The slum of over 300 homes first came up in the mid-1980s sandwiched between marshy, creek land and Guru Nanak Hospital in Bandra East. In the first series of demolitions, Nivara Hakk organized the people to resist and continue to defy the bulldozers of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation., and not to give their land. It was a slow and costly resistance with people rebuilding their homes after each of the BMC demolition drives.
When other methods failed, a new method for eviction was used. In April 1991, lumpen elements in collusion with BMC and police officials set Indira Nagar slum on fire. On 8th April, 485 houses were gutted by fire suspected to have been lit by a BMC demolition squad led by ward officer Mr.Herekar of H/East ward. The BMC squad had come for demolitions, the officers started talking to the slum dwellers and kept them engaged, meanwhile some officers and lumpen elements entered huts and soon those portions were on fire. Women ran to rescue their children and whatever belongings they could. No fire brigade was called for a long time.
This slum was located on land marked for residential zone and existed since 1980. Nivara Hakk demanded a judicial inquiry and action against ward officer besides compensation for the slum dwellers. Nivara moved the Bombay High Court, and an injunction against summary demolitions was won. This helped residents come back and slowly the people returned and rebuilt their homes with tin sheets and bamboos initially; and later more pucca huts came up. Nivara coordinated the relief and rebuilding work by setting up a balwadi and centre for women that gave sewing classes.
In July 1997, the Collectorate officials told slum dwellers that the land is reserved for some other project and slum dwellers will have to be removed. This again created fear. Since seawater creek with mangroves borders the slums, it was hardly possible for any other project to be located on the site considering the provisions of the CRZ regulations. Nivara Hakk again intervened and demanded that the state government inform the locals of their plans.
In a long, cat-and-mouse battle for survival, the slum hung on and became more settled over the years. In 1998, funds from the MPLADs scheme of Shabana Azmi, who had by then become an MP, were used to lay fresh gutter and toilet lines, improve the balwadi and pave the narrow pathways within the slums. About Rs 8 lakh of allocations were used to improve the slum.
Despite all this, the enemy within proved to be more deadly than the opponents of the slum from outside. The local residents committee groomed by Nivara, ignoring the advice of the orgnaisation and attracted by the greed and sops offered by the Ashtaputre Builders, tied up with a redevelopment scheme, trading most of their land for sub-standard rehab buildings in one corner of the plots. Today most of the area surrendered by the slum committee has been developed into multi-story, glassclad, gleaming commercial office buildings, sold or rented at huge premiums.
The once, open and sparse marshy area is a choked commercial area today, a mockery of the CRZ law. Even the little balwadi and sewing centre for women has been obliterated without a trace by the builder.
9th April, 1991: Press Release
Indira Nagar Fire
On 8th April, 485 houses of Indira Nagar, Bandra east were gutted by fire suspected to have been lit by a BMC demolition squad led by ward officer Mr.Herekar of H/East ward.
People living on land marked for residential zone since 1980. BMC demolished before, NHSS brought a stay order in 1989.
The ward officer refused to discuss. Immediately on the first move of the demolition squad a fire started. They soon disappeared and did not call on the fire brigade.
Judicial inquiry and action against ward officer needed. BMC should give compensation.
3rd July 1997 – Letter to Collector – BMRDA building about 500 families live there, NHSS working there since 1986.
There is a stay order for demolition . collectorate officials told slum dwellers that land is reserved for some other project and slum dwellers will have to be removed. This has created fear. Since seawater creek with mangroves borders the slums, it is hardly possible for any other project to be located on the site considering the provisions of the CRZ regulations.
Considering the above facts, please inform us of the govt. of Maharashtra's plans for the area, so that the same can be communicated t o the residents of the slum.
1st March 1998: Letter to Shabana by locals request to lay new gutter and toilet lines –budget of Rs.3,70,100/-
17th April, 1998: Sanction letter by MP Azmi for 2 toilet blocks, gutters and drainage, paving – total – Rs.7,75,000/-