Evictees for Goshree bridges yet to get land they were promised after 10 years

Sushama Raju feels insulted whenever employees on private buses operating through Goshree Bridges behave rudely with her.

“You are operating this bus because people like me gave up everything for these bridges,” she blurts out in anger.

Ms. Sushama firmly believes that for someone who was evicted and had to pull down with a heavy heart her hardly two-year-old two-storied house for the first of the three Goshree Bridges, she has more than equal rights over that bridge. And she expects others to respect it.

Emotions ran high when six out of the 14 similarly evicted families gathered near the very same bridge where their houses once stood, eight years after it was opened to the public, to share their agony with The Hindu on Thursday afternoon.

Their impetuous raptures were understandable. For, what they lost more than ten years back were land and roofs over their heads, two assets that are increasingly becoming out of bounds for the less privileged.

Three cents of land, job for a member of the family, and decent compensation were offered to 33 families evicted for the bridges. While the land was acquired at a price fixed under land acquisition (ponnum vila), the other two offers remain yet to be met, they claimed.

“We were paid a measly sum of Rs. 40,000 a cent. Do you know what the land price here is these days,” asked Omana Raman animatedly. It goes for upwards of Rs. 20 lakh a cent, she answered herself.

Of the 33 families, 13 were given three cents each as promised in Malippuram. Fourteen more families, who lost both house and land, are yet to receive the plots.

“We are left in the lurch by GIDA (Goshree Islands Development Authority). We even got a favourable decision from the Chief Minister at last year’s mass contact programme. But all files comes to rest at GIDA,” said Raju T.R.

Some of them now live in rented buildings, others with relatives and those who could afford to build a small dwelling have done so.

There are no more doors left to knock and political leaders and bureaucrats to approach for their rightful claim. “To know how long we have been at it, one just needs to look at the number of collectors we had to deal with over the years. The present incumbent P.I. Sheikh Pareeth is the fourth of them,” said Jayendran V.B.

Mulavukad panchayat committee had agreed on three occasions – in May 27, 2008; January 3, 2011, and latest on July 24, 2012 – to provide three cents of land for the rest of the evictees in Panampukad and conveyed it to GIDA.

“We are yet to see the GIDA response to the last communication. But it is unlikely to be positive,” said Pappy Kumaran.

A good part of the land identified in Panampukad is marshy and needs to be filled. The panchayat had written to the Collector in February 2011 asking for directions to GIDA and Cochin Port Trust to take necessary measures in this regard.

In between the panchayat had filled 80 cents Kattathukadavu, which the evictees asked for. “But we were told that it was meant as play ground. Our request for land filled up on the sides of the Container Terminal Road was also turned down. Now trucks are parked there,” a furious T.S. Lalitha said.

Without organised power to back them, the families have been left to fight for themselves. Jacob Roy, an evictee, who had in the past sat on hunger strike twice to draw attention to their plight, died recently without seeing justice being served.

Evictees are now determined to launch an agitation if their demands continue to be stonewalled.

“It was our sacrifices that heralded development to the islands. While everyone else is reaping the dividends, we are conveniently forgotten. The mental scars when we had to walk out of our homes never healed. The authorities are now adding salt to that wound by their neglect,” Ms. Sushama said in a choked voice.

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