Thirty families live in a 8 X 10 ft space over a cowshed in Tasker Town
“I am very attached to my cows. I look after them as my own children,” says Revathi (40). But that is not the only reason why she, her husband and two sons live in their cattle shed.
Hers is among the 30 families, each of whose ‘home’ is a cramped 8 x 10 ft space above a cattle shed at Tasker Town in Shivajinagar.
A ladder by the side of the shed takes Revathi up to her home, which has fodder stacked on one side. The space is partitioned into pigeon holes for various families. There is just one toilet for the 100-odd people sharing a space of around 3,000 sq ft above the cattle shed. Lack of sufficient sanitation facility is a big problem here, particularly for women.
This in a city where more than 3.59 lakh housing units are lying vacant.
According to Census 2011 data, Bangalore added nearly 14 lakh houses during the decade 2001-2011, taking the total number of houses to 32.67 lakh. Though every 10th house lies vacant, a large section of people from lower socioeconomic strata are forced to live in abysmal conditions.
The residents in the cattle shed said they live here as they cannot afford the high rents in the city.
Vijayalaya, another community member, said the number of people living here has risen as the families have grown. Lack of sanitation makes them particularly prone to falling ill. “Our children fall sick often and visits to the hospital are a regular feature [of our life],” he said.
Ironically, most families here have a television set even if they are not assured of clean drinking water and toilet facilities.
The residents, mostly traditional milkmen, said the cowshed and their homes are around 60 years old. They say the income they earn by selling milk is very meagre. Ms. Revathi said that the increasing price of fodder and veterinary expenses make it difficult for them to sustain a livelihood. So most are forced to work as domestic help or as construction labourers to make ends meet.
T.V. Parasurama (50), who also works as a helper at an office, says he lives with his wife and two children in the cramped space. “I get around 35 litres of milk a day as I own three cows,” he said, adding he barely makes Rs. 4,000 a month after expenses.
End of the road
Ms. Revathi’s son Madhavan N., who goes to a government school in the area, is very fond of his cows and has named them Simran, Kulajaan and Maria. But he is very clear about not wanting to become a milkman when he grows up. “When we go to school, my clothes smell of cow dung and everybody makes fun of me.” Not surprisingly, this nine-year-old wants to be a software engineer.
His mother adds: “Let this profession stop with our generation. I want my children to study well and do anything but this.”
Asked to comment, Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike Additional Commissioner K.C. Shivshankar said the place was meant to house cows. “The milkmen are not willing to move away from this place. People need to cooperate.”
The residents are in possession of voter’s IDs and ration cards.