Slum Movements

Geeta Nagar, Colaba

By the early 1990s, its population had grown to over 10,000, and was included in the census as a 'legal' slum in 1974. They were given plot cards, and paid 'rent' for occupation to the collector, and in turn were entitled to development funds. However, they were denied basic civic amenities including electricity, water and sewage because of the pressure of the Navy. About two-thirds of Geeta Nagar was on Navy defense land, and the remaining one-third on revenue land of the state government.

In 1992, the naval authorities reclaimed a creek around Geeta Nagar and constructed a wall to cut off Geeta Nagar from access to Navy Nagar. The wall also led to flooding in the monsoons as there was no outlet for water. Children lost the incentive to attend school, as there was waist-deep water during the rains and the poor inhabitants lost their daily earnings because they had to often skip work to save their homes from water-logging. Women who carried water in pots from TIFR had to make a detour which made life more difficult. No emergency exits were available in case of fire, medical emergency or cyclone, and the narrow path running through Geeta Nagar was incapable of handling such situations.

The slum dwellers were demonized and allegations were made by naval officials that they were habouring foreigners and therefore posed a security threat. A case was made out for the eviction of the slum with arguments such as: Sailors' morale will be low if a slum exists besides their houses, "what if one of our wives are molested?" 'Social evils' too were cited to throw the slum out.

The slum dwellers organized themselves and hit back. In February 1992, 6000 voters boycotted municipal elections as all parties contesting had failed to stop the atrocities of the Navy who had blocked their access. Eleven residents apart from Activists Shabana Azmi and Anand Patwardhan went on an indefinite hunger strike and even led a morcha to MP Murli Deora's office at Ketan Bhavan.

Sharad Pawar, who was then the Union Defence Minister, was lobbied, and at his intervention, a meeting was called in February 1992 by Flag Officer-in-charge Vice Admiral Johnson, where it was explained that due to the wall 5,000 children could not get access to their schools, ration shops had to shut as they couldn't get their supplies inside, access to hospitals was blocked resulting in deaths and complications, and even the dead corpses could not be evacuated from the slum. No construction material for repair too was allowed inside. It was an attempt to starve and smoke the people of Geeta Nagar out from their homes, the Navy was told by Nivara Hakk representatives.

After repeated negotiations with the authorities, on 24th April 1992, Nivara Hakk managed to wrest a commitment from the Navy to build an alternative metalled access road with proper lighting. As the struggle continued, in June 1992, Shabana Azmi and 20 others were arrested as they were accused of preventing naval authorities of constructing a wall. Azmi and P K Das had gone to Geeta Nagar to view the construction of the wall, However, to prevent protests by the slum-dwellers, the police attacked the people with a lathi charge, and in the melee scores of residents and journalists were assaulted and their film rolls from their camera removed. Shabana was bodily lifted and Das was dragged by the cops. Both were hurt in the scuffle and were later arrested on charges of rioting.

The Navy did keep its commitment to provide a tarred road but the harassment over water supply, electricity poles and general access continued. Post 1995 till 2000, the residents were regularly with the navy authorities disrupting water/electric supply at regular intervals, and by disallowing garbage collections by the municipal staff. The Navy spread its tentacles further and in 2000, provoked a demolition drive in an adjacent slum, Ganesh Murthy Nagar, where 200 huts demolished and their belongings set on fire.

The battle for civic amenities continued any by 2000, when Shabana Azmi became MP, water lines and some sanitation facilities were restored using her MPLADs fund.

The long-term aim of the Navy was to evict the slum altogether on the plea of 'security' considerations. However, the navy was only prepared to pay for the rehabilitation of around 800 families who had been censused in 1974, while the state government, due to changes in the Slum Law, insisted on all those who were eligible in 1995 to be provided alternative homes. A plot of land in Malad was also identified, and several rounds of negotiations with Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) were held with Nivara Hakk representing Geeta Nagar. These were inconclusive, the Malad alternative never came up, and the Navy failed in its attempt to oust the residents.

