Ullal TMC plans to demolish 390 houses and start afresh

Eleven years, court cases, and numerous proposals later, the allotment of Low Income Group houses near Ullal is back to square one, with a proposal being mulled by the Ullal Town Municipal Corporation (TMC) to demolish the houses and start afresh.

Around 390 houses were constructed, spending more than Rs. 1.2 crore, over a nine-acre plot in 2002 by the Rajiv Gandhi Rural Housing Corporation (RGRHC) under the Ashraya Scheme at Ombathukere in Ullal.

Bearing resemblance to a ghost town, the embattled-construction project is now overrun by shrubs, walls have crumbled, and roofs have caved in after years of monsoon and heat damage. There are no sanitary lines, no doors, windows, power lines or roads – and the closely-packed single-roomed structures has been given the moniker of matchbox houses by locals.

“We have to demolish the houses. It is not in a state that can be repaired, it is unliveable,” said Chetan S. Kalvi, Chief Officer, Ullal TMC. The proposal the TMC was working on, he said, was to reconstruct flats (ground + two floors: with 9 houses in each apartment) for the economically-weaker sections in the same plot. However, with 43 apartments needed to cover 390 families in the original beneficiary meet, Mr. Kalvi said the proposal hinged on the State government’s response to it.

“We can’t fund the project. We need State Government aid,” he said.

The original beneficiary list – done after receiving some 4,000 applications – also needs to be relooked, as officials said many beneficiaries may have died, or migrated elsewhere, or are now ineligible under the economic weaker section quota. “Holistically, we’re restarting the whole project…the old project is a waste now,” Mr. Kalvi said.

Even before the project could be thrown open to beneficiaries, locals took it to court, alleging that without any drainage system, the colony would end up polluting nine “sacred” lakes (Ombathukere) nearby. The court ruled in their favour, and directed the government to hand over the project only after underground drainage (UGD) was laid.

However, the Rs. 65.71 crore UGD project missed its mid-2013 deadline, and may take another 18 months to build. Till then, the Ombathukere project remains a white elephant for the Ullal TMC. Incidentally, last year, the council had unsuccessfully considered converting the area into a tourist lodge and a park.

“It’s a complete waste of public money. The officials who are responsible for this mess should be taken to task,” said Mohammad Kabeer, social activist, who had filed a Lokayukta case about the irregularities and sub-standard construction of the project in 2009. The case is still at the inquiry stage.

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