Corporation Demolitions

            Koregaon Park has been getting remodeled. They’re demolishing all of the roadside shops. These can range between various food stalls, locksmith stalls, Xeroxing stalls, areas in front of permanent stores, or any little knickknack shops. Basically they are anything except for official stores that are inside buildings. There are a lot of them – as in, there are whole neighborhoods where streets are lined with these structures. These shops are essentially illegal but have been there long enough, have paid off the gundas (better word for this would be owners of that space or “street” owners) sufficiently so that they stay there. These structures are so permanent that most of them have invested in building up the sidewalk right outside, they look old (they’ve been there a long time), and for as long as I can remember, they’ve been there – not sure if that says anything at all. Recently the “Corporation” has taken the initiative to knock them all down. They spend a couple days a few weeks ago knocking them down in Koregaon Park. Last week they knocked down a huge row of them on a major row. The entire area was in rubbles. This is right outside of a college where all of the students come to get papers photocopied, eat snacks, and do other work. Rubbles!

            Today on my way to the office I was excited to come to my favourite chaiwalas, eat my favourite poha, and speak with the guys who work there. It’s always a fun experience. Last time I gave one of them the rest of the American change I had left over. He had been asking me since last year to get him some more coins. After a long conversation he only agreed not to pay me back for what they’re worth. They’re sweet men. I turned the corner to a lot of traffic and to see that whole area in complete shambles. I wanted to cry. They were doing the demolition right there and then. My chaiwalas had just gotten a new stall cart and paved the area in front of their stall so that bikes could have easier time parking. Further down the road I spotted the chaiwala #2 – the man to whom I gave the coins. He was holding a piece of sheet metal in his hands. I screamed out from underneath my helmet, “Bhaiya!” He immediately recognized me and said that this was a final bye. I asked about the others and he said they all left to go back home. He motioned to his sheet metal and said that this is all that was left; everything else was gone. I wanted to cry for him.

            I understand that these structures are illegal. But if they are, they should be nipped in the bud; they shouldn’t be established in the first place then.  These are people’s lives and if they’re going to demolish these structures, there should be some sort of remuneration for their sufferings. Obviously they’re there because the demand for such commodities is there, therefore they’re the supply. What jobs are they providing them with? What options has the government left them? Some of my friends have said, it’s ok, they didn’t have the proper permits. However, how were they supposed to get these permits? What loopholes would they have to jump through? Doesn’t the government have anything better to do than to pick at the lower rung of people and take away their livelihoods? It was heartbreaking to see the huge loaders and demolition trucks just tearing apart these structures. I’m getting too emotional about it, I know, but it’s just too upsetting.  

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