with a whimper
Saturday, Nov 25, 2006
Bharucha raises a voice for the slum dwellers who are being increasingly dispossessed by a
nexus of politicians, land mafia and an indifferent media.
unadulterated angst as everyman more so as a media man against the
mall-ification of cities, reckless urbanisation, relentless migration, voiceless slum
dwellers who rarely make it to a newspaper's front page as against a polo-watching
actress, form the poignant premise of Ruzbeh N. Bharucha's book Yamuna Gently Weeps.
CONCERNS Kiran Bedi's son-in-law Ruzbeh N. Bharucha's book,
Yamuna Weeps Gently, records the demolition of one of Delhi's oldest slums.
author and filmmaker Ruzbeh Bharucha was shocked to witness the overnight demolition in
2004 of Yamuna Pushta, a cluster of 22 slums in Delhi housing 40,000 families. Considered
one of the oldest in India, the slum had been in existence for decades. The High Court had
directed its demolition stating it was polluting the Yamuna and that it was an illegal
encroachment on a riverbank.
book takes the reader through moving images, interviews and stories of the slum dwellers,
town planners, politicians, environmentalists, activists and others who, along with him,
were witness to the distressing weeks leading to the demolition and after.
also previewed an eponymous film, already screened at various international
film fests. Supercop Kiran Bedi, who also happens to be his mother-in-law,
was with him during the recent book launch.
are a result of poor rural development policies in the country. But slums are inevitably
going to grow. People are going to migrate. There's no other option. A city's master plan
has provisions for land and housing for the poor... they must be implemented," said
Bharucha. "With the mall-ification of cities, we have started converting cities into
a commercial hub only for the rich, with no place for the poor."
the pattern across ever-burgeoning metros such as Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, Bharucha
spoke of how most of the slum dwellers are people involved in construction of those very
indices of growth malls, flyovers, hospitals, apartment complexes. And once the
work is done, how these people are simply dislodged from the land on which they have
lived. "Mumbai, with its 24 million population, now is already crumbling. Delhi is in
chaos. The land ceilings and demolitions are just the tip of the iceberg."
he painted a bleak picture of a future where over the next 25 years every third person in
India will be living in a slum, what also came out was his frustration that the judiciary,
the media and the citizens of the country were not doing anything about it. "I say it
with regret that I no longer feel proud to say I'm from the media.
was no coverage for the slum's demolition. There were six or seven lines tucked inside
Page Six the next morning. If the media had done a campaign on the Yamuna Pushta, there
would have been pressure.
the building of a fashion designer is demolished, it makes it to Page One. That's what
media campaign for Jessica Lal and Priyadarshini Mattoo were only recent and inspired by a
film like Rang De Basanti. "It
made people more vocal and it made the media more vocal because of the TRP ratings. But
public pressure does work. We need a mass movement. There is an agenda to remove the poor.
Period. The land mafia along with politicians and city municipalities are all a part of
it. Land is gold now."
two years after the demolition, most of the Yamuna Pushta is rubble. While the Akshardham
temple and government secretariat buildings still stand tall on the same riverbed, a
Commonwealth Games Village is also being built there, says Bharucha.
also detailed how farcically nearly 18 per cent of the slum dwellers have been
"relocated and rehabilitated" on a barren piece of land called Bawana, 40 km
from the city, with no civic amenities and no source of livelihood.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha.