Taken aback by the public outrage over the demolition at Ejipura slum, the government seems to have finally backed down. Speaking to The Hindu late on Tuesday evening, Home Minister R. Ashok, also the City In-charge Minister, said: “We have decided to provide temporary relief to those displaced by the demolition. I have instructed the BBMP (Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike) Commissioner to find a suitable plot of land in the same spot and construct temporary shelters until the end of the academic year.