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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Illegal eviction of Five Thousand People at EWS Quarters, Ejipura, Bangalore

Illegal eviction of Five Thousand People at EWS Quarters, Ejipura, Bangalore

Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bangalore's local government along with the police demolished around 1200 tin-sheds , evicting 5000 slum dwellers  at the economically weaker sections (EWS) quarters in Ejipura from 18-21 January, 2013. About 1200 women and 2000 children were affected by this action. The four-day demolition drive razed around 900 tin-sheds that were erected at the quarters more than 11 years ago. No written notice was served to the residents. The demolition was accompanied by violent police action which included pulling people out of their homes when they pleaded for the house not to be destroyed ; lathi-charge of women and elders who resisted the demolition and the arrest of twenty one women[1] [1].

Since the night of 18th January, hundreds of families have been living out in the open, braving the cold. Toilets in the area have been demolished, water supply has been cut and there is absolutely no shelter provided. Senior citizens, children and pregnant women in the area  have been living in the open with serious risk to their health. Rosemary (60) one of the thousands rendered homeless by the eviction , died on the evening of January 22, after spending nearly three days out in the open. Her daughter says the death was a direct consequence of the demolition stating that she had barely eaten anything in the last few days[2].

People have been promised houses in Sulekunte village along Sarjapur Road. Sulekunte village is on the outskirts of Bangalore some 15 kms away from EWS quarters. The long distance means that residents would have to spend a lot for their commute to the city daily, for work. Karnataka Slum Development Board (KSDB) is supposed to build apartments for the 900 families in a 5-acre plot there. This may take any time between 1-3 years. Until then the government has failed to provide any alternative arrangements, even temporary, for the evicted people. BBMP claims that it is not responsible in providing interim relief to only 1512 original allottees and not the tenants and sub-tenants living at the quarters.

These actions are infringement of fundamental rights of the residents of Ejipura as the government has failed to abide by its constitutional obligations to guarantee the ‘Right to shelter’ and ‘Right to life and livelihood’ to its citizens.

Background:
In 1992, the Ejipura Quarters were built for policemen but were rejected by them as the quality of construction was very poor and even basic facilities like water and sanitation were not provided. The civic agency then allotted the quarters to the EWS. Many allottees continued to live in those poor conditions while some of the allottees rented it out to others who were in a worse off position than them. Thus, these buildings housed a number of poor people who were allotted the house and some very poor families, who stayed on rent in these blocks. Due to poor quality of construction of the EWS quarters, some of the blocks started cracking and collapsed in 2002, killing 3 people. Later, all the blocks even though experts ruled that with repairs, theywould be safe for living. Since then, many have been living in common tin sheds by the side of the demolished quarters.

Earlier in 2005, the BBMP passed a resolution to provide housing on the same land for all residents, including those it now dismisses as “illegal occupants” or “squatters”. In 2006, the BBMP had issued guritina cheetis/hakku patras (rights/identification certificates) to the people who were on rent from the original allotttees. These are the people whoim the BBMP now terms as encroachers.

Later, a Public Private Partnership (PPP) between BBMP and Maverick Holdings was signed to develop the land. As part of the joint development agreement half of the land is to be used for the construction of 1,512 EWS apartments. The other half will be used by Maverick Holdings to construct the mall. Eviction of residents for the project has been stalled several times since its inception with residents and rights groups staging protests, alleging that it smacks of a land scam.Incidentally Maverick Holdings are also the beneficiaries of another Joint Venture Programme on Magrath Road, which was initiated as multiple car park but instead got developed into the Garuda Shopping Mall. Complaints have been lodged against the said project and the said company before the Lokayukta that is seized of the matter presently (Case no.426/2008 with Karnataka Lokayukta).

Pursuant to this, the original allottees filed a case in High Court which ruled last August that BBMP and Maverick should go ahead with the project and that only original allottees should be given the new flats. Court also ordered Maverick Holdings to pay Rs. 30,000 to the original allottees still staying in the quarters, as compensation and ordered BBMP to provide rehabilitation for 1512 original allottees, except those who have accepted compensation, at Iglur on Hosur Road. It authorised BBMP to evict/eject all occupants from the site and if necessary taking aid/assistance of police force. Unfortunately, the order did not hear the people who were on rent and disregarded that those who are staying on rent for more than 15 years and, in turn, disregarding their right to housing on basis of perpetuity. (Writ Petition 45915/2011)
 Later the people who were on rent, approached the Karnataka High Court(Writ Petition 42743/12) asking that the order in (Writ Petition 45915/2011) be stayed. The Karnataka High Court is still hearing the matter and even as it is doing so, BBMP and the police carried out these demolitions.
 It is unfortunate that in a country where the housing rights of millions are not met, land m,eant for housing for the economically weaker sections is being used to build a mall. Utilization of public lands by the Government is controlled by the Public Doctrine and the Joint Venture defeats the public trust doctrine inasmuch as it allows the Private third party to extract profit from the public land which was meant for the housing of poor and vulnerable sections of society. It is pertinent to note that the land has been earmarked for the construction of houses for economically weaker section, and it was for this purpose that the EWS quarters was constructed, and the present Joint Venture takes away from the sanctioned character of the land.
 BBMP’s Agreement with the Private builder is unreasonable, arbitrary, unfair and opposed to public policy, public interest and the public trust doctrine.

When on the one hand the efforts of the Hon’ble Supreme Court is to respect and realise the constitutional rights of the urban homeless, this demolition of the EWS slum, stands at cross-purposes with these efforts. It is just and necessary that immediate steps be taken to ensure that the displaced families have proper shelter, access to basic and other services.

Action Requested
We request the National Human Rights Commission to immediately look into this issue and ensure that the rights of the affected people are restored. We requerst the commission to direct the Government of Karnataka to -
1.       Conduct a an enquiry on the gross human rights violations  by the state  authorities during the demolition and eviction drive and
      conduct a public hearing on the whole issue.
2.       Provide immediate housing or basic shelter in the same spot or at least in the same area.
3.       Grant compensation to all victims for injuries caused to them and damaging their belongings.
4.       Scrap the current PPP project and houses for all the original allottees and current residents to be provided in the same spot.

We request your urgent action in this matter to address the mammoth humanitarian crisis .

Yours Sincerely,
Isaac Arul Selva
Karnataka Slum Janandolana

Prabahakar R
Dalit and Minorities Land Protecttion Forum

Medha Patkar
National Alliance of People's Movements