Kolkata, Oct 6 : Accusing the state government of forcefully evicting thousands of hawkers and shanty dwellers in Kolkata ahead of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, the Joint Forum Against Evictions on Friday said they would organise protest rallies outside the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan in Salt Lake on October 8.
The first match will be played in the city on October 8.
“In the name of beautification of the city, nearly 5,000 hawkers have already been forcefully evicted from the Dumdum airport and Salt Lake area while another 2,500 might be evicted in the next few days. According to our estimation, nearly 10,000 hawkers and their respective families are affected by this eviction drive,” said Shaktiman Ghosh, General Secretary, National Hawkers Federation and Hawkers Sangram Samiti.
“As a symbolic protest against such unlawful evictions, we will organise a massive protest rally from Sealdah to the Salt Lake stadium before the first match here on Sunday. If the police stop us, we will continue our agitation there.”
Asserting that they are supportive of events like the football world cup in the city, Ghosh said that celebrations should not be organised at the cost of poor people’s livelihood.
The Joint Forum Against Evictions, constituted of hawkers, students and slum dwellers organisations, also demanded the immediate implementation of the Street Vendors Act, 2014, by the West Bengal government to protect the rights of the hawkers and constitute a town vending committee that would issue identity cards to the street vendors.
According to the other representatives of the forum, over 50 percent of the slums in and around Salt Lake have been broken by the Bidhannagar Municipal Authority on the pretext of beautification of the city ahead of the football world cup.
The forum also demanded that the state government and the municipal authorities immediately stall evictions and talk to the representatives to work out a rehabilitation programme for those who have been evicted.
“Even the Calcutta Corporation has displaced the slum dwellers from both sides of the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. The number of affected slum dwellers is nearly 25,000. Threat of forceful displacement is looming over another 25,000 people,” said Sushovan Paul, a representative of the Joint Forum Against Evictions.
He said a state government that rode to power with the promise of “no eviction without rehabilitation” is now using the FIFA tournament as a tool to kick out the poor.
“They have said the displacement of these people is permanent and they would not be allowed to stay there even after the world cup. This is condemnable,” he added.