Tussle among the unequals.

Couple of days ago, I came across a news article describing how over three dozen shanties belonging to daily wage labourers were razed by authorities in Noida alleging that these stood on public land.

In Tamil, we call these public lands “Poromboke”. Interestingly, Poromboke is a cuss word used to address someone who is thought to be ‘uncivilised’ by normal standards.

Behind this seemingly routine action of demolition, there is background story that could miss our eyes.

That the people who inhibited these shanties had barged into a high profile residential building a few days ago. They alleged that one among them, who used to work at one of those luxury apartments, was harassed, abused and detained in one of the apartments.

We can never be certain about the veracity of their claims, but a seemingly angry crowd barged into the gated society and allegedly vandalised the premises. They were controlled by the police and now, after a few days, their shanties are razed by the Authority.

It seems to me that even the most random processes of nature conspire to make life miserable for the downtrodden. Couple of hours after the shanties were razed, heavy rains lashed the city, drenching kids, women and men who were just inducted into the Poromboke.

Some of them would contract communicable diseases, thanks to the conditions our Porombokes are in. Heck, some of them could even die, thanks to the situation we are keeping our poor in.

The authorities asserted that the action was part of a routine exercise, but only an imbecile would miss the point. The altercation with the rich who lived in the apartments in sky proved to be too costly for them.

Some of them were running small businesses like a chai shop and a tailoring shop catering to the locality. These ‘businesses’ were financed by credit. They didn’t just lost a place to live, but their livelihoods were destroyed too, by a callous administration which showed unprecedented efficacy in ruining their livelihoods.

Now that their houses were standing on public land, you may want to take sides. Who gave them the right to encroach public land?.Can we really blame the civic authorities?

I will just state where sympathies of the law of the land reside.

The law of the land is extremely considerate when it comes to the conflicts that arise when the downtrodden of the society interact with the rich and powerful.

Though The Supreme Court have delivered certain judgements in this aspect that are thought to be regressive, one judgement by the Supreme Court will always stand above all of them.

It is the Olga Tellis and others vs Bombay Municipal Corporation, a landmark judgement in which the apex court held that such evictions amount to ruining their livelihood and is in the violation of fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution under Article 21.

Besides this utter disregard of the rule of the land, the people concerned have acted in highly immoral manner. To the student in me who is trying to understand the society, unchecked power with a section of society can be real harmful to other segments that are in conflict with them.

The so called moral constitution built by religions or inculturation doesn’t help much.

These sky dwellers have families too. Why didn’t simple morality and thought prevent them from taking such an extreme step?

And that begs another question. Who are the real ‘Porombokes’ in this case? Those who subsist on public property or the ones who live in the sky apartments and destroy the meagre livelihood their adversaries could hardly afford?

I don’t want to pass a judgement on them.

The news article.

Written on July 20, 2017