UN route for canal displaced

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By Staff Reporter
  • Published 22.01.03

Voluntary organisations battling against the eviction of settlers along Beleghata canal and Tolly’s Nullah have decided to approach the United Nations’ (UN) Human Rights Commission to protest against the eviction of people and the absence of a rehabilitation package, a basic condition for any foreign bank-loan approval. Representatives will also meet Asian Development Bank (ADB) officials to discuss the issue.

A spokesman for the displaced people, who have banded under the banner of Uchchhed Birodhi Mancha and other like-minded organisations, alleged that the most-important condition in the ADB loans for several projects in and around Calcutta has been the compulsory rehabilitation of the oustees.

“The UN law, which India has ratified, clearly says that if settlers are evicted from their homes, they will be rehabilitated elsewhere, but the Left Front government has ignored the clause completely,” said Swapan Mukherjee, secretary of Centre of Communication and Development, one of the many organisation fighting for the rights of displaced persons.

More than 6,000 families have been displaced from the banks of Tolly’s Nullah and Beleghata canal. Mancha officials alleged that apart from flouting rehabilitation norms, the government is yet to pay several families their share of compensation.

After evicting the settlers, the government had handed over a token amount of Rs 2,000 to each family. “There are a lot of issues we want to thrash out with the ADB representatives. They have a lot to answer for, mainly about their silence on the government’s strange stand that has left us high and dry,” said Mukherjee. Mancha members alleged that this year’s winter had claimed three lives among those evicted in the Beleghata drive. Over 4,000 families were displaced.

Mancha members further alleged that another multi-crore Calcutta Environmental Improvement programme, funded completely by the ADB, might also see the rehabilitation of displaced settlers being ignored.

The ADB project will cover improvement of boroughs I, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, and XV outside the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. The ADB condition, in a document available with Metro, says: “A detailed resettlement plan, approved by ADB, has been prepared for the settlers along the canal banks who will be relocated in a socially-responsible way.” The resettlement package also stresses on the needs of the socially-disadvantaged trash-sorters, who will lose their means of income, as the landfill sites becomes more sanitary.