The next elections of the Cantonment Board – which includes civilians – will be held in 2020.

Secunderabad Cantt Board removes 28K slum dwellers from voter listImage: Balakrishna Ganeshan
news Controversy Thursday, July 05, 2018 - 15:29

In a major move, over 28,000 voters in Secunderabad's cantonment area have potentially lost their voting rights after the Secunderabad Cantonment Board (SCB) revised its list of voters ahead of the next election, scheduled to be held in 2020.

The SCB said that it had removed the names of 28,123 voters of the total 1.91 lakh voters, most of whom were slum-dwellers, and claimed that they had 'illegally encroached' defence land that belonged to the central government.

According to reports, this includes over 17,000 names from the electoral list in Ward 2 alone.

Speaking to TNM, Congress spokesperson Krishank Mane said, "We have been raising the issue for a long time and now it has happened. We are looking to take a legal route and challenge the move.”

The Congress had earlier conducted a detailed survey, gathering details of the socio-economic status of the alleged encroachers, along with other details.

Background

In June 2011, a Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs came up with the ‘Rajiv Awas Yojana’ under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, which aimed for a slum-free India.

The scheme said that in case of slum-dwellers encroaching Cantonment land, the local board was expected to work with the state government to either redevelop or relocate the slum, with due property rights.

However, the SCB has been citing a Supreme Court judgement from September 2016, which said that ‘encroachers’ of defence land had no right to vote in Cantonment elections.

SCB Chief Executive Officer (CEO) SVR Chandra Sekhar also cited the same Supreme Court order on Wednesday.

The case now rests on decoding the judgment, which also distinguished between the terms ‘residents’ and ‘inhabitants’, adding, “Even if a person is residing in an unauthorised structure, he will be entitled to be included in the electoral rolls under the Representation of the People Act.”

Many people living in these slums argue that they have already been given Aadhar cards and ration cards, which cite their present address, thereby officially legitimising them as residents.

Under the Cantonment Act of 2006, Secunderabad is classified as a Category 1 cantonment due to its large civilian population.

The SCB, which is the local municipal authority, comes under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence and functions as a local self-government. Half the members on the board are civilians while the other half are military nominations. There are eight civilian ‘wards’ in the SCB where political parties contest and put up their candidates.

TNM spoke to a few local leaders, who said that they were yet to be notified of the SCB’s latest move and denied receiving any notice.

Speaking to TNM, SCB CEO SVR Chandra Sekhar said, “The board, as per SC directions, has removed the names of these people, who are living on some encroachments of defence lands and government lands. If some people want to challenge the decision, they have to go to the Supreme Court.”

When asked about the status of the encroachments and if the SCB was planning to remove or demolish any structures, he said, “As of now, they have taken a decision only the voter list enrolment. The demolitions of the encroached properties are already in the courts. Once the courts decide, based on their directions, we will implement it.”  

 

Read: ‘Have Aadhar but name not on voter list’: Secunderabad slum-dwellers in legal battle

 

 

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