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INDIA: Total negligence by local authorities regarding the eviction of approximately 7,000 Untouchables in Bellilous Park

Staff from the AHRC and MASUM met with the Mayor and Commissioner of Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) on 10 February 2005, two years after the eviction of about 7,000 Untouchables in Bellilous Park which took place on 2 February 2003. Accompanying them were around 50 former residents of Bellilious Park, including men, women and children.

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

Update on Hunger Alerts
15 February 2005

[Re: HA-06-2004: INDIA: Indian Red Cross ignores starvation of Kolkata evictees; UP-03-2004: An AHRC letter to the president of the India regarding eviction of Untouchables; UP-54-2003: 3 year old eviction victim died due to starvation in West Bengal, FA-27-2003: 7,000 Untouchables in Belilious Park evicted by the government of West Bengal and the Howrah Municipal Corporation]
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HU-01-2005: INDIA: Total negligence by local authorities regarding the eviction of approximately 7,000 Untouchables in Bellilous Park

INDIA: Starvation; Death; malnutrition; Inaction by humanitarian organization
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is deeply concerned by the apparent negligence by responsible local authorities and international humanitarian agencies regarding the eviction of about 7,000 Untouchables in Bellilous Park which took place on 2 February 2003. (See further: FA-27-2003, UP-54-2003 and HA-06-2004)

A staff member from the AHRC visited West Bengal and met several state governmental officials and international agencies to discuss this matter between 9 and 11 February 2005, along with staff from the MASUM, a human rights organization in West Bengal, India. It was revealed at the meetings that although two years have passed since the eviction, the concerned authorities have taken no responsibility for this matter so far. International humanitarian agencies also failed to show their interest in this matter. "Everyone whom we have visited has an excuse for doing nothing," said Kirity Roy, secretary of Masum. It was also confirmed that there has been no rehabilitation and compensation programmes planned for evictees so far. The victims are living in very poor conditions and a number of persons are known to have died from illnesses brought about by the appalling living conditions and from starvation.

However, the AHRC could confirm that the officials received many letters regarding the case from "so many countries" and these letters had a psychological impact within numerous quarters in the local authorities. We again call for your urgent intervention into this matter so that the victims can receive immediate and appropriate rehabilitation without further delay.

Urgent Appeals Desk -- Hunger Alert
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
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UPDATED INFORMATION:

Staff from the AHRC and MASUM met with the Mayor and Commissioner of Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) on 10 February 2005, two years after the eviction of about 7,000 Untouchables in Bellilous Park which took place on 2 February 2003. Accompanying them were around 50 former residents of Bellilious Park, including men, women and children.

The Mayor and Commissioner contradicted one another.

The Mayor, Mr Gopal Mukherjee, said that there are two rehabilitation programmes planned, one for the HMC employees who were evicted and one for the other people. According to him, the first group would be housed in a multi-story building, the site for which was already identified. However, the persons would have to pay Rs 60,000 (about 1,375 US dollars) of which Rs 30,000 would be deducted from salaries in installments, and Rs 30,000 would be extended as a loan. He said there was no question of compensation for their destroyed houses and lost property because they were occupying the site at Bellilious Park illegally. He also said that there is a scheme to give land to the other persons, but not to build houses. They would have to build by themselves. He did not give details of that scheme. He said we could get full details of both schemes from the Commissioner.

The Commissioner, Mr P C Patra, had no hesitation in saying that there are no rehabilitation programmes planned for anybody. He said that there was a plan like the first one described by the Mayor, but they could not raise the required amounts of money among the people. He gave numerous figures that were not the same as what the Mayor said. The upshot was that it could not be done. He said that now they were considering other possibilities, but at present nothing is organized. He said that the land chosen for the earlier scheme was too small for the buildings. Under any circumstances, those buildings would only accommodate some 136 families out of 180 they have identified as being employees of the HMC. For the other people, he said, nothing would be done. He also showed a letter dated 22 January 2005 to the National Human Rights Commission, replying to their inquiry initiated by Kim Soo A, the AHRC Urgent Appeals Programme Coordinator, that they would do nothing for these people. He said memorably that, "We have departments and roads and railways but no department for this type of thing." He also commented that they had received many letters about the case from "so many countries" and was confused about that, but hadn't bothered to answer any. In fact, he hadn't bothered to even answer the letters on the case from the District Magistrate's office, located almost directly across the road. He was given a copy of the latest letter from there by the AHRC staff and asked to do the DM the courtesy of a reply.

