Evicted pavement dwellers at Salt Lake

On Monday afternoon, Adhir Bera (65) sat on a pavement in the posh Salt Lake City area on the eastern fringes of the city, staring blankly at the remains of his shanty. Mr. Bera, a rickshaw puller, claimed that he had been living in Sector 3 of Salt Lake “for about last 40 years”. But last week, civic officials along with the police forced him to remove his shanty from the pavement.

Mr. Bera is one among the “at least 10,000” slum dwellers and hawkers being evicted by the civic authorities ahead of the Fifa Under-17 World Cup to be held in Salt Lake under the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation (BMC).

According to activists, about 7,000 hawkers and pavement dwellers faced the threat of losing their homes and livelihood due to the eviction drive undertaken by the BMC during the last two weeks.

Ten matches of the Under-17 World Cup will be held at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Salt Lake starting Sunday.

“Civic officials told us that we have to be evicted as they don’t want tourists visiting the city for the World Cup to see poor people like us,” Mr. Bera told The Hindu. He further alleged that slum dwellers like him were being regularly threatened by police of legal action if they tried to set up shanties again.

As he got busy swatting away the flies buzzing over his meagre lunch, several others pavement dwellers gathered around the spot. Mincing no words against the police and civic authorities they alleged that they are not even being “allowed to sit on the pavement and eat.” “Whenever police sees us cooking on the sidewalks they drive us away and hurl filthy abuses at us. We are living under constant fear of getting arrested,” said Archana Mondal who works as a domestic help in the neighbourhood.

BMC mayor Sabyasachi Dutta, however, said that “these people are occupying the streets in an unauthorised manner and I am not bothered about what they are saying. If they had valid documents I would have definitely considered the matter.”

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