More than 300 families, who were evicted from a slum in Kolkata's eastern part to make way for an upcoming flyover, have threatened to use the NOTA option in the Lok Sabha election if they are not rehabilitated by the state government.
Almost all of the 383 families, who lived in the slum at Topsia till November 2012, still possess voter identity cards with the same address – 31/1 Tiljala Road. The latest voter list also reflects their names.
"We were evicted without any notice or any proper rehabilitation package in 2012. Some of us were given Rs 12,000 as compensation while others got Rs 10,000. A few of us got nothing. We were forcibly thrown out of our shanties," 32-year-old Mumtaz Begum alleges. After no political leader or government body paid heed to their demands for a proper rehabilitation scheme, they now threaten to exercise the NOTA (None of the above) option during voting for the Lok Sabha election.
The Supreme Court had last year made the NOTA option mandatory in order to allow voters to reject all candidates without giving up the right to a secret vote.
"If none of them is standing with us, then why should we vote for them? This is our way of protesting against the atrocities on us," another evicted slum dweller Sultana Begum said. Most of the slum dwellers work as rickshaw-pullers, daily wage earners, beggars and rag-pickers with an average monthly income of between Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000.
As per a UN protocol under the "Right to safe and Independent Housing", each and every human being who has valid photo ID address proof cannot be evicted without giving prior notice or without providing alternative place to stay. The evicted group alleged that they had been forced to spend nights under the open sky at a time when trafficking has increased manifold and many children have stopped attending school.
For their safety, the evicted families have sought the help of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, an NGO, working on anti-trafficking. An activist of the NGO claimed around 8-9 children had gone missing as a fall-out of the eviction and said, "We fear they were trafficked. Now they don't have a proper shelter and so the risk is much more."
Many of the evictees have shifted to other slums. Shahidul Bibi, one of the evictees, said, "I worked as a ragpicker in the area and after we had to shift to Subhashgram it became tough to travel daily to Topsia. Half of my earning is gone in train fares."
For children it was a problem to attend classes in their old schools, which suddenly became far away from their new shanties. The families say they have approached all leaders and government offices, but no one has promised any help in rehabilitating them.