Anger, agony at Moti Dongor

In view of the recent High Court order to demolish all the illegal structures within six months after a survey at Moti Dongor, the residents here at the slum are brooding and sulking — and, find themselves being "cheated", they insist to write about.

While responding to a public interest litigation, the High Court of Bombay at Goa on 9 August directed the state government to "conduct a survey of Moti Dongor and list all structure/ constructions which are in existence in violation of the provisions of Goa Municipal Act, 1968."

The Court has also directed to "take steps to demolish all such illegal/ unauthorized structures in accordance with law".

In response to the Court order, the state advocate-general has assured that "all the illegal constructions carried out at Moti Dongor, Margao shall be demolished after carrying out necessary survey within a period of six months."

However, when one enters Moti Dongor it looks nothing different from any slum area dotting the country elsewhere.

A heap of garbage at the entrance, dingy shanties in tracts of mossy mud, single serpentine road with narrow bends and fenny lanes with swarming hive of meagre-limbed men, this slum of about 2,000 households looks like an area without the faintest traces of human dignity and charm.

However, beating all oddities the residents of Moti Dongor were somehow carrying along with their life and livelihood till the other day when the order to raze down their dwellings came in. They claim that the past government has disowned them.

"What to do?…. it was because of our votes that Digambar Kamat has been winning elections from Margao. But when we went to him to regularise our house tax he did nothing and now he has raised his hands up on the demolition issue…we feel cheated," fumes Misbaul Haque (65).

Haque with his three children has been living in Moti Dongor since 1998 when he had bought a three room dwelling for Rs 80,000 here.

The migrant worker from Rajasthan says that the residents of Moti Dongor have everything from primary school to public toilets, road, electricity and water, but our house tax has not been regularised, and blames the previous government for not doing the needful.

"Where will we go once our houses well get razed down? … we have also lost everything back in our ancestral home state. Can  you imagine we can get down in the town and live on rent?" asks Mohd Imtiyaz (28). 

Imtiyaz had come from Hubli in Karnataka and living with three of his family members at Moti Dongor for the last six years. He looks after his family through the earnings obtained by running a small miscellaneous shop at Rs 3,000 rent a month.

Similarly, Chandu Pawar (30), who is born and brought up in Moti Dongor, says that his father Nillappa Pawar, a stone crusher, had migrated here from Bijapur in Karnataka. Pawar works in building construction as a daily wage labourer earning Rs 300 irregularly.

"Now you tell me where will all go from here…I have no other place to go. I do not know another place to live since my birth here," he says while making the previous government responsible for all the problems they have to face now.

"He just used us and has thrown us out after his purpose was served. I would say he is responsible for this problem of shelter we are facing now," he charges with rage on his face.

His friend, Raju Govind (32), too is born and brought up in Moti Dongor and his father had migrated here from Hubli in Karnataka in 1970. Govind works in the state electricity department and says that they are mulling to consult a lawyer to present "our case before the court or the government."

"Here, we have been living quite peacefully for ages, and now they say that our household structures are illegal. We will fight it out together. Why all the time only the poor people are being penalised?" wonders Govind.

Mohd Hanif (42), a mason by profession, says that he has been living in Moti Dongor for the last 26 years. He came here, married here and has three children today, all studying.

"Now, all of a sudden they say our household structures are unauthorised. Where were they earlier when they were providing us with ration cards, voters cards, water connections, ID cards and other government facilities?…We all are afraid now … reading what is coming out in newspapers every other day on Moti Dongor," he states ruefully.

Hanif, however, also added that ‘The Navhind Times’ was the first paper which came to their doorstep to know their feelings and frustrations ever since the Court directive has come.

"No other journalist had come to us earlier. Nobody is interested in our voice …but you people have come and now we will also have our voice heard," he states further.

Like him, his neighbour, Abdul Quadir (60), has been living in Moti Dongor for the last 40 years and he too had come here from Hubli in Karnataka, leaving everything buried in the past. 

When asked what he feels over the Court order, he says nonchalantly, "What will I feel? …. we will consult each other and call a meeting to mull over this."

"The previous government cheated us," he charges crisply.

Similarly, a member of the Senior citizen Committee of Moti Dongor, Mohd Ibrahim, again a Karnataka state migrant, says that when had come to Moti Dongor there were just two-three households here and the rest was jungle.

"We are caught in the vortex of politics and nothing else. Even here people are not united. If we come together and fight for our cause, I think a solution must come up," believes the sexagenarian Ibrahim.

In Moti Dongor, most of the migrants are from the neighbouring state of Karnataka and are Muslims.

However, there is social cohesion prevailing there as "both Hindus and Muslims live here in harmony. We have our temple and masjid here," says most of them.

They, however, felt anguished when recently someone had spread this canard that "we have come from Bangladesh."

"There were some leaflets coming to our door that someone has charged us as Bangladeshi infiltrators. It was at the time when the NorthEast problem was fomented", says Mohd Hanif.

They also refute the charge that in Moti Dongor there are gang wars and illegal activities go on.

"They charge that we possess and fight with each other with swords and other weapons…..please come and check and find out the truth.. just making allegations against anyone is quite easy," they say in chorus.

However, most of the residents of Moti Dongor this daily spoke to admitted that there were few people amongst themselves who are primarily responsible for all their miseries and problems.

"They do not want us to live peacefully. They are the political brokers of leaders and have earned money to build big houses here," they say.

Earlier, however, the man at the centre of the blame game, who reportedly is also called as ‘badsha’ by his critics, refuted all charges and found them "baseless and false."

"I cannot be blamed for the slum when it was notified in 1985 before I came into politics," he said

Meanwhile, the residents of Moti Dongor are hoping against hope that something would be done so that, like others down in the town, they too could live quietly and happily in their little abodes on the hill. Till, then they keep their fingers crossed! [NT]