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Bank frowns at eviction flout

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is sending a high-powered team to Calcutta on a fact-finding mission after it received complaints that “resettlement of evicted slum dwellers”, an important condition for approval of the $ 250-million ADB Calcutta Environmental Improvement Project, is being flouted.

Speaking exclusively from Manila, the principal project implementation officer of the ADB project in Calcutta, Alex K. Jorgensen, confirmed his visit next week to the city.

“I have been trying to get in touch with the administration in Calcutta, after receiving reports about people being evicted from areas under the ADB project, but have failed. The authorities have been informing us that the project work under our purview has not got underway, but the reports I am receiving from sources are different. So, I have decided to take a first-hand look myself when I go there,” Jorgensen told Metro on Monday. “In the meantime, I will ask the authorities to send me a detailed report,” he added.

Voluntary organisations have alleged that the government has flouted the basic condition for the ADB loan approval. It specifies that all evicted settlers have to be relocated, or the loan will be cancelled. The ADB loan approval pre-condition clearly states that “a detailed resettlement plan, approved by the ADB, has been prepared for the settlers along the canal banks, who will be relocated in a socially responsible way.”

The government has so far not worked out any project to resettle the evicted persons from all the canals in and around Calcutta. The ADB loan has been approved for borough I and boroughs 11 to 15, covering the canals of Keorapukur (west of Tolly’s Nullah), Monikhal, Churial, TP Lid and Intercepting Canal and also major parts of Tolly’s Nullah in borough 11 (wards 110-114 and borough 13 (wards 116-117).

The issue has now been taken up by over a dozen non-governmental organisations, comprising many evicted people as well.

“The government has flouted the norms of resettlement, not only in Tolly’s Nullah and Beleghata Circular Canal, but also other places where eviction has begun and ended. A paltry Rs 2,500 is not a resettlement package,” said Swapan Mukherjee of the Centre for Communication and Development.

Representatives of the Nagarik Mancha, Uchchhed Birodhi Mancha, Mahanagar Khal Bachao Committee and several other organisations, after a joint meeting in the city, decided to launch a campaign. “The government is not clear on the resettlement issue,” said Naba Dutta, an NGO spokesman.

The ADB’s resettlement plans have other unfulfilled clauses. When contacted, mayor Subrata Mukherjee said there was “no point in raising these issues.”

“The Tolly’s Nullah eviction happened a long time ago. I am not aware whether these people have been relocated anywhere,” he added.

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