The actions of the Indian Railways vis-a-vis slums are governed by two legislations:

  • Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1971  The Railways Act, 1989.

There have been cases where slums settled on Central Railway lands have been demolished time and again, without adhering to any specific R&R policy. Some cases from several Indian states listed below depict the issues faced by the residents of settlements on Railway land.

Gujarat

In the city of Surat, around 14 settlements with a population of 15,000 living along the railway tracks, have faced evictions numerous times during the last 40 years. While no notices are provided to the communities prior to eviction, all the settlements have been surveyed for Rajiv Awas Yojana. As years passed by, the slum population also increased. In 2010 it was reported that there were almost 12,000 dwelling units (up to 60,000 people) along the railway tracks in Surat. During eviction drives, the authorities often indulge in violence, but when it comes to the issue of rehabilitation no authority accepts the responsibility nor do they show any willingness to provide relief.

Jharkhand

Chhai Gadda slum in Dhanbad, located along railway tracks, has around 300 households. Most of the people living here belong to the Scheduled Castes and other minority groups. Since 1998, there have been approximately ten forced evictions from this slum, and in most cases, only about

10 percent of the slum dwellers received the eviction notices. In 2008, the community of 100 dwelling units was forcibly evicted using extremely violent measures. In protest, the slum dwellers took out a seven-day dharna and approached the Divisional Railway Manager’s (DRM) office regarding the blatant violation of human rights. Instead of assisting the victims, the evicted were informed that they would not receive any help from the state government, as the land belonged to the Central government. Besides, they were directed to approach the Deputy Commissioner to discuss the issue of rehabilitation.

The scenario is similar in the city of Ranchi with a large number of demolitions occurring along the railway settlements. An eviction took place in 2011, but the Railways did not utilize the emptied area for any purpose, and the land still lies vacant. The evicted families are now living in a JJ cluster on a nearby road, minus any basic amenities. A small well has been constructed by the families to access drinking water.

Kadru Pul Toli is another Railway land settlement that received an eviction notice. 135 households of the community approached the High Court against this notice. The case is yet to begin proceedings. The settlement is devoid of any basic physical infrastructure and social amenities. In Jamshedpur, four settlements were evicted owing to the expansion of the Jamshedpur – Ranchi railway tracks. The eviction notice in one of the slums was delivered months after the issue of the notice and just a day before the actual eviction.

Delhi

Pul Mithai is located in the old Delhi area. It has the biggest wholesale grain market, and the main occupation of the residents is to sell segregated grain chaff in the market set up in the region on Sundays. The Railways’ department demolished their settlement once in the 90s, when they stayed over a bridge; and subsequently in 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2010. In the last demolition, the authorities were supposed to only demolish vacant quarters. However, they eventually ended up demolishing up to 500 homes. The people vehemently resisted the move, but they were faced with police violence and lathi charges (batons). Many dwellers were injured, especially women. Sahar Adhikar Manch, a Delhi based forum filed a petition in the Delhi High Court to stop the demolition.

In Delhi, the demolitions follow a pattern. Usually, no prior notice is given to the people. Armed with bulldozers and a large contingent of police forces, the demolition squad suddenly arrives on a fine morning and begins demolishing the slums.

Cases of Proper Rehabilitation

While the above are some of the cases where the slums on Railway land have been brutally demolished, there are cases where the same kind of slums have been given proper relocation and resettlement options.

Bihar

In 2006, in Patna, a new platform was to be constructed at Pataliputra station near an over bridge constructed between Patna and Digha. A slum, consisting of approximately 950 families living along that extent, received an eviction notice. The Jhuggi Jhopdi Sangarsh Morcha (a state based forum) filed a case against the eviction and received an order in 2008. The order stated that none of the families that were supposed to be evicted would be removed, unless and until they received proper rehabilitation. The case was filed on the basis of the fact that 250-odd families had received Patta Right (land on lease) from the state government and the same land had been transferred to the Railways. The slum still exists at the same location and negotiations are on with the District Magistrate on a weekly basis.

Mumbai

The Maharashtra State has been successfully implementing the Slum Redevelopment and Resettlement Act, 1971. The Act states that any slum household that has been in existence before the year 2000, and is project-affected, will be rehabilitated without fail. The only eligibility criterion for the same is to be listed in the voters’ list.

In Mumbai, a settlement was located fairly close to the Dahisar railway track, as a result of which, a new railway track could not be set up. Eventually, approximately 350 slum dwellers were rehabilitated close to the original location by the Railway authorities. The same was done for 20-25 households settled near the Andheri railway track. This action has been a joint collaboration of the Central Railways and the Mumbai Rail Corporation. These households are given a house of 225 sq feet, which was revised to 270 sq feet in the year 2005.

There are cases where some residents have sold out their houses and have gone back to living in slums. The obvious reason, which one can assume, is poverty and the maintenance fee that these ex-slum dwellers have to bear while living in the high rise buildings. Thus, the question arises – is resettlement enough?

Let’s eradicate poverty

Global poverty is one of the very worst problems that the world faces today. The poorest in the world are often hungry, have much less access to education, regularly have no light at night, and suffer from much poorer health. To make progress against poverty is therefore one of the most urgent global goals.

The available long-run evidence shows that in the past, only a small elite enjoyed living conditions that would not be described as ‘extreme poverty’ today. But with the onset of industrialization and rising productivity the share of people living in extreme poverty started to decrease; and has decreased continuously over the course of the last two centuries. This is surely one of the most remarkable achievements of humankind.