The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) may be pleased with itself for the rigorous demolition drive that it has taken up over the past three weeks, but those who have been displaced say that the system is “severely flawed”, for notices are hardly ever issued in advance and middlemen are never held accountable, making these drives “anti-poor”.
Members of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and organisations such as the Slum Janandolana, Karnataka, staged protests last week to condemn the “systematic removal” of shelter of the poor by the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) and the BBMP.
Let’s take for example, one of the biggest demolitions of last week at Kushalnagar in Kadugondanahalli, where the BBMP claims to have demolished over 63 houses illegally built on the raja kaluve. This area is mainly Muslim-dominated, with people from a lower economic background, who work as porters or construction workers.
Residents say they were taken by surprise when the demolition squad arrived. “Only 20-odd houses have been taken down, and about 200 people have been displaced,” says Kannan, a social worker in that area. “The houses that are actually blocking the raja kaluve are ‘pucca’ structures, which the BBMP will not demolish,” he says, pointing to a house that is built across the main stormwater drain. “Areas on Tannery Road have been given notices for a January demolition, but we were not,” complains a displaced resident.
They also question the illegality of the land. “We have water and electricity connections given to us by the government, so how can it be illegal?” asks a resident.
Like many “unclaimed” pieces of land often usurped by middlemen and leased out to unsuspecting people, the residents here paid one Sirabullah, who even gave them documents for the land in return for money many years ago. The person is question, they say, has long run away.
After the demolition, many families put up temporary tents on either side of the drain. “We wanted a shelter till we could make alternative living arrangements, but the police came and took the tents down while we were at work,” says Kamal, a displaced resident.
Meanwhile, the civic body has identified almost 800 sites in the city for demolition, of which 50 per cent have been complete, and 40 per cent of the raja kaluve’s encroachments have been taken out.
Issac Selva of the Slum Jana Andolana, Karnataka, says that the BBMP demolition in BTM Layout on October 30 was a result of the lack of coordination between BBMP and the Karnataka Slum Clearance Board. “Two years ago, the BBMP had issued a memorandum to the slum board asking for them to declare the slum in question, but that never happened,” he says. “The BBMP demolished it recently calling it illegal,” he adds.
According to Mr. Selva slums hardly “encroach” the raja kaluve, but they are removed so the “city looks clean”.
In a place like Kalasipalyam, where business is intense and quick, and small shops at the bus-stop sustain the livelihoods of many families, over 300 small shops have been taken down to build a bigger bus-stop last week.
“We don’t deny that the area could do with a bus-stop, but they gave us no notice,” says Kamal, whose shop was demolished.