Weak foundation resulted in structure collapse, say officials

The three houses that came down on Monday morning and the other houses abutting the storm water drain in Okalipuram have all been labelled as encroachments by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). However, the residents rubbish the BBMP’s claim insisting they have the requisite documents.

Satish Nataraj told The Hindu they have been living in the area, behind the Muddaiah Silk Factory, since 1973. “We were earlier in Swatantrapalya. Our houses were acquired for the construction of a public toilet. The then councillor Balasundaram asked us to build our houses here. We have ration cards, electoral photo identity cards and even Aadhaar cards now,” he said.

Another resident, A. Selvaraj, said that their family, after moving to the area, had even paid tax to the corporation, displaying a photocopy of the receipt. The receipt for Rs. 39 tax amount in 1973 was issued by the erstwhile Bangalore City Corporation. He, however, did not produce any documents to prove that tax had been paid thereafter.

‘No documents’

BBMP officials said the houses were all encroachments and their owners had no property documents to prove their ownership. They told The Hindu on condition of anonymity that weak foundations had ended in structure collapse. The buildings stood over the already weakened retaining wall of the major storm water drain of the Vrishabhavati Valley.

An official said the masonry of the retaining wall was at least 50 years old. It had become weak due to exposure to the elements over the years and due to the chemical reactions from the sewage let into the storm water drain. “Work on reconstruction and strengthening of the retaining wall was taken up because it had weakened. In some places, the stones have come away. We are strengthening it with cement.”

The official pointed to the Shakti Ganapathi Temple standing on a dilapidated section of the wall, indicating its precarious position. The footbridge connecting two bylanes over the drain was also in a bad shape. “We want to bring down those structures as well, as they are accidents waiting to happen. But residents are opposed to this.”

Work taken up

Emergency works on remodelling of the drain that flows from Sankey Tank to Vrishabhavati Valley has been taken up at Rs.1.2 crore. The BBMP officials claimed that the work was taken up only 15 days ago, while the residents said it was going on for the past two months.

Title deeds

Meanwhile, Gandhinagar MLA Dinesh Gundu Rao said that most residents there have been given hakku patras (title deeds). “Only six houses were left out. The file regarding issuing hakku patras to them is currently with the BBMP Commissioner.” He added that once the Commissioner approves the proposal, the residents who have now been rendered homeless will be sanctioned homes under some housing scheme.

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