Surat : The Supreme Court of India on Tuesday directed the authorities of the Western Railway (WR) to immediately maintain status quo on the demolition of the slum settlements in the jurisdiction of the railway department between Surat and Udhana railway station till Wednesday.
Amid the heavy rains on Tuesday, the WR authorities struck at the slum settlement with the staff of more than 400 people and heavy police bandobast to demolish the slums. About 9,000 huts and kutcha houses in the railway’s jurisdiction between Surat and Udhana railway station are to be demolished to pave way for the laying of the third railway track between the two stations.
Earlier, the WR authorities had served notices to the slum dwellers to vacate their respective houses and cooperate in the demolition activity. However, over 10,000 slum dwellers demanded that the WR authorities should provide them EWS houses, before carrying out the demolition of their houses.
Senior advocate Zameer Shaikh told TBT, “Despite the Supreme Court’s status quo on the demolition drive, the WR authorities continued bulldozing the huts and kutcha houses for more than half-an-hour. This is a clear case of contempt against the Supreme Court order to maintain status quo. It was after the Supreme Court’s order was furnished to the railway authorities, the demolition drive stopped”
Shaikh added, “It is inhuman on the part of the railway authorities to render the slum dwellers homeless without giving them alternative dwelling place. To top it all, the demolition drive was carried out amid heavy rains and that the slum dwellers watched their houses razed to the ground”
According to Shaikh, the senior advocate of Supreme Court of India, Colin Gonsalves appearing on the behalf of the petitioner has prayed for urgent listing of the matter by stating that in compliance of the order passed by the Gujarat High Court on August 19 in the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) number 222 of 2914, whereby the court has given direction for eviction of over 10,000 slum dwellers. However, the concerned railway authorities started the demolition work on Tuesday.
Shaikh said, “The matter will be heard in the Supreme Court on August 25, until then the railway authorities will not be able to carry out demolition”
Krishnakant Chauhan, environmentalist and social activist told TBT, “The demolition and forced evictions without permanent rehabilitation have made thousands of slum dwellers homeless. This is a clear violation of human rights during the pandemic period. There are women, children, elderly and people with special needs, who have been rendered homeless. This is an utter inhumane act on the part of the railway authorities. We are surprised the Union Minister of State for Railways, Darshana Jardosh, who is the MP from Surat, was mum on the entire episode”