Life of Bengali Migrants in Bangalore Slums

/ Duronto Jajabor /

Near about 10,000 migrants live in slums in Thubarahalli, Bangalore, the number are much higher if we take into count other migrant slums in Bangalore. People in cities see slums as ugly sights which is hindering the plans of “swachh India” and slum dwellers as “illegal occupants”.

Why the migration?

People from villages in West Bengal are continuously migrating to Bangalore in search for work and better living. Most of them have small piece of land in their native, which doesn’t suffice their financial needs, according to them- farming is no longer profitable , there is more investment than profit, so they are moving out for work.

Life in Slums

The slum conditions are no better. They live in closely cramped shanties, pay Rs.2000-4000 for each jhuggi/shanty. There is no proper sanitation, toilets, no ventilation inside the shanty. These migrants mostly work as domestic workers in surrounding apartments, male members work as masons, some work as garbage collectors for BBMP. They have been living like this for 10-15 years, the fear of eviction from slums is a constant one.

In December 2018, BBMP sent the eviction notice where these 10K people were asked to leave the place in just three days. Power connection to the area was disconnected by Bescom the same day as the eviction order came. The MLA of the area, Arvind Limbavali of BJP accused these people to be “illegal Bangladeshi immigrants” and swore to drive them out of the area. The owners and contractors of the slum were taken into police custody and asked to vacate the land forcefully. These slum dwellers have valid voter id card, adhaar card, pan card to prove that they are not illegal immigrants but citizens of India.

After 1month of struggle they finally got stay order on the eviction from High Court and after 3 months power was restored in the area. But the eviction threat keeps on coming after every 4 to 6 months.

This slum is surrounded by high rise apartments, with newer apartments closing in on the area. It doesn’t take much time to understand this eviction drive.The builder- political nexus is quite evident. It begins with politicians tagging the slum dwellers as illegal immigrants, which will enrage the common people against these slum dwellers in the name of being patriotic and driving ‘illegal immigrants’ out of country. This is followed by government officials passing the order of eviction. Police will force the landowners to vacate the land and finally sell it to the Corporates so that multi crore apartments can be built and profit can be shared by the politicians, Government officials, police and corporates.

Upcoming Elections

Nazma runs a small shop in the slum, when asked about the upcoming elections, she thinks education and employment should be the main agenda of any political party. The slum children are dropping out of school when their parents are moving to Bangalore city from the village. The process of re-admission should be made easy and accessible for these children. They cannot afford private schools, so more Government schools and anganwadis should be made.

Another big concern is employment. She says graduates from her village are not getting job, they are moving to Bangalore to do menial jobs, earning meagre Rs.10,000-12000 in the city. This discourages the young parents in educating their children if they don’t see any job prospects so they put their children to work once they are 14-15 years old because they don’t see any future with education when the job market looks so unpromising. She further adds, even if anyone gets job they have to pay bribes, so she is saving money for her daughter’s education as well as job.

Sanitation in slums is another concern that should be taken care of by the government. Lack of proper sanitation and drainage system is affecting the health of people living there. If there is an outbreak of a disease it will spread very quickly and engulf the whole slum due to lack of toilets and open defecation.

Talking to a first aid doctor and compounder in the slum, what comes up as the primary concern of the people living here is the fear of alienation, noncooperation from the locals, constant threat of eviction, and humiliation of being marked as “Bangladeshis”. He says as a citizen of India we should be able to live and work without any fear anywhere in India.

He says in the last 60 years of Congress rule never has India seen such polarization based on religion, caste, language as it has seen in last 5 years of BJP rule. BJP will continue to divide the country and it will be tough for minorities to live without constant fear.

Hopes of better living, better education for children and better healthcare facilities are bringing people from far flung areas to Bangalore. Government should provide safe and secure environment for these migrant workers to work and live here, that is all they want and expect from the Government.

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