The dilemma I wrote about has been brought to an abrupt end. Well, sort of. I have decided that all right-thinking citizens should speak up when a slum or an unauthorised structure is found in their vicinity. Yes, I will write a complaint letter whether or not it gets due consideration. Pushpa and Tejas wrote to tell me that I should. Thanks friends. However, my friends and neighbours tell me, "they have come to do some temporary laying of pipes, they will go away. Why break your head [think about it, in Bombay patois]?"
I say, "what if they don't." And usually – I know – they don't.
"How do you know they will go away?"
"I have seen so many that haven't gone away."
Good assumptions this. And this is my backyard, where I have to walk everyday, have been proud of breathing the pure air. I know the temptation is to stay and not go away and the authorities will not lift a finger because they can't. They don't. Also because they gradually become a source of votes. Look at any part of Bombay and you would find such structures, ugly, formless, without foundation, plastic-made, held by twigs where people live, defecate, make children, and fight. The time to fight a breach of law is when it is made the first time. No, not later. Go to the bridge leading to Reay Road Station on harbour railway line and it's so full of slums that they have made two- and three-storeys from such ugly dilapidation.
Now, coming to the question of exploited labourers. My walking companion tells me that they have been brought as virtual bonded labourers, given grains and oil and are asked to fend for themselves. They are poor, they are exploited, they are dispossessed. Well, we live in a democracy, there are rules like minimum wages, contracts, worker insurance, medical benefits. Why aren't they aware of all these before they signed to come to Bombay with the contractor? Because they are illiterate. Again, illiteracy because of whose fault. Primary education is free and compulsory.
Anyway why should I encourage the contractor who brought them to do this again with the people he has brought? He should employ good employment practises, not me suffer for his digressions and profit seeking. If I don't stop him, he will never be stopped. He will be more organised. The whole thing has become so politicised and corrupt that people don't speak up and when they do they afraid for their lives.