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Friday, May 7, 1999 Published at 18:33 GMT 19:33 UK

World: South Asia

Slum dwellers face eviction

Two million people are to have their homes destroyed

By David Chazan in Dhaka

More than two million slum dwellers in Bangladesh are to be evicted and their homes demolished.

The Home Minister, Mohammed Nasim, has announced all shanties in the capital, Dhaka are to be razed. He said no alternative accommodation would be provided for the slum dwellers, raising concern among human rights activists.

The slums have been a hotbed of crime and violence, said Mr Nasim, and their clearance is part of a on-going operation aimed at curbing lawlessness - 15,000 people have been arrested in the past two weeks.

Human rights activists, already concerned that the police may be going too far, are now worried about the fate of those to be evicted. Their only crime, they say, is being poor.

But some cast doubt on the authorities' ability to carry out the plan to bulldoze hundreds of thousands of shacks in Dhaka.

Tough action

Public pressure on the government to reduce crime is enormous. The home minister, appointed in March after the country's international aid donors complained that law and order was deteriorating, seems determined to take tough action.

He has taken personal command of the operation against crime, particularly in southern Bangladesh.

Opposition leaders say they are still considering their response to the minister's statement - some dismissed it as rhetorical.

But they are well aware that the government's plan could play into their hands.

The resulting discontent among millions of urban poor could swell the ranks of those taking part in anti-government protests and a general strike which opposition parties are planning for next week.

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