'Slumdog' child star's home demolished

MUMBAI: A second child actor from the hit film "Slumdog Millionaire" has seen her shantytown home pulled down, she and her family said Wednesday, just one week after her co-star saw his shack demolished.

The ramshackle home of nine-year-old Rubina Ali was one of about 25 properties near train tracks in the Gareeb Nagar slum in central Mumbai that was torn down.

About two dozen armed police proceeded with the demolition at about 11:00 am, witnesses said.

Rubina, who played the young Latika, the main female character in the Oscar-winning film, was out at the time but her father Rafiq was injured during the demolition and taken to hospital.

The girl told reporters: "I had gone to the market and when I came back they had broken down the house. I don't know where I will sleep tonight. I have no roof over my head."

Last week, a corrugated iron-and-bamboo shack in the same area where her co-star Azharuddin Ismail lived was demolished as part of a drive by the civic authorities to get rid of illegal slum dwellings.

Work to clear illegally-built lean-tos and tarpaulin-covered huts is a regular occurrence in Mumbai, particularly before the monsoon season, which starts in June and lasts until September.

More than half of Mumbai's estimated 18 million residents live in either designated slums or illegal shanties. Many of them are next to sewers which overflow during heavy rains.

But the municipal authorities readily admit that they can do little to stop the makeshift homes being rebuilt because of the city's acute housing shortage.

M.G. Shaker, secretary of the National Slumdwellers Federation, said people are often given little or no notice that their houses will be demolished, and because they have nowhere to go, they stay on the same land.

"They rebuild on the same spot," he told AFP. "They should be given alternative accommodation."

Azharuddin's family have since rebuilt their home.

A railway police official who was involved in clearing Rubina's house, Parmand Mishra, told reporters: "These huts were illegal and built on railway property."

But the girl's step-mother, Munni, said: "It was a permanent structure and not illegal but still they came and broke it down."

The latest demolition is likely to add to calls for the two "Slumdog" stars to be rehoused.

In the wake of the film's phenomenal success -- it raked in eight Oscars and four Golden Globes, plus a string of other awards around the world -- both families were promised municipal housing.

The team behind the hit film has said they will provide for the pair and set up a trust fund for them until they are 18. They currently receive a monthly stipend and now attend an English-medium school.

Last month, the team donated 500,000 pounds (755,000 dollars) to a charity dedicated to helping slum children.

Rubina's father was at the centre of allegations in a British tabloid newspaper that he tried to sell her for adoption for 20 million rupees (400,000 dollars) after complaining the family were still living in poverty.

He denied the claims and a police investigation found no evidence against him.

Asked if the family was in contact with anyone involved with the film, Munni Qureshi told reporters Wednesday: "I'm only in touch with (co-director) Loveleen Tandon, not anyone else."