Government guidelines stipulate that the urban poor be provided housing near their place of occupation

Parappana Agrahara, being comfortably far from the city, seems to be fertile ground for government projects that require large spaces. And so, the Karnataka Slum Development Board (KSDB) has stationed one of its housing complexes for slum-dwellers in this area.

Land availability

The four-storeyed complex under construction near Amrita University comprises 1,156 houses, meant to house as many families. It is built under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, in collaboration with the Basic Services to Urban Poor (BSUP) mission of the State government.

“For construction of slum board houses, land is usually allotted by the government, and they are able to find such tracts of land available only in the outskirts of the city,” a KSDB spokesperson explained.

Market for real estate in this area has just started picking up, with office-goers on Hosur Road preferring to buy land or apartments here. But, even as office buildings have crowded together on the southern side of Hosur Road, the northern side, where Parappana Agrahara is located, is fairly free of commercial development.

“The civil construction of the housing complex has been completed, the next step is to provide electricity and water connections,” the KSDB spokesperson said.

From the heart to extremities

According to the KSDB official, people from slums in Bhuvaneshwarinagar and Arasu Colony, both located in the heart of the city, have been allotted housing here. That may be a problem, given that the people have established their livelihoods in their place of residence.

“Those working as day labourers or running businesses on a tiny scale, mostly in the unorganised sector, need to be near commercial activity to earn their living,” says Rajani Srikakulam, a programme officer with the Indo-Global Social Service Society, an NGO that works with the urban poor and the homeless in cities across India. “For instance, when some slum-dwellers were shifted from near the city market to Kanakapura Road, we found that they continued to travel back to the market to work as goods loaders, street vendors and cleaners,” Rajani says.

“Such jobs have to be started early in the morning and often get over late at night. They end up spending on every part of their living apart from housing — transport, food and even sanitation,” she says. “Some of them choose to not move and that is how such people doing essential jobs for the city become pavement dwellers or encroachers.”

In fact, BSUP guidelines stipulate that “urban poor [should be] provided housing near their place of occupation”.

Building new lives

Some residents of a slum in Sanjaynagar in north Bangalore claim to have been allotted housing in Parappana Agrahara as well.

Sanjaynagar used to be on the periphery of the city until the development of Bellary Road made it a prime commercial and residential locality. “Those who have helped build houses in Sanjaynagar have to go away, whereas those with money can always stay there,” says 70-year-old Bhagyamma, a waste collector.

Be it Sanjaynagar or Arasu Colony, those residents who have learnt a job, a way of life by themselves, are forced to move where it is expected that development will bring jobs. This may of course be very different and difficult for those relocated to adjust to.

One can only guess what might happen when Parappana Agrahara becomes choked for space as well.

More In: Bengaluru