"Even the vessels, plastic coverings, chairs, and my children’s uniforms were seized by the police as ‘evidence’ ,"said Sanjeeva

On a rainy Sunday in June, Sanjeeva (35), a daily wage worker, and his family were huddled in their simple tarpaulin-roofed residence in Gandhinagar, Moodbidri, when the police and taluk officials razed it to the ground.

The reason: it was blocking the creation of a new single-lane road that would provide a proposed apartment a shorter access route to an educational institution, Mr. Sanjeeva alleged. Less than hundred metres away, the complex has a two-lane entryway.

On June 16, a Saturday, he was served a notice signed by the then tahsildhar K. Muralidhara saying that he should vacate the property in three days. While Sanjeeva waited for the next working day, that is Monday, to send his reply, taluk officials arrived at his house on Sunday afternoon to demolish it. “We didn’t even have the opportunity to stop them from destroying the house. Even the vessels, plastic coverings, chairs, and my children’s uniforms were seized by the police as ‘evidence’ ,” he said.

Uncertain future

Sanjeeva’s claim over the land may be legally debatable as, though he has a valid electoral ID card and ration cards for the address and claims to have lived there for 27 years, neither he nor his father who built the house had regularised the property. But the demolition of his house has left his family shaken.

Sanjeeva, his wife Prema, and their three children Sandesh (9), Shubha (8), and Sugesh (7) were left to fend for themselves. Through the benevolence of locals there, the family was allowed to stay in a local anganwadi for a few weeks, for where they moved into the cramped house belonging to his mother-in-law.

He now faces an uncertain financial future. He said the family had undertaken repair works on the house after taking Rs. 30,000 as loan. They have no means to go to court in the matter, said Mr. Sanjeeva. Apart from the “inhuman” treatment of a family, Korgappa, the area councillor, said the demolition violated The Karnataka Municipalities Act, 1964, which states that the Tahsildhar report illegal structures to the council before the demolition. “It becomes clear that the tahsildhar, who was to retire a few days later, was in a hurry to ensure that the builder got all the facilities he wanted before he demitted office,” he said.

Denying the allegations, Mr. Muralidhara claimed the house was constructed only a week before the demolition. “On hearing news that they were resuming the constructing of the house even after we gave a notice, we rushed to the spot, though it was a Sunday, and had the encroachment removed. We didn’t have time to contact Town Council,” he said. However, pictures of the demolition possessed by Mr. Sanjeeva show an aged house.

A.K. Thimmaiah, Moodbidri Police Inspector, said although local officials were wrong in the demolition of the structure before the stipulated notice period, a police enquiry against the tahsildhar found him of “no wrongdoing”. The builder could not be contacted.

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