They were moved out of their homes where many of them had lived for generations. Four years after, they wonder what it was for.
Fifty eight families, including 18 nuclear families, were displaced from their property and home at Edachira for the ambitious SmartCity Kochi project. While most of them shifted to the rehabilitation land adjoining the project site by September 2008, the project has still reached nowhere.
Land acquisition had proved a long drawn out process as it took almost five years to complete. Though the authorities hailed the package given to the displaced families as a model one setting a benchmark for future land acquisitions not everyone was satisfied.
According to P.B. Pareethukunju, convener of the action council for families displaced by SmartCity Kochi, the government had fixed land rates, starting from Rs. 10,000 per cent depending on the type of land.
Each family was given six cents free of cost while those who have surrendered more than 15 cents were given another five cents for exactly the same price at which their land was taken over. “The package was a bonanza for those who surrendered land; even those who gave up three cents got six cents in exchange. But for those who gave up large tracts of land, the package was not that attractive,” Mr. Pareethukunju said.
To the credit of the authorities, the displaced were also given financial assistance ranging between Rs. 15,000 and Rs. 2 lakh for taking apart their buildings.
P.B. Khader, the joint convener of the action council, said that the rehabilitation land was not properly readied as revealed by the collapse of the sidewalls of plots during previous monsoons. Two sidewalls that collapsed during the last monsoon still remain to be rebuilt , he said. With the onset of another monsoon, they expect more of the same.
Also, infrastructure facilities were not immediately forthcoming. “Power connection happened promptly, but the same cannot be said for water and road. The waterline to the rehabilitation land was readied only a few months back, while the road is yet to materialize,” Mr. Pareethukunju said.
The LDF government had allotted Rs. 30 lakh for roads just before it left office. Though the fund promptly reached the Collectorate, it could not be used due to elections. Post-election, the fund was handed over to Thrikkakara municipality, which sat over it for a year and a month before tendering the road work on June 17, Mr. Khader said.
With SmartCity Kochi getting off to a start of sorts with the launch of its pavilion on the project site, the displaced families hope that giving up their property will serve the purpose sooner rather than later.