For this the credit must go to the unswerving unity of the people of Geeta Nagar, who held firm against grave provocation and harassment by the Navy. Despite occasion notices and threats from the Navy and the state government, the hutment colony continues to exist, and is one of Nivara Hakk's success stories where it was able to help the people organize themselves under the banner of the Geeta Nagar Rehavasi Sangh and the women's organization – the Geeta Nagar Mahila Vikas Sangh. The women's group began self-help work like running the ration outlet, while the water distribution mechanism, including payment and maintenance of water lines, till today is looked after by the Rehavasi Sangh.


Struggle Chronology


14th February 1992:

6000 voters boycott municipal elections for the failure of all parties contesting to curb the naval authorities from blocking access of the residents.

Eleven residents on indefinite hunger strike on 4th February to protest against the wall built by naval authorities which blocked access to the colony.

Morcha to MP Murli Deora's office at Ketan Bhavan

17th February 1992:

Meeting called between Vice Admiral Johnson, MP Murli Deora, NHSS, Geeta Nagar residents.

Result of the blocking by the wall – ration shops inside Geeta Nagar had to shut as they couldn't get supplies inside.

5000 children couldn't get easy access to their schools

Hospital access blocked, resulting in a complicated delivery/birth of a child in the slum itself.

Two dead bodies could not be removed for 3 days as no hearse was allowed inside.

No construction material allowed inside for repair.

Geeta Nagar exists since 1942 and Residents are photopass holders

20th June 1992- News Article: Prolonged struggle for acquiring basic rights for slum dwellers.

The Independent – Slumside Story

Fight between Geeta Nagar & Naval authorities

Geeta Nagar – Tip of South Mumbai, 20,000 residents, originated in 1942, legalized in 1974.

Navy Nagar was originally a holiday camp – few tents and shacks used by defence personnel as a weekend resort.

As Tata Institute of Fundamental Research came up and also holiday camp developed, hutments grew in order to house construction workers, gardeners, domestic labour, drivers, etc and occupied a narrow strip of land along the sea, it gradually became indispensable to Navy Nagar.

From 1974, its residents carry patch holders cards, pay rent to the collector, main source of labour to nearby areas – chiefly Navy Nagar. But still there is no electricity, water, sewage.

Naval authorized reclaimed a creek around Geeta Nagar and constructed a wall along it to separate its contact from the naval land.

Wall will increase flooding during monsoons as there is no outlet for water.

Only access to main road blocked. Alternate road built after a long struggle, provided by Navy poorly lit, barely metalled, condition likely to degenerate after one monsoon.

This road increases access time by a factor of two

Kids lost the incentive to attend school
Waist deep water in monsoon
Can't skip work even for a day

Main source of water from Tata Institute, carried in pots by women, detour makes life difficult.

No emergency exits in the wall constructed, in case of fire, medical emergency or cyclone, the narrow path running through Geeta Nagar will hardly suffice to reach this alternate road.

Navy always made it difficult for the slum to develop.
e.g., in 1991 best trucks carrying electricity line cables were consistently denied entry by Naval authorities
It was brought to notice by MLA Pathrawala but entry was denied.

Allegations that they were habouring foreigners and posed a security threat were made at regular intervals.

Sailors' morale will be low if a slum exists besides their houses "what if one of our wives are molested?" – "Social evils" given as excuse.

Geeta Nagar responsibility of Navy Nagar.

1991-1992 water tank and pipes laid, slum received a bill of Rs.40,000/-. But residents had running water only for a month after the pipe was installed.

Another slum, Ganesh Murti Nagar was diverting water illegally under the control of a few powerful residents and are conducting a business of selling water for ___________ high rates.

Rs.10 a jerry can (water rate)
BMC interested in profiteering by their misery
Elements within Geeta Nagar not allowing water in for vested interests.
Local Doctor said – If govt. body cannot prevent its water pipes from becoming totally non-functional, who else can?
NHSS sincere and loved by residents of Geeta Nagar

NHSS only inspecting alternate road but arbitrarily arrested and accused of trying to break the wall.

People see visibly the drama that occurs when a demonstration takes place. They have no idea how much work and day to day negotiations with various authorities precedes the final drama. Negotiations on since February, 1992.

P.K. Das – "Govt. has ingenious and insidious ways prevented the fruition of low cost slum improvement programme. For e.g., take the recent DCR which insist on an FSI of 2.5. This allows only the construction of high rise buildings which have both higher input and maintenance costs, hence which only private middlemen with large amounts of capital can finance. Totally against the interest of the poor".

Anna – Slums can be improved only if residents first get a sense of security. Eviction fear does not let them think about other matters.

"If the upper class wants slums to disappear, they must first not employ any one from there – no cooks, no drivers, no sweepers, no garbage-collector, no domestic help.
Slum dwellers should not be a demand for them. Anger should be directed at the government's inability to provide adequate housing" -NHSS member.

Upper class – more opinions, less information and even less will to acquire information.

Max Frisch, Swiss writer – They only asked for labour, but human beings came instead.

(Express Newsline) (accused of rioting and unlawful assembly at Geeta Nagar slum near Cuffe Parade in June 1992 they were accused of throwing stones at police officials.

10th June 1992 – The Independent

'Shabana Azmi arrested'

20 others arrested
Accused of preventing naval authorities of constructing a wall
The gap in the boundary wall of Navy Nagar to reach Navy Nagar bus stand
Azmi, Das injured in lathi charge
Residents threw stones on police officers

P K Das- "written agreement that alternate road will be provided before closing down access road."

Journalists were assaulted and rolls from their cameras were removed.

Times of India – 9th June:

Shabana hurt in scuffle with cops
Detained on charges of rioting

Police forcibly entered homes and beat up everyone, including women children.

Army claimed to have built the road

Police said 'mild cane charge' as it is sensitive defense area
People being prevented from moving in groups
A curfew without being declared a curfew
Agreement was signed on 24th April – to construct motorable road and provide civic amenities BMC would maintain the road.

MO Defence would examine within 3 months the feasibility of resettling the residents of the slum near the existing site as possible or MOD to request State Govt. to provide multi stories accommodation at alternate locations.

Also agreed to sea front embarkment road and link that as it would be the only access route for the slum dwellers and separate application by slum dwellers to the BMC for civic amenities for their colony.

Navy was supposed to inform of the completion of terms of agreement.

11th June, 1992:

Letter to Police inspector by advocate Anand Grover

1.30 p.m. 9th June- Das & Azmi reached Geeta Nagar as they were informed about a lathi charge on residents. 19 residents arrested.

Access of people being blocked . Only after NHSS finishes inspection , wall would be built.

But Das & Azmi were stopped by police
Das and Azmi climbed the roof of a house to view the construction of wall, suddenly a stone fell on the roof. Police officer ordered lathi charge. Indian Navy refused to intervene.

Azmi bodily lifted, Das dragged and lathi charged and hit with fist on face and pushed in the police van.

19 others were beaten up earlier
Arrest was illegal as there was no breach of peace or public tranquility by clients.

It is obvious that the whole thing was pre meditated on the part of the police.


2nd January, 1995:
60 feet coastal wall breaks down

2500 families in Geeta Nagar

27th December the wall broke down
Water came in no help from any authorities.

29th April- Residents had warned authorities in April about damages in the wall but the authorities told them to vacate the place for safety reasons.

Notice sent to residents to vacate, no mention of anything to do with wall repair.

Then all kept quiet. Eventually cracks became bigger and 60 feet wall collapsed.

Residents then appealed again to construct the wall

11th September 1995:

Vast Scarcity of water

No proper water supply since June 1995, neighbouring colonies get full supply

Population of 20,000 received water once a week

From 7 to 8 feet of water in tank it is now ½ foot in 6 to 7 days.

19th September 1995:

Virtual stoppage of water

Various problems with the Navy slums have been denied basic civic amenities.

Water supply was restored in December 1992 after intervention of defense Minister Mr. Sharad Pawar

Supply now reduced to trickle residents purchase water at Rs.6 a gallon from outside.

Foul play by corporate with hydraulic dept. officials suspected.

Add. M.C. directed on 5.4.94 to increase water

Dy.Hydraulic engineer casual about problem. Purchase of water expensive, physically ordous, health hazard

3rd Jan 1996 – Bund collapse (afternoon dispatch-courier)
Dec 27th bund collapsed- 2500 families of Geeta Nagar and Ganesh Moorthy Nagar

3.1.1996 – Cuffe Parade – as bund collapses (Indian Express)

Press release by Nivara Hakk - 1.1.1996

Requesting collector and state govt. to undertake restoration of work to avert human calamity and land erosion.

