Bengaluru: Migrant workers protest against slum-eviction threat

At least 500 migrant workers residing in the Thubarahalli slum were threatened with eviction by the police, the land owner, and the BBMP.

BySaurav Kumar

Published Jul 02, 2022 | 6:22 PMUpdatedAug 16, 2022 | 11:48 AM

Migrant Workers in Bengaluru slum

The threat of eviction loomed over migrant workers on Thursday, 30 June.

At least 500 Bengali migrant workers residing in the Thubarahalli slum in Varthur were threatened with eviction by the local police, the owner of the land, and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).

Hundreds of workers staged a protest against the eviction diktat of the police and BBMP officials.

They were accompanied by social activists and migrant workers’ union representatives.

Throughout the three hours of the dharna, they sought assurance from the officials of no harassment in the future.

An FIR was also filed against the owner of the land, Lokesh Reddy, for allowing the settlements of migrant workers.

Reddy was booked by the Varthur police under Karnataka Open Place Disfigurement Act, 1951 and 1981.

The complaint on which this action was taken was made by BBMP Mahadevapura Assistant Executive Engineer Mamatha MS.

In the complaint, Mamatha claimed that the disposal of garbage near the slum and its disposal in the drain was causing blockage and overflow.

Warning sign

The workers said they anticipated that they would be targeted when the police — apparently for no reason — detained eight of them on Monday.

A few of them were from Marathahalli, while the others were from Varthur.

Meanwhile, Reddy asked the workers to vacate the slum on Wednesday.

Two days prior to the eviction threat, the electricity and water connections were cut by police officials.

Reddy told South First, “The Varthur police officials on Monday summoned me and directed me to pressure the migrant workers to leave their slums within four days, and I had to do this in writing.”

Threat at the door

Abdul Ali Mondol, a 34-year-old rag picker who hails from Nadia district in West Bengal, was one of the workers detained by Varthur police on Monday evening.

Migrant worker Abdul Ali Mondol. (South First/Saurav Kumar)

He told South First, “The police asked us not to pollute the place with garbage. But our job is to collect and segregate dry waste on behalf of the BBMP. I was released the next afternoon, but under the threat of eviction from the slum.”

Showing his identity card with the BBMP symbol, he added, “I have not been paid since starting dry waste collection work for the BBMP in October 2020. ₹15,000 was the promised monthly amount, which remains pending.”

Mondol collects the dry waste in Varthur and segregates it as per instruction from the civic body. He then supplies it back to the BBMP official responsible for the job.

In a similar way, 38-year-old Sanjay Sarkar was picked up by the Varthur police on Monday without citing any reason and was kept in custody for 20 hours.

Sarkar is a lorry driver involved in the loading and unloading of dry waste for the BBMP.

He told South First, “I was mistreated despite no wrongdoing. This is the second time we are facing an existential crisis after 2018, when the BBMP and the police tortured us for no reason.”

Protest against BBMP

Migrant workers protesting in front of BBMP (South First/Saurav Kumar)

Migrant workers protesting in front of BBMP (South First/Saurav Kumar)

On Thursday, when eviction from the slum looked inevitable, activists and the migrant workers’ union mobilised all the workers and gathered at the BBMP Mahadevapura office.

In front of the office, hundreds of workers sat on the road with demands to meet the officials who complained to the police to evict them from slums.

As per All India Shramik Swaraj Kendra vice-president R Kaleem Ullah, the migrant workers help BBMP in waste disposal, and have helped civic bodies during the pandemic by donating blood to hospitals.

But this threat of eviction was an open betrayal and harassment.
He said, “The eviction threat is a political tool of local BJP legislator Aravind Limbavali, who has been castigating Bengali migrant workers as illegal Bangladeshi citizens.”

A police official, on condition of anonymity, dismissed the allegations of forced eviction.

“We have registered a case against the landlord based on the complaint by the BBMP officials and questioned him as per the law. We have not asked anyone to vacate, and it’s not in our purview,” he said.