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Corporates and builders are ruling India: Medha Patkar

Last updated on: May 23, 2011 20:20 IST

Corporates and builders are ruling India: Medha Patkar

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Prasanna Zore in Mumbai

It may not be social activist Medha Patkar's Anna Hazare moment, but the media is slowly trickling in to cover her fast-unto-death begun four days ago to protest against the high-handedness of Maharashtra's administrative machinery. Prasanna Zore reports from Mumbai

She is handling a dispute between a private builder and residents of Ganesh Krupa Co-operative Society, part of a huge slum redevelopment project, in Khar East, in Mumbai's western suburbs.

Speaking to rediff.com Patakar alleged that former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and his son were investors in Shivalik Ventures private Ltd, the developers who are allegedly behind the recent, forcible demolition of 70 houses out of the 180 that form Ganesh Krupa Society.

She also alleges that Unitech, against whom the Central Bureau of Investigation has filed a chargesheet in the 2G spectrum scam, is a 50 per cent partner in the venture.

How are you feeling now?

Doing better than Sunday (smiles).

How?

The body gets used to it (the hunger) after some time (smiles). Someone got a local doctor without informing me. He checked my blood pressure. I don't know what it is because I didn't bother to ask.

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'There is a nexus between politicians and builders'

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Do you think the government is serious about solving this issue?

If there is seriousness, there is no sensitivity. If there is sensitivity, there is no sensibility. I doubt the results would not be favourable to slum-dwellers.

You think the (state) government is not serious, sensible and sensitive to the issue of these people?

There is a nexus -- between the politicians and the builders -- over these issues. Everybody is avoiding the issue of the urban poor. This is happening all over the country. The urban land grab is going on and on, but nobody wants to take any decisions.

The policies are pro-builder, and as a result, both these lobbies are earning lakhs in profits.

It is very, very clear that almost 50 per cent of the population doesn't have a right to shelter. This is absolutely unconstitutional. These kinds of bastis (dwellings) are authorised pucca structures and co-operative societies, but their documents and their decisions (to hand over the development of their co-operative society to other builder) are being manipulated. They place fabricated documents before the high court, and get permissions.

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Image: Medha Patkar
Video: Sanjay Sawant/Rediff.com
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'We have heard nothing from the government'

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Do you think your fast-unto-death will serve any purpose? Will the government show some sensitivity?

We have always believed in non-violence. This is State violence against people in the name of development and progress. They only want seven-star hotels and shopping malls; they do not want hawkers, small entrepreneurs, traders; they do not want people's own co-operatives and self-development programmes.

Have you given any memorandum to the chief minister?

On March 23, we held a programme where over a thousand people took a pledge and a memorandum was given to the chief minister. On April 5, we took an 8,000-strong rally and gave him another memorandum, and had discussions.

Thousands of people camped at Azad Maidan the very next day. Later, we had discussions with the chief secretary, but there was still no initiative from their side to have a dialogue (with the affected people).

Later, we were shocked when the chief minister said that he would meet the builders every month.

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Image: Rubble at the Ganesh Krupa Society after the forcible demolition
Video: Sanjay Sawant/Rediff.com
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'We need a people's movement'

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Did you meet the chief minister?

On the day of starting this fast-unto-death I and 22 other women from Ganesh Krupa Co-operative Society went to meet him and tried to seek five minutes of his time.

But these women were arrested and kept in custody the whole day even when they were asked to sit in the garden (by the CM's staff) so that they could come if the CM agreed to meet them.

Eighteen years ago, in West Bengal Mamata Banerjee waited to seek the then chief minister Jyoti Basu's audience but couldn't get it. Do you think this government too will go one day, since you say it is insensitive to the people's problems?

We are not into electoral politics. Although they (the political class) appear to be the power-holders and rulers, someone else -- the corporates and builders -- are ruling the country in their names. Hence we need people's politics and people's movement, which gave rise to someone like Mamata Banerjee.

If she had not become a part of the Nandigram and Singur movements, she couldn't have occupied the space left by the Left Front.

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Image: Medha Patkar
Video: Sanjay Sawant/Rediff.com
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'The 3K clause should be deleted'

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Do you have any message for the government and the builders developing this project?

Stop this project, because this is a Unitech project. Shivalik has changed its name four times (SVI Realties, Shivalik Ventures, Shi Ventures Private Ltd, Lifestyle Realty) but almost 50 per cent of the investment in this project comes from Unitech, which is part of the 2G spectrum scam, and this needs to be investigated by the Joint Parliamentary Committee or the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Are politicians also involved in this project?

Of course. A former chief minister is involved. He is an investor in the project. In fact, it was he who gave the 3K-clearance (a controversial clause of the Slum Rehabilitation Act that allows developers to bypass the consent of 70 per cent of slum-dwellers for a given project in its initial stages) for this project.

The people here had formed co-operatives amalgamated all of this into one project. But the discretionary 3K-clearance superseded it all. This clause must be deleted.


Image: Medha Patkar during her hunger strike in Mumbai
Video: Sanjay Sawant/Rediff.com
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