December 19, 1996- Azmi & Das were arrested when they appeared before the court of the Metropolitan Magistrate in response to a warrant issued against them some months ago. It was in connection with an old case of Geeta Nagar slum colony at Colaba where the dispute was going on since 1992. The warrant against her was issued as she had failed to appear in court earlier. Azmi spent the better part of the day in the room of senior inspector Ram Pawar. Later in the evening she was released on bail of Rs.5000/-.

13th April 1997 land filling

Letter to inspector of Police regarding false complaint against Sajid Khan lodged by relative of slumlord Rais Qureshi.

Rais Qureshi behind illegal land filling and sale of huts to innocent slum dwellers
Activist Sajid Khan was complaining against him and Rais was behind this attempt to frame him


13th January, 1999- Ration shop repair at Geeta Nagar
Letter to collector requesting for permission

21st December 1999- Letter from collector's office informing about violation in repair work done by Mr. Deepak Singh


9th March 2000
Letter to MP Shabana Azmi
Restoration work of 750 mts. Of old pipe line incomplete requesting for money.

28th September 2000
Proposal for works to be carried out under MP's fund at Geeta Nagar

1.Construction of S.W drains & passages
2.Providing M.S. entrances to the S.W. drain
3.Providing and laying 6" dia C.I. water pipelines for Geeta Nagar & Ganesh Murthy Nagar
Total Rs.24,00,000/-

15th December 2000 – Appeal to protest (Pamplet details as follows)

18th November 2000 – 200 huts demolished in Ganesh Murthy Nagar

Ambedkar Nagar slums broken to build helipad
No water, sanitation or road available there

Bombay citizen's Cuffe Parade registered case to evict Geeta Nagar slums

Navy registered case – closed sewage and placed two missles next to it to make case stronger
South Mumbai residents don't want slums. Slum dwellers goods burnt. 40 year old settlements being demolished.

Slums being thrown out of the city
Hence slums should be prepared for a fight/struggle

All slums should come together. Every slum fears demolition. Hence unity is must.

23 December – 10 a.m.- Shivaji Park to Girgaon
Chowpatty – long march organized

V P.Singh & Shabana Azmi to participate and initiate
Demand to stop demolition, bring 1995 law into practice
All eviction notice /slum demolition details to be given to slum dwellers

(letter from Geeta Nagar Rahvasi Sangh, Social & Welfare Association Ambedkar Nagar, Ganesh Murthy Nagar, Nivara Hakk)

19th June, 2001- letter to sub-engineer (building) , BMC by SGNRS about housing colony.

6th August 2002- letter to principal secretary- housing from NHSS
Furnish details of Geeta Nagar for rehabilitation
Navy to provide financial support

31st December 2002 – Replacement of old water pipelines- request for new pipelines as there is water shortage. New because there are pucca houses which cannot be demolished to repair old pipelines. M.P. fund money


5th February 2005 – Some questions related to Geeta Nagar by GNRS

Bad roads inside & outside
Gutters clogged
Rumors about neighbourhood shifting in two months, thus creating fear.

Funds blocked hence no govt. authority can help
Help important to meet Chief Minister to voice our grievances
Request that till neighbourhood exists, let the funds flow so civic amenities are taken care of
As far as shifting – govt. has to give 2 – 6 months notice before shifting as per SRD 1995 law

22nd March, 2005
From GNKS to Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh
Regarding blocking of funds and conditions of Geeta Nagar

Established since 1960, 1600 houses. Mostly people working in Navy, Tata Institute, fishermen other odd jobs.

1976 photo pass book holders
Since 15 years, electricity & water provided
2 km from main road is Geeta Nagar
Roads in bad shape. No light on road leading to accident.

Till the time neighbourhood exists, give basic civic amenities

Fund stopped on request of Navy. Navy claimed 4 areas – Geeta Nagar, Sundar Nagar, Sudham Zopadi, Azad Nagri but only Geeta nagar funds blocked

To protect basic human rights – give access to funds