Dhaka, May 14 (UNB) – Losing shelter following an eviction drive by Railway authorities at Narayanganj Railway Colony, over 500 people, mostly women and children, are now living under the open sky.
Khadiza Begum, 60, one of the victims, said they had been living in the colony for over 45 years paying rent to the government. “But, they (authorities concerned) suddenly asked us to vacate the colony. I can’t afford to rent a house. Now I see dark all around,” she said.
During a visit to the evicted colony on Sunday, a day after the eviction, the UNB correspondent found a middle-age woman, Rosy Sarker, sitting on her raged home with a depressing face. “I’ve nowhere to go…I don’t know what the future holds for me,” she said adding that they damaged the belongings what I had with bulldozers.
Another victim, Rubel Hosain, 20, said he and his family members took shelter at the platform of Narayanganj Railway Station after the eviction. “My brother is looking for a room in other slums, but he is yet to get one,” he said.
According to statistics provided by UNDP officials who visited the spot after the eviction, there were 477 people of 111 households, including 229 women and 129 children.
The UNDP officials said the academic activities of the children in the evicted colony will be badly hampered due to this eviction as the children cannot attend their classes.
Ayesha Begum, a mother of three, said she will not be able to manage money to get her children admitted to another school this year. “I’m deeply concerned about the education of my kids.”
The evicted victims and locals said the eviction drive was conducted at the behest of a strong nexus having political influence to capture the railway colony to build business structures over there.
Aakhi Akhter, a leader of Railway Colony Protection Committee, said the Railway Workers Welfare Association leases out the colony taken from the railway authorities, and now they are planning to construct a multistoried shopping mall on the evicted land.
Railway officials said the Bangladesh Railway authorities have recently taken a move to recover its grabbed land and as part of the initiative, it conducted a drive to recover the century-old colony of Narayanganj Railway Station, which was built to rehabilitate the railway staff. Later, outsiders occupied the colony.
Contacted, the authorities claimed that they issued prior notices to the illegal occupants to vacant the colony, but they did not pay heed to that.
About the eviction, mayor of Narayanganj City Corporation (NCC) Selina Hayet Ivy told UNB that the colony was leased out to the Railway Workers Welfare Association in the name of building structures.
“Earlier, on January 9, when the railway authorities were trying to conduct an eviction drive to recover the colony, we (local representatives) requested them not to evict the poor and they didn’t evict them. But, the authorities evicted the colony dwellers this time conducting a mindless drive,” she said.
On Saturday, at least 30 people, including seven policemen, were injured in a clash during a drive to bulldoze illegal structures from the land of Narayanganj Railway Station.
During the drive, the occupants suddenly attacked them about half an hour after the operation had begun, triggering a fight with the police and the railway staff.
According to the railway office, there are around 1,000 illegal structures on the railway property between Narayanganj and Chashara rail stations.
The authorities will fix the date of the next eviction drive in the area soon.