Report No. 138
4.10. Slum dwellers.-
The court then addressed itself to slum dwellers (para. 53 of the judgment) and took notice of the following factual situation:-
"The affidavit of Shri Arvind V. Gokak, Administrator of the Maharashtra Housing and Areas Development Authority, Bombay, shows that the State Government had taken a decision to compile a list of slums which were required to be removed in public interest and to allocate, after a spot inspection, 500 acres of vacant land in or near the Bombay Suburban District for resettlement of hutment dwellers removed from the slums. A census was accordingly carried out on January 4, 1976 to enumerate the slum dwellers spread over about 850 colonies all over Bombay.
About 67% of the hutment dwellers produced photographs of the heads of their families, on the basis of which the hutments were numbered and their occupants were given identity cards. Shri Gokak further says in his affidavit that the Government had also decided that the slums which were in existence for a long time and which were improved and developed, would not normally be demolished unless the land was required for a public purpose. In the event that the land was so required, the policy of the State Government was to provide alternate accommodation to the slum dwellers who were censused and possessed identity cards.
The Circular of the State Government dated February 4, 1976 (No. SIS 176/D-41) bears out this position. In the enumeration of the hutment dwellers, some persons occupying pavements also happened to be given census cards. The Government decided to allot pitches to such persons at a place near Malavani. These assurances held forth by the Government must be made good. In other words despite the finding recorded by us that the provision contained in section 314 of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act is valid, pavement dwellers to whom census cards were given in 1976 must be given alternate pitches at Malavani though not as a condition precedent to the removal of encroachments committed by them.
Secondly, slum dwellers who were censused and were given identity cards must be provided with alternate accommodation before they are evicted. There is a controversy between the petitioners and the State Government as to the extent of vacant land which is available for resettlement of the inhabitants of pavements and slums. Whatever that may be, the highest priority must be accorded by the State Government to the resettlement of these unfortunate persons by allotting to them such land as the Government finds to be conveniently available.
The Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Act, 1977, the Employment Guarantee Scheme, the New Twenty Point Socio-economic Programme, 1982, the Affordable Low Income Shelter Programme in Bombay Metropolitan Region and the programme of house building for the. economically weaker sections must not remain a dead letter as such schemes and programmes often do. Not only that, but more and more such programmes must be initiated if the theory of equal protection of laws has to take its rightful place in the struggle for equality.
In these matters, the demand is not so much for less Government interference as for positive government action to provide equal treatment to neglected segments of society. The profound rhetoric of socialism must be translated into practice for the problems which confront the State are problems of human destiny."