katchi abadisImagine Arthur Dent’s surprise when he woke up to the sound of bulldozers, reared back to demolish his home. That is the iconic opening to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Now imagine that instead of Arthur Dent, an entire community faces such a predicament.

This was the case for the low-income community of Afghan Basti in Pakistan. On May 21, 2014, government-backed workers armed with bulldozers came to commence with roadworks. The Central Development Authority (CDA), which holds municipal responsibilities for Islamabad, had already demolished 25 stalls and five rooms nearby as part of the work.

According to Tribune journalist Maha Musaddiq, the bulldozing team was met with outcries as elders and children came out in protest of their forced eviction.

Enter July 2015. Despite protests, the CDA demolished sector I-11 in Islamabad. The sector was a low-income community similar to Afghan Basti. Both communities are known as ‘katchi abadis’.

What has motivated these evictions are claims on the part of the CDA that katchi abadis house criminals and terrorists. Umer Gilani, a lawyer for the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, challenges these allegations, seeing them as unfounded. He is not alone.

Tasneem Ahmed Siddiqui, an urban planner, has called for a paradigm shift in urban planning, taking Islamabad’s katchi abadis as an unfortunate example of what happens when a city is planned for the rich and fails to account for those laborers who might work for them.

According to the Tribune, Siddiqui has since proposed a solution to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, in Karachi, a new city district called DHA City is being constructed. But to some, the plan has committed the mistake Siddiqui outlined: there are no residences marked for drivers, housemaids or other staff.

A proposal has been submitted to the prime minister for a low-cost housing scheme.

Where protests in Pakistan have occurred over urgent circumstances — forced eviction with bulldozers at-the-ready — Indian koliwadas, or fishing villages, have protested their classification as slums.

Specifically, it is Mumbai’s Worli Koliwada, a historical fishing village, home to the Koli people who make up the city’s oldest residents.

Times of India journalist Priyanka Kakodkar reports that the land in question has been seen as valuable by property surveyors — and classifying the koliwada as a slum would open up the historical area to development.

The plan, however, was abandoned after locals vehemently objected to it.

It has instead been suggested that the local community try to develop and rehabilitate the area.

– The Borgen Project

Sources: Times of India, Tribune 1, DNAIndia, Tribune 2, Pakistan Today, Tribune 3
Photo: Wikipedia