We are midway through our time in Ahmedabad. It has been absorbing and exciting. We have met many interesting people and had some wonderful conversations.
A few days ago we went to Maninagar, where a group of formerly nomadic tribes have been living since 1960. There are Rajbhois who make ropes, Vaghris who work as laborors and Sansis who sell maps. There are about 191 families in this community, and none of the children go to school. The reason? The community has been bulldozed at least ten times in the past year. The disruption it has caused in their lives is incalculable, not only have the children lost their enrollment in school, even the social worker who came to give them lessons has stopped doing so. This is not the worst of what has happened to this community. Two children have died from exposure, and the week we visited, three members of the community had died because they did not have adequate shelter. They are living on the sides of a wall under a bridge, with a plastic sheet as the only form of protection from the elements.
Ahmedabad has decided it needs to be a “mega city” with shopping malls and multiplexes. Several communities have been uprooted to accommodate this ambition, not all of it legal, and none of it humane. See Roxy Gagdekar’s blog for some more details about what is happening in Maninagar.
The day we were in Maninagar, Ramsaroop Sansi, a very soft-spoken fifty year old man, offered us tea, and spoke without bitterness of the travails of this community– how their legal claims have been disregarded, and the uncertainty faced by them. When we got ready to leave, the people of this community, who have nothing, presented us with a map of India. When we refused, Ramsaroop said, “They make the rules, but we still sell their maps, please take this.”