It was a rainy morning in 2012 when eight-year-old Shiva Katkari left for school. As usual, his mother dropped him, before she went to work as a domestic help in the buildings close to their home at Shastri Nagar in Thane. His school bag had some books and a small packet of chips his mother had bought the previous evening. As mother and son walked hand in hand to school, little did they realise that the events later in the day would change their lives forever. As Manjula walked back from school, she passed some bulldozers parked alongside the road to her home. At home she had a cup of tea with her husband, who worked as a gardener in the same block of buildings where Manjula was employed. While her husband ate the leftover chappatis from the previous night’s dinner, Manjula went hungry as she was fasting that day. Shiva had eaten a packet of Parle-G biscuits with tea. That was the only meal they had that day.
At work, she received a call from her husband about bulldozers razing houses in the vicinity. As they were Aadhaar card holders who lived in a 225-sq ft “one plus one” structure at the Shastri Nagar basti, they did not give the bulldozers much thought. Then her husband called again, asking her to rush home immediately. “Ghar thodla hota, kahitch nahi rahila (the house had been broken, there was nothing left),” she told Outlook reminiscing the painful memories of that fateful day. “My mother was crying when she came to pick me up at school. I came back to debris that had been our home,” says Shiva, now 17. He lost his school books and has not been to a school since that day.