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The Financial Express

The saga of city\'s slums

Neil Ray | Published: January 24, 2016 22:05:40 | Updated: October 19, 2017 14:32:50


The saga of city\'s slums
The old game is on. Fire broke out in a city slum that was set to be raged to the ground by bulldozers the previous day. On that day the slum was saved from the eviction drive by a stay order issued by the High Court. The inhabitants of the slum could however buy only three months' time in the process. Their fate hangs in the balance. 
More than 100 shanties were burnt down and the poor people suddenly found themselves shelterless at a time when the chill of the winter could be felt for the first time this year. More, these people lost whatever little possession they had. Fortunately loss of life was not reported this time.
This does not, however, lessen the sufferings of the victims of fire, which many believe and rightly so, is a clear case of arson. Even firefighters were allegedly detained by some youths on their approach to the site. This gives credence to the arson attack. 
Slums in the capital are made or unmade by political elements and their lackeys known as mastans or musclemen. All because the slum economy is quite substantial! Usually built on khas or government lands, the clusters of shanties over the decades turn into large slums. One such slum sprawled over an expanded area of Agargaon on both the east and west side of the Bangladesh Betar. It was here that the slum was not only put on fire but about a dozen people fleeing the razing fire were thrown back into the inferno. 
The saga of slum is more or less equally tragic in most other such concentrations. To all such settlements the poor people are allowed to live in because this serves the interests of the privileged and when their service is no longer required, they are driven out in the most ruthless manner imaginable. 
Civilisation is thus built on the sweat and tear of the wretched poor. The economic push and pull bring them to the city where they keep the economic wheel moving but in return they get a raw deal. This latest incident is no different. Tall buildings will come up where the shanties are now. This has happened in Agargaon and elsewhere in the city. The poor never belong to the city. They are pushed to the periphery all the time as new occupants claim the land and the property built on the land from where they are evicted. 
This heartless process marks the march of civilisation almost everywhere. The aboriginal and ethnic people (certainly derogatory terms because they are the sons and daughters of the soil) were mostly eliminated or driven out of their home and hearth and the civilisation of the white people flourished in America and Australia. Slum eviction is but a variant of the drive to take over from the poor and the weak. 
There is no question of competition for them with the more powerful and privileged but at least they cannot be dispossessed of the little possessions they have. More importantly, programmes need to be taken up for education of their children so that the future generation at least does not have to follow in the footsteps of their forefathers.
 

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