Shanti Nagar Assembly constituency is a perfect example of the stark divide that exists in the city between the rich and the poor. Apart from the most commercial pockets — M.G. Road and Brigade Road; some of the areas where the city’s poor reside, such as parts of Ejipura, Vannarpet, Agaram, also come under this constituency.
The recent demolition of the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) shanty town in Ejipura is likely to become the thorn in the path of Congress MLA N.A. Haris who is trying to return to the Vidhana Soudha.
Suguna Amavase, who lived in the shanty town for more than 25 years, now lives with her family of six in a small tent pitched on the footpath. “We are homeless suddenly. With no place to go to, we have been staying on the footpath since January this year. Though we all have voter’s identity cards and ration cards, we will not vote until we get a roof over our heads,” she said. Her grand-daughter Shanti Annayappa, who is nursing her 10-month-old baby, squarely blamed Mr. Haris for their pathetic state. “They (MLA and Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike officials) did not give us any notice to vacate our homes only because we are poor. Nobody cares about people like us,” she lamented.
With the elections just round the corner, Ramesh Charles and Mary Fatima claim that none of the candidates in the fray have come to the area seeking votes. “Earlier, the candidates would come to the slum seeking votes. The MLA had assured us of getting us houses in the complex that is planned at the spot. We are not going to believe in their empty promises any more. They are responsible for our homeless state,” said Ms. Fatima, without mincing any words.
A little away in Samata Nagar, residents complained about the lack of basic facilities. Anwar Pasha, a businessman, said that water scarcity was a major problem. He added that garbage was also not being lifted regularly. “The main roads are cleaned; but the cross roads hardly get any attention,” he said. His wife Farha Anwar said, “Sky is the limit for the candidates’ promises. These promises will remain just promises.”
In another pocket in Vannarpet where people from socio-economic backgrounds reside, the lack of public toilets is a daily ordeal that residents go through. Saritha M., a homemaker, said that the public toilets lack water connectivity and are hardly cleaned. “We have to use the pay and use toilets that are around half-a-km away. The person manning the toilet there grumbles if we go there and asks us to use the toilet in our area,” she said.
Kathyayini Chamaraj, secretary of the Shanti Nagar Residents Welfare Association, said that prevention of encroachment of civic amenity sites should be the priority of the MLA. “There are rumours that some party workers are collecting rent from the hutments that have come up on the CA sites. The BDA must reclaim these sites,” she said. She said that garbage processing was another concern. “The BBMP had given the association land to start a local composting unit thrice. But we were not allowed to set it up. If we had been allowed to set it up, garbage problem could have been resolved easily,” she said.
Meanwhile, it is a triangular fight between Mr. Haris from the Congress, Mayor D. Venkatesh Murthy from the BJP and the former Deputy Mayor K. Vasudeva Murthy from the Janata Dal (S). With a sizeable population comprising Tamils, those belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and minorities, caste politics may come into play.