April 07, 2012

Bangladesh: Eviction of Slum in Dhaka Creates Humanitarian Catastrophe

This post was first published in Global Voices Online

On Wednesday (4th of April, 2012) the dwellers of Karail slum, one of the biggest in the Bangladesh capital, were evicted by the authorities to free Gulshan Lake from land grabbers. The inhabitants were given short notice via miking in the previous day, which many might have missed. Thousands of structures including houses and shops were demolished on less than a day's notice at 80-acre land of BTCL in Karail and other slums in Dhaka. A slum dweller claimed that her 4 year old girl has been missing as soon as bulldozers had hit the shanties.
The Incremental House posted a case study on this expansive slum:
The entire settlement is resistance. It is on someone else’s land. Morphologically, it couldn’t be any more different than the surrounding wealthy estates of Gulshan and Banani. The water bounds is. The inhabitants have set up full formal transportation networks of boats to ferry people to and from their jobs.
[..] It is pretty clearly planned, does that make it a space of resistance? Where does it gets it water and electricity from? The boats scrape the water pipes floating in the water. The pipes tap into the main lines in Banani. Someone is controlling it. Electricity is strung over the water, again tapped into the main line.
Here is a short video (uploaded by lizscarff) showing glimpses of coexistence of rich and poor in the surroundings of Karail slum.

In my Bangla blog I wrote [bn] about the background of the eviction:
গত বছর ২০শে সেপ্টেম্বর রাজউক এরকম স্বল্প নোটিসে আরেকটি উচ্ছেদ অভিযান চালায় সেখানে। পুলিশ আর পাড়ার মাস্তানদের দ্বারা ১২০টিরও বেশী পরিবার উচ্ছেদ করা হলেও পরে তারা আবার এসে বাসা করে। গত ২০০৮ সালে প্রথম পিডাব্লিউডি উচ্ছেদের নোটিশ পাঠালে আইন ও শালিস কেন্দ্র পুনর্বাসন ছাড়া উচ্ছেদ মানবাধিকার লঙ্ঘন এই বলে হাইকোর্টে একটি স্টে অর্ডার নেয়। সেই মামলার বিভিন্ন শুনানীতে পুনর্বাসনের কথা বলা হয় তবে গত জানুয়ারীতে হাইকোর্ট সরকারকে আদেশ দেয় দুই মাসের মধ্যে এই বেদখলকৃত জমি উদ্ধার করতে - তবে সেখানে পুনর্বাসনের কোন কথা বলা হয় নি।
Last year on 20th September RAJUK (housing authority) went for another eviction drive giving short notice. Police and local goons forced 120 families out and destroyed their homes but later they came back. In 2008 PWD (Public Works Department) first sent the eviction letter to the slum dwellers. Ain O Shalish Kendro, an NGO advocated for them and obtained a stay order from the court claiming that without rehabilitation such eviction is a violation of human rights. In different stages of that trial the issue of rehabilitation was discussed at various lengths. But last January the court ordered to free those lands from land-grabbers and award the owners (govt agencies) - but there was no mention of any rehabilitation of the existing dwellers.
করাইল এলাকার এইসব ভূমিহীন বস্তিবাসীর ৩০ ভাগ দিনমুজুর, ২০% রিক্সা-ভ্যান চালায়, ১৮% গার্মেন্টস কর্মী ও ১২% ছোট ব্যবসা করে। তাদের মাসিক আয় ২৫০০-৪৫০০ টাকা এবং স্থানীয় মান্তানদের ৮০ স্কয়ার ফিটের ঘর ভাড়া দিতে হয় ৮০০-১২০০ টাকা।
More than 30 percent of the dwellers of Karail Slum are day labourers, 20 percent rickshaw and van-pullers, 18 percent garments workers and 12 percent small traders. An average family earn only BD Taka 2,500-Tk 4,500 ($30-$52) a month and they have to pay local influentials BS Taka 800 - 1200 ($10-$14) for rent of a 80 square foot illegal shanty house.
Residents of ‘Karail Slum’ take part at a human chain to express their demands. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (18/2/2012)

Julkarnain questions [bn] the eviction without any plans to rehabilitate these people:
আমাদের মানবিক বিবেচনা কী দিন দিন হারিয়ে যাচ্ছে? নাকি বিবেচনার গলা টিপে রোবোটিক হয়ে উঠছি প্রতিনিয়ত আমরা? এমনিতেই শহরে প্রচুর ভাসমান লোক এখানে সেখানে বসবাস করে। তার সাথে যদি এরা যুক্ত হয় তাহলে শহরের না কোনও সৌন্দর্য বর্ধন হবে না আইন-শৃংখলা পরিস্থিতির কোনও উন্নয়ন সাধন হবে।
Are we losing our humanity? Or whether we are strangling our power to considerate and are being robotic? The city is filled with landless destitutes. If these people join in the gang of homeless people then the city won't be beautified and the law order situation will deteriorate.
The slum dwellers protested forming a human chain and blocking important roads of the capital creating a chaos in the roads. The traffic was suspended in the Gulshan Mohakhali link road on Wednesday for three hours creating long tails in many roads of the capital.

Twitter users also expressed their opinions.
@nhasan89: I think today is a dark day that will go down in history. The people are being pushed to their absolute limit. #karail #freebangladesh
@EEP_shiree: A devastating eviction in Karail slum on April 4 broke nearly 45,000 houses … what can we do for these urban extreme poor people?
@KorviRakshand: At this moment, thousands of people are homeless and without shelter at the Karail Slum near Banani Lake. http://t.co/LpeAmBnk
Shanty dwellers of Karail Slum take shelter at T&T Colony ground in Gulshan after eviction. Image by Firoz Ahmed (Copyright Demotix 5/4/2012)

@shahanasiddiqui: It's unbelievably dark out - #kaalboishakhi - summer storm. Really worried about the ppl of #karail who are out under the open sky
@mehrabsaurav: Lying in my bed but thinking about the homeless people who were evicted from Karail Slum. I feel helpless, I couldn't be of any help! #Dhaka
@shahanasiddiqui: Hey everyone, @JAAGOFoundation is preparing food for the #karail evictees. help needed with distribution. Pls be there by 12 noon TNT field
@JAAGOFoundation: For the last 36 hours, we have been distributing food to the victims of the Karail Slum Demolition from a small… http://t.co/NarANbkC
Heavy downpour on Friday made the situation worse for the evicted slum dwellers.

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