The affectees of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) staged a protest Sunday on I.I. Chundrigar Road, one of the metropolis’ major economic districts, to once again pile pressure on the authorities to immediately work on resettlement.
Women, who formed a major portion of the total protesters, stressed that children, women, and the elderly were forced to stay outside under an unforgiving sun and in a major heatwave that has hit the port city of Karachi.
The KCR affectees have been left stranded on the roads and streets after their homes were demolished and they were forced into makeshift beds and sitting areas in the rubble of their own homes.
Protesters said the government needed to provide immediate aid and assistance to these folks and demanded alternative accomodation right away lest it was too late.
With placards and banners in their hands, the protesters chanted against the brutality of being driven into homelessness as well as the state’s unfulfilled promises of resettling those impacted by the capitalistic KCR project.
The affectees said the federal government should have provided alternative residence first and on a priority basis and then gone on to raze down the houses they have been living in for decades.
Earlier, it was reported that the extreme heatwave had worsened, pushing the mercury to 39-42°C, as per the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD).
The ‘feels like’ temperature, on the other hand, was likely to shoot to 47-50°C owing to the city’s humidity and the overbearing temperature expected to continue till June 16.
Protesters and those displaced by the KCR project said none of the promised water, temporary tents or washrooms were provided by the government of Sindh despite having announced to do so earlier after pressure mounted.
“We are protesting here against the continuing ‘anti-poor demolitions’ under the guise of the Supreme Court’s orders for Karachi.”
She said about 4,665 houses were set to be demolished and some have already been razed to the ground. “During Ramzan and the Eid [Eid-ul-Fitr], these affectees have been sitting on the remains and rubble of their decades old homes in the scorching summer heat.
Does this kind of thing happen in any state?
Another demonstrator asked: “These people are oppressed [and] they are poor, where will they go? For them, make alternative arrangements even if those arrangements are small. But do that first before going ahead with the KCR plan.”
Protesters, activists, and representatives of the displaced people said a review petition had been filed, twice, to the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The centre, they said, really needed to take notice of this matter on an urgent basis because children, women, and the elderly were severely hit by the merciless weather.
Moneeza Ahmed, a member of Aurat Haq and the Women Action Forum (WAF), told Geo.tv that this was an issue of utmost importance and should be addressed without any delays.
“The Karachi Bachao Tehreek condemns the demolitions,” she said. “I believe the government has an anti-poor bias in its policy” and that the KCR “is being built on the blood and sweat of the poor in katchi abaadis”.
The Karachi Bachao Tehreek was launched by the Awami Workers Party (AWP). It coordinator, Khurram Ali, had explained that many of the people targeted by the anti-encroachment drive were only given one-day notices.
“Our Constitution says the government is responsible for shelter. The rich are let go with fines but the poor are demonised,” he had said. Further, speaking of the city and its complications, Ali had mentioned how expensive it was to live in Karachi and that, coupled with real estate moguls’ collusion — an open secret — to jack up prices, makes adequate accommodation even more taxing.
“The first responsibility is to resettle people. No development comes at the expense of people’s roofs, jobs, food or businesses,” he had stressed.
“The Supreme Court has ordered that these people be rehabilitated in a year and it should exactly be that way. Resettle them or provide alternative housing first then work on the project.”