HC reprieve for 21,000 slum dwellers

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Mumbai, Jan 10 (UNI) More than 21,000 slum-dwellers from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park area of the Metropolis got a big relief from the Bombay High Court today, which made them eligible to be rehabilitated by the Maharashtra government.

Acting on former mayor and sitting BMC corporator, Nirmala Samant-Prabhavalkar's petition, a Division bench comprising Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice J P Deodhar directed the state government to accept token amount of Rs 7,000 from more than 21,OOO slum-dwellers so that they would become eligible to be rehabilitated by the state.

In 2003, the High Court had directed the state to remove all constructions from the National Park area, giving three months time to the eligible people--those settled before January 1, 1995- to deposit token amount of Rs 7,000. But, more than 21,000 slum dwellers had been left without any rehabilitation scheme as they had failed to abide by the High Court deadline.

Ms Prabhavalkar had moved the High Court, seeking direction to state government to receive the token amount from them and treat them eligible for rehabilitation.

Today, when the court found that the state was not opposed to their demand, it directed the government to accept token money from eligible slum dwellers, giving them six weeks time to deposit the amounts. The only anxiety of the state was appropriate time should be given for finding out proper land for their relocation and arranging necessary finances and accordingly the court granted six months time to the state to complete rehabilitation programme.

The court also directed the state to demolish all structures from the National Park area within eight weeks and ensure that no non-forest activity continues in the forest area. The court has also asked the state to ensure that the vacated portions opened after removal of shanties and other residential structures are covered by natural forest through afforestation programme.

The court also asked the state government to ensure that no fresh encroachments take place in the National Park area and clarified that concerned officers will be personally held responsible if any fresh encroachment was found to have taken place.

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