Four years on, Ejipura residents await their promised houses

The EWS Colony in Ejipura was demolished by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) in January 2013, and nothing has changed for the 900-odd families who are still waiting for their houses. While many have shifted to the city outskirts, 22 families continue to live on the pavement near the fenced-off land.

According to an order of the High Court of Karnataka, the flats should have been built by the BBMP two years ago, but the deadline was never met. A few days ago, the court asked the developer to pay the BBMP 50% of the development charge assessed by the palike, and asked the palike to issue a plan sanction within two weeks. Under the current plan, half of the property will be used for building flats and the other half for commercial purposes.

Although 1,512 houses were allotted to citizens in 1996, most of the original inhabitants moved out owing to poor conditions, and new residents moved in. “When the flats were demolished, 900 families were living on rent on the premises,” said Arul Selva, activist and editor of Slum Jagattu. “The BBMP has promised to give them houses at Sulikunte, 18 km from the present site, by July.”

The demolition in January 2013 had garnered much public attention and more than a hundred protesters were taken into custody. Some of the residents and activists met on Saturday to decide on a further course of action.

BBMP Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad claimed that the construction was held up because of the developer, Maverick Holdings, not taking approvals on time. “For a high-rise, several no-objection certificates are needed from various departments, which took time,” Mr. Prasad said.

The development charge, which comes to ₹7.5 crore, had also become a bone of contention between the BBMP and the developer. “Half the land is for EWS flats, and the other half is owned by the BBMP. Why should I pay development charge for the land I do not own?” asked Uday Garudachar, managing director of Maverick Holdings.

Caught in the crossfire

Caught in the tussle between the civic body and the developer, the evicted residents have suffered the most. Many who moved to the city’s outskirts had to travel long distances to reach their workplaces. And, for those now living on the pavement, the more immediate worry is how to get through the next monsoon.

“Last month it rained so heavily that the tarpaulin tore and water entered many of the dwellings,” said Shanthi, who had rented a house in the colony and has been living on the pavement for the last five years. Come rain, leaking “roofs”, swarms of mosquitoes and unhygienic conditions lead to many falling sick.

Just last week, when rainwater started to enter their makeshift house, Jyothi, 25, had to make a dash for the next tent with her three children, the youngest just nine months old. “Whether it rains or there is a storm, it’s the children we worry most about,” she said.

While the court order has brought some relief to the residents, they are careful not to be too hopeful. “We have lived on the road for five years, waiting to get our houses back. Maybe something will happen now,” said Ms. Shanthi, and added, “so far, all we got are two-room houses made of bamboo and tarpaulin.”

Until then, they continue to live in their grand houses under the sun.

Note: A study published in July 2017 showed that the eviction impact on each family amounted to a deficit of ₹3,700 a month.

(Originally published in The Hindu.)

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