More than thousand residents of Kuldeep Colony Mazdoor colony, Pandit colony and Nehru colony protested at the junction of sector 16 and 17 next to the Parade ground, against the demolition notice sent to them by the Estate Officer, Chandigarh Administration. The people most of ordinary working-class persons, labourers, domestic workers etc chose to forfeit one day of their meagre incomes in order to make their voices heard to the Chandigarh administration. They had collected the under the leadership of Ghar Adhikar Sangharsh Morcha, a collective consisting of intellectuals, lawyers, professors, students which was formed in protest of the Chandigarh Administration’s policy towards housing colonies and the urban poor. The demands of the protesters were:
- Take Illegal Notice(s) Back: The illegal notice dated 17/04/2014 and other such notices, should be taken back and Eviction/Demolition Drive planned should be stopped with immediate effect.
- Rehabilitation of all erstwhile residents of colony no. 5: The GASM again strongly condemns the inhuman act of Chandigarh Administration by letting people to shiver on the road. We strongly demands proper shelter and rehabilitation for all the habitants of erstwhile Colony no. 5. We also demand that people residing in the Transit Camp, Sector-52 should not be removed for the time being till the arrangements being made for proper rehabilitation of all the residents.
- Conduct fresh bio-metric survey: In light of the data presented above the biometric survey that had been completed in 2006 and thereafter, had been done on a faulty manner and had not covered vast majority of residents who had otherwise been residing in the said colonies. Taking into account the discrepancy, we demand to conduct fresh bio-metric survey, so that all slum dwellers can be accommodated in the scheme.
- No Further Demolitions – Only Regularizations: That no colony in Chandigarh should be demolished and any Eviction/Demolition Drive planned or conceived should be stopped with immediate effect. Instead, regularization process should be started for all colonies in Chandigarh.
- In Situ Development, if Necessary: Where necessary, all colonies should be developed in an in situ manner i.e. at the same location with all reasonable amenities. This never ending cycle of displacement should be stopped.
- Conditions of Small Flat Scheme, 2006 should be relaxed: That the conditions for the allotment under Small Flat Scheme, 2006 should be relaxed to cover all families who have been residing in Chandigarh in all these years. As nearly 2/3rd of the affected families have been selectively excluded from the rehabilitation scheme due to stringent criteria laid down by the Administration, leaving several poor people in lurch, hence there is a violation of Basic Fundamental Right of Life as enshrined in Constitution.
- Single Proof of Residence should be Sufficient– That any single proof of residence should only be a criteria to avail benefits of Rehabilitation Scheme. As, the scheme is a welfare scheme and conditions should be construed liberally, and not strictly.
- Provide adequate and affordable/free Education, Healthcare, PDS, Electricity, Water, Sanitation, Market space, Employment opportunities, Transport, security facilities, and a safe and secure environment in ALL colonies/residential areas/slums, whether or not notified, on par with rest of the city.
Representatives from the Kajheri colony who are not even covered in the biometric survey of 2006 also put forth the demands. Residents from other colonies such as LBS colony, Madrasi colony etc also came to support the protest. Several residents whose houses had been demolished in November 2014 while they were living in colony No. 5 also became part of the protest. Several groups and political parties including the Communist Party of India (CPI) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) as well as the representatives from the Aam Aadmi Party Chandigarh participated and supported the protesters. Former Mayor Pradeep Chhabra, from the Congress addressed the gathering however due to strong protests against his government’s actions he was forced to withdraw from the protest site by the people.
A delegation of the protesters tried to meet the Finance Secretary, Mr Sarvjeet Singh IAS, who had promised to meet them and had sent an emissary to the protest site. However the said Officer did not meet the delegation. Thereafter the delegation met the Deputy Commissioner, Mohammed Shayin IAS who said that while we could meet and discuss the issues involved but he would not take back the notice dated 17/04/2014 and the colonies will be demolished notwithstanding any objections. The DC also said that people who come from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as migrants need not be given houses in Chandigarh and have no role in the city. Thereafter the protesters, occupied a part of the road between sector 22 and sector 17, for about 1 hour, protesting against the callous and lackadaisical attitude of the Chandigarh Administration. The protesters who occupied the road included young and old mothers with their young children, who refused to budge despite heavy police deployment including riot control vehicles etc.
Thereafter officers of the Administration namely the Additional Commissioner Municipal Corporation Chandigarh and other officers from the Chandigarh Administration were sent to negotiate with the protesters. They assured the protesters that the Advisor to the Administrator, Chandigarh Administration would meet them the next day to listen to the grouses and demands along with the DC. On this assurance the protesters vacated the road, and a delegation was again sent to meet the DC. The DC in very categorical words said that he will not withdraw the notice dated 17th of April 2014 and only his senior officer can withdraw or cancel the notice. He further said that they intend to demolish the colonies on 10th May and are not concerned where the residents of these colonies go. However, he still stated that this issue can be looked at by senior officers of the Chandigarh Administration including the Advisor to the Administrator.
The protesters dispersed with the promise that they will be back to protesting on the street if the legitimate and rightful demands are not fulfilled by the Chandigarh Administration. The convener of Ghar Adhikar Sangharsh Morcha, Sachinder Pal Singh told the protesters that the administration dare not touch these colonies and make thousands homeless as it did with colony No. 5 and all possible action and forms of protest will be explored to stop the Administration’s action.