents of Kapurai, however, continue to protest against the relocation of Muslim families. Recently, a banner was put up by the residents, opposing the move of the Muslim families there. The banner read, “We staunchly oppose the Vadodara Municipal Corporation that has jeopardised the safety and peace of Dabhoi Road.” It was signed by “All Residents of Dabhoi Road”.
The 130 odd families that have moved into the housing scheme through a draw of lots conducted by the VMC for 232 homes on the eve of the demolition of the Sulemani Chawl, meanwhile, continue to live without water and electricity even though they have received the “letter of possession” from the VMC. The rest of the families still await the “letter of possession”. The residents claim that despite having paid the initial token amount of Rs 21,000, as per the mandatory process of procuring BSUP homes, many have not been given possession of the flats. Even those who have begun living in these homes – yet to be completed with basic amenities – say they are doing so only out of “compulsion”.
Ayesha Shakir Pathan, who had sought refuge in the graveyard at Memon Colony after the demolition of her house, is one of them. Ayesha says, “There is no power or water supply and the homes are unfinished. The workers have been routed to the other wings of the complex while our windows remain bare without panes and unfinished lobbies of the floor. We feel it is a deliberate ploy to frustrate us as the influential forces in the area have been opposing our relocation at Kapurai.”
According to the families, the VMC officials had informed them that out of Rs 21,255 down payment for BSUP homes, about Rs 6,000 was towards the installation of the Gujarat Electricity Board meters. The families allege that despite having paid the money, the VMC has not proceeded to complete the formalities.
Of the 318 families evicted from Sulemani Chawl, about 30 are Hindus. Bhagwati, 65, says she has undergone hip bone degeneration. “The flat allotted to me is on the fourth floor and there is no water supply in the apartment. Every day, they give us water for one hour in the main tank. It would have been better if they had crushed us under the debris of Sulemani Chawl. My Muslim neighbours have been helping me with water every day. And they talk about discrimination,” she says.
On July 18, a delegation of representatives from both communities submitted a memorandum to VMC Commissioner Vinod Rao. The memorandum, especially stresses on the need to give out the possession letters to the 102 families who have made the down payment. VMC Commissioner Vinod Rao told The Indian Express, “ I have called in the additional city engineer concerned to instruct him to complete the process at the earliest.” Regarding the draw of lots for the remaining 170 families who are still awaiting homes, Rao said, “We will complete it fast, but it (where they will be allotted homes) will depend on them. If they wish (to live in the Kapurai scheme), we will allot them homes here.”