- PROTECTION OF SLUM DWELLERS FROM EVICTION
After BLAST filed a case regarding the protection of slum dwellers from forced eviction in a Dhaka slum, the High Court issued a rule on the City Corporation and other government authorities directing them to ensure that people living in the Bijli Bosti in Mohammadpur area of Dhaka would not be evicted without prior resettlement.
BLAST filed a writ petition challenging the arbitrary and forceful eviction of Korail Bosti residents in 2012, which resulted in the displacement of people and the destruction of 2,000 structures. In 2017, the Ministry of Housing informed the Court that it will reserve five acres of land outside Dhaka for the rehabilitation of slum dwellers once evicted, and the Bangladesh HiTech Park Authority informed that it will provide housing to evicted slum dwellers on seven acres of land. However, neither authority specified an exact location for the rehabilitation, the groups of people to be rehabilitated, the number of flats/ houses that will accommodate these people, or submitted any housing plans.
BLAST responded by requesting a copy of the layout, a quantum of financial compensation for the rehabilitation of slum dwellers, and the developers’ plan in respect of rehabilitation from the Hi-Tech Park Authority, and a copy of the master plan for government housing in the slum area, the estimated costs for this housing project and a copy of the invitation to tender for the project from the Ministry. Both authorities were directed to respond by November 2017 but failed. Subsequently, the Ministry provided information on its plan to rehabilitate the evicted slum-dwellers on 5 acres of land in the outskirts of Dhaka but did not specify which area, or which group of people would be rehabilitated.
- RTIS ON EVICTION OF SLUM DWELLERS AND THE STATUS OF THE URDU SPEAKING COMMUNITY
In response to RTI applications, BLAST found that the Ministry of Railway, RAJUK, and the Deputy Collector, Dhaka had not been involved in any slum evictions in the past five years; received information on the number, and details, of cases filed against residents of the Sat Tola slum in Mohakhali; and found that no suitable Khas land had been selected to relocate the Urdu speaking community from Dhaka, for a better environment, and no initiatives had been made for the community to be covered by the health and social safety net programs.
Project: Activating Village Courts in Bangladesh (AVCB)
Munia, 35, a homemaker in Noakhali, lives with her husband Aslam, her children, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law in a house on 5.5 decimals of land which she inherited. Aslam’s meager earnings as a farmhand are the only source of the family’s income. Munia and her family suffer severe hardship as her neighbor, Zakir, had been unlawfully occupying part of her land for a very long time despite her having legal documents to prove her ownership of the house and the land. Munia and Aslam had attempted time and again to regain possession of the only piece of property they own, by taking part in at least a hundred local Shalish sessions. Zakir, who is wealthy and influential, refused to comply with any decisions taken in the Shalish. The family then had no choice but to file a case with the District Court. Since they lacked the means to pursue a case in the higher courts and did not understand the technicalities of the court system, they faced new challenges every step of the way. Aslam spent 30-45 days simply waiting in the court premises, which cost him his daily income. The costs of pursuing the case in the district court rose to about 200 – 250,000 BDT in the past two to three years, far exceeding the value of the land itself.
Eventually, since the Mouza rate for the occupied land was 33,000 BDT, Aslam applied for the case to be transferred from the higher court to the Village Court. In July 2017, the Village Court Assistant filed the case and explained the court procedures to Munia. The VC summoned the respondent, Zakir, ordering him and Munia to appear before the court. In July 2017, the Court confirmed Munia‘s ownership of 3.5 decimals of her land, while the remaining two decimals were given to form part of a road extension. Munia said that her family would have become destitute, losing everything all over again in their fight to secure justice, without the village court’s intervention. She now encourages everyone to go to the village court for all cases it can hear and resolve.