In 2009, Indian National Congress decided to introduce BRTS in Vizag. The Greater Vishakapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) widen the road for BRTS using Railway land. This lead to a land dispute between them. The slums in the areas of dispute are left helpless as a result.
The residents of 34 Ward, Gandhinagar in Kancharapalem Mettu is one such slum. The residents have been staying here since last 50 years. There are about 50 families and about 31 children.
The Railways authority wants the residents of Gandhinagar to leave this slum. Even the current government, Telugu Desam Party is eager to set-up BRTS corridor.
Meet Venkatrao, he is a resident of Gandhinagar since 1974. His family, like many other families in the village, earn their daily bread by washing and ironing clothes.
About 30 clothes are handled by his family gets per day. He charges 20 rupees for a set of pant and shirt. This has been a steady source of income for his family. The village does not have tapped water supply. Even the ground water is not consumable but they have a water tank of 5,000 liters. Families have to fill their several pots and bring it home.
There are no basic amenities like drinking water, electricity or toilets in this village, says Venkatrao. Hence, they have to go in open which is already in a dirty condition. The women have to go early morning or ensure no man is around the day time. The Commissioner of GVMC has tried to bring this matter to attention by sanctioning 12.70 lakhs but Railways has stopped all such attempts made.
Venkatrao says that many politicians have come here to either give promises or threaten them to relocate but 40 years have passed no decision has been made. There was an attempt made to install electric meters but the all they have received is 6 solar street lights which work from 5 pm in the evening. While this an aid to the residents, it not adequate for the entire slum.
Most of the households in the area have a member who is an alcoholic. At least half of the income is spent on alcohol per day. These are mostly the male members of the family. Another household problem which bothers Venkatrao is the fact the nobody in the village has studied after tenth grade. This is because they can’t afford the cost of the tuition and books. The children below 10th aren’t regular students despite the fact they get meals in school because both the parents are working and they have to stay back and look after the younger siblings. There is also a trend where families would go to the private hospitals for child delivery, Venkatrao strongly opposes this as he believes Government hospital are competent and they don’t have the resources to afford the private hospitals. But due to popularizing the belief that private health care is better, many families get trapped in debt.
There are piles of broken bricks in this slum. These are dumped by GVMC, there is no collection of trash from the slum. They have just accepted their fate to live is such horrible conditions, says Venkatrao. Few families have managed to run a scrap yard. Every 2 weeks the truck comes and collects all the scrap for a sum of 1500-2000 rupees.
But all these things problems have taken a back seat lately because if they are relocated their source of income and benefits like as government schools and hospitals would no longer to available.The residents have applied for flats online as per the guidelines but they don’t expect much out of this( Despite the fact all of them have Adhar Cards). Moreover, they don’t want to be relocated. The suggested areas are very far some the school, hospital and the city (where they earn their livelihood).
Meet Laxmi, she takes cares of her family. There are no male members in the family. She stays with her mother-in-law, 2 children and one nephew. She works as a maid and she has been working at a particular household for 10 years.This year her master decided to build a house for her as their token of appreciation. Laxmi insisted that giving cash would be more appropriate and informed that the authorities won’t let the construction happen. But the master promised her no authorities will get in the day. The construction was done by 17th December and her new home was demolished by 21st December. Laxmi says, it’s a shame that we are not allowed to build our homes. We are forced to live such pathetic conditions even when we can uplift ourselves. The construction cost of her new home was 2 lakh rupees. After demolition she had to spend 30 thousand rupees to pay for labor charges, the material cost in order makes it habitable again.
The map shows the construction of colonies, stores etc along the railway land or on GVMC land. Such structures will never be relocated since they are made properly and this one of the main reasons behind the demolition all the pukka house structures in the slum as once they sustain a period of time they can’t be demolished with proper procedure.