In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court said that squatters have no right to encroach upon public land. The land mafia in Mumbai has long been exploited the politics underlying this issue to make easy money. And the relentless influx of immigrants from other states helped them to encroach upon more public land and later use the humanity card to ensure they get rehabilitated at state’s expense.
5 years ago, the west side of Mithi River at Bandra station was full of mangroves. Today countless shanties have come up their and it has been eating into the mangroves gradually.
The political parties have so long approached this issue with a pro-slum attitude. Since this comprise a huge vote-bank, they couldn’t, or wouldn’t want to, do anything. And whenever the Municipal Corporation embark upon a demolition drive, the local MLA would oppose and bring the whole proceedings to a halt. A case in point is the eviction of slum dwellers from Airport Authority Land at Kurla. BMC started the demolition but after MLA’s intervention, had to drop it.
The arguments invoked in such cases are, poverty, desperation etc. But the court rejected this arguments upright and said, “Poverty or desperation doesn’t mean they (encroachers) can do anything illegal”. If one poor man robs a bank and claim his desperation made him do it, does it stand in any court? The counsel should have known better.
The next argument was “there is no other places them to go in the scorching sun. The court retorted by “In India, we have three climates. Heat, Rain and winter. If we accept your argument, then there will never be an appropriate time to evict them”
Brushing aside other arguments based on compassion and these people are here since 1070 and came here to find jobs because they have no means of finding livelihood back home, the court said, “No one forced you to come here. Stay wherever you can. If public land encroachments are allowed, there will be anarchy. Tomorrow these people will start living here at Supreme Court claiming a right. If you are occupying public land, what to talk about fundamental right, you have no right to stay there for a minute longer”
An astounding victory for Municipal corporations, and a slap on the face of encroachers and activists who lobby for rehabilitation, I would say. Hope this will further strengthen the Municipal corporations to establish sanity and prevent further encroachment. In Mumbai, there are few open spaces left. This verdict may preserve them from the strangle hold of encroachers who keep coming in hordes into the city.