On February 9, staff from the AHRC and MASUM met the Indian Red Cross West Bengal state branch chairman R N Sengupta, and heard the same response as before. In the previous letter to the AHRC, the general secretary of Red Cross West Bengal state branch, B.P.Roy, stated that their capacity is very limited in this respect so take action through the concerned department of the state government. But Mr. R N Sengupta was highly agitated by the "tsunami of letters" received on the matter. As far as confirmed, no Red Cross staff have visited the affected community so far in order to "see, hear, smell and feel" for the conditions, which it described as "brutal". The largest group is situated next to a septic lake in which even human body parts and aborted foetuses have been seen floating, before being fished out by dogs.  (AHRC-PL-106-2004) 

On February 11, staff from the AHRC and MASUM also went to The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) office in West Bengal to talk about deaths among children forced to live in appalling conditions in the suburbs of greater Kolkata. However, they were refused to meet with its staff. "Despite prior arrangement, when we arrived at the Unicef office we were told that no staff wanted to talk about the suffering of these children," said Nick Cheesman, projects officer of the AHRC. Kirity Roy, secretary of MASUM also said that he was deeply disappointed to find that international agencies like Unicef and the Red Cross are equally callous in their disregard for these people like other local authorities. (AHRC-PL-11-2005)


SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please send a letter to the people addressed below and urge them to take immediate action to provide rehabilitation and compensation to the evicted victims from Bellilious Park.

Sample letter:

Dear __________,

Re: INDIA: Total negligence by local authorities regarding the eviction of approximately 7,000 Untouchables in Bellilous Park 

I am incredibly disappointed to hear that state authorities and international humanitarian organization branches in West Bengal have taken no action for the last two years to rehabilitate about 7,000 Untouchables who were forcibly evicted from Bellilous Park on 2 February 2003. According to the report which I received from an AHRC staff member who visited West Bengal this February to discuss this matter with concerned parties, everyone whom he visited had "an excuse for doing nothing". 

I was informed that the Mayor and Commissioner of Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) confirmed that there are no rehabilitation programmes planned for anybody, and they do not intend on providing compensation to the victims for their destroyed houses and lost property. The Commissioner personally confirmed that the HMC reported in the letter to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India for their inquiry that they would do nothing for these evicted people.

I was also informed that the Indian Red Cross West Bengal state branch chairman maintained his negative stance in this matter saying that their capacity is very limited in this respect so they could nothing. It was equally disturbing to hear that the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) office in West Bengal refused to meet the delegate from the AHRC who wanted to talk about deaths among children forced to live in appalling conditions in the suburbs of greater Kolkata, despite prior arrangement.

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees its citizens' right to adequate housing. Also, according to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the India is a state party, evictions of this nature are illegal and the government together with the state government is under international obligation to uphold the right to adequate housing and provide adequate compensation and rehabilitation to evictees.

I therefore urge you to take immediate action to rehabilitate and compensate these evictees. I also request you to provide full and immediate assistance to the evictees to ensure their security and health. I further urge the international community, including humanitarian agencies, to make a determined effort to eliminate discrimination against Untouchables and uphold their right to housing.

Sincerely yours,


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SEND A LETTER TO:

1. Mr. Gopal Mukherjee
Mayor
Howrah Municipal Corporation
Howrah
West Bengal
INDIA
Fax: +91-33-2660 3214

2. Shri Rathindra Nath Sengupta
Chairman
Indian Red Cross Society
West Bengal State Branch
5 & 6 Government Place North
Kolkata 700 001
INDIA
Fax: +91-33- 2210 3385

3. Justice Shyamal Kumar Sen
Chairperson
West Bengal Human Rights Commission
Bhabani Bhavan, Alipore
Calcutta-700027
INDIA
Tel: +91 33 4797259 / 5558866
Fax: +91 33 4799633
Email: wbhrc@cal3.vsnl.net.in

4. 3. Justice J. S. Anand
National Human Rights Commission
Sardar Patel Bhaven, Sansad Marg
New Delhi 110 001
INDIA
Tel: +91-11-2334 0891 / 7065
Fax: +91-11-2334 0016
E-mail: nhrc@ren.nic.in

5. Mr. Rudolf Schwenk
State representative - West Bengal
United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef)
219/2, AJC Bose Road
Kolkata 700 017
West Bengal
INDIA
Tel: +91 33 2287.2477, 2467, 2511 or 2287.2758 to 2287.2761
Fax: +91 33 2287.2510
Email: kolkata@unicef.org

6. Mr. Miloon Kothari
Special Rapporteur on adequate housing
Att: Ms. Cecilia Moller
Room 4-066/010
UNOG-OHCHR, CH-1211, Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9265
Fax: +41 22 917 9010

7. Mr. Jean Ziegler
Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
Attn: Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
Room 4-066, C/o OHCHR
CH-1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9300
Fax: +41 22 917 9010


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme -- Hunger Alert

Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
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