The Untold Stories of Moti Dongor

By Prabhakar Timble
12 August 2013 22:24 IST

What is consistently hammered in respect of Moti Dongor, a declared slum, is the issue of illegal tenements. The occupants are stuck with the permanent label of migrants and the area is pictured as soiled with crime. There is no city unaccompanied by a slum in the whole world, probably with the rare exception of Scandinavian countries. By birth, all slums are illegal and hence the government intervention is needed to rehabilitate and provide minimum living standards. The mandate for the government is to provide facilities for life, livelihood, education, health and shelter. It cannot be to raze the dwellings and render the defenseless victims homeless.

Pride and Prejudice

The story of any slum is much more than one of illegalities. By creating a hype of illegality, we oversimplify the issue and shift the focus on legal battle to settle a humanitarian cause in the most inhuman way. The slum at Moti Dongor is not a recent phenomenon. The new BJP government took it as an issue of pride to project that the government has zero tolerance to illegalities. This could be best described as executive arrogance and fancy.  Such a stand cannot be held against the rural poor, underprivileged migrants and those residing in urban slums. It does no credit to the government to gloat in the pride that the area is free of migrants, who to a large extent happen to be Muslims by faith.  It is not a triumph for any government to drive poor and dependent people homeless to prove regional pride and intolerance to illegalities. In fact, the expectation from the government is to rescue and rehabilitate the poor.

No tale of a slum is free from local prejudice. The locals need the services of the migrants and the slum dwellers but will rarely join the cause for their uplift from inhuman conditions. The prejudice has its roots in the inhabitants being migrants. The chauvinism gets a multiplier if the migrants belong to minority community. The intolerance accelerates by infusing issues such as crime and their insanitary conditions of living. The failure of garbage management in the town is the cause of stench and dirt. It is actually the migrants and slum dwellers who clean the garbage as it is one source of their livelihood but the prejudice against them as generators of trash and rubbish continues.  Though far from truth, these prejudices are perceived as realities. Every politician treats them as vote banks to be lured and dumped. The present ruling party and the government is presumably assuming that Moti Dongor is the stronghold of the present MLA who ‘at present’ belongs to a rival party. As a result, the government machinery works overtime to decree a death sentence on Moti Dongor. For the local media, the drama of demolition is newsworthy. They see no story of the trauma of the families. Rehabilitation and healing would be projected by the local media as anti-regional and the legalizing of the illegality as a public crime of the government. It is also apparent that the slum dwellers have to also bear the brunt of media prejudice.  

A silent transformation

Education is one of the instruments which is bringing a change in the new generation of these migrants.  The children from Moti Dongor are spread in the four high schools of the town which are considered as non-elite. In the neighboring Government High School, the children of Moti Dongor constitute over 50% of the total strength. The dropout rate is equally very high.  Those who are successful, move further to ITI, Higher Secondary and graduation.  The dropouts take up as housemaids in case of girls. The boys look out at overseas options or take up as vendors, painters, fitters and unskilled construction workers.

The teachers at the Government High School say that the children are talented and vouch for their ability in swimming, dramatics, sports and dance. However, they lament at the culture of discipline and the weak academic base. What should draw the attention of all is the observation that these children act and behave like “adults” as their childhood is crushed due to poverty, broken home and parental neglect. The odds are heavy explaining a dropout rate of 60%.

 Cry for empathy

It looks that the government and other public authorities prefer to go for the kill as the kick of razing the tenements and homes is too enticing and tantalizing. A visit to the school to watch the children of Moti Dongor unravels the human stories of these families. When I asked the teachers as to what their response would be if the children came to them to say that their homes would be demolished received a creepy silence. However, the body language showed less concern being migrants and violators of law.

Some families are with single parents. Those who can shift to alternative accommodation can be counted on finger tips. Very few can go back to their native place as the livelihood opportunity is here.

I strongly hold that when the executive goes mad against the defenseless and the majority in the community is immune to their suffering, the higher judiciary should step in to restore justice to the deprived minority.  The powerless and exposed should not be expected to pay the cost of justice in terms of prohibitive fees of the Bar which makes the Bench inaccessible to them. If the higher judiciary fails to comprehend homelessness from their ivory towers, then the men in robes would make justice the casualty. The silent voices, the wet eyes, the shivering hands and the trebling footsteps of the children of Moti Dongor should draw the higher judiciary to their rescue.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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Previous Comments

In all certainty, the column paints a very colorful and sentimental picture and undoubtedly tells the ‘untold stories’ of Moti Dongor!

Now let me ask the columnist one or two questions –(‘unasked truth’) hidden behind the shelters of Mori Dongor!

For a moment let’s say the entire Moti Dongor area is an ancestral property of writer’s forefathers and he is the only legal claimant of that area. Under such circumstances, will the writer still hold the same views and gift the ownership of entire area to these migrants? Or will he initiate all legal possibilities and get the area cleared off illegal occupants from that area?

- Uday, Margao | 14 th August 2013 04:12

 

congratulations for the article based on social justice;providing affordable housing to the people in the same place is the answer;

- krishnamurthy, vasco | 14 th August 2013 01:06

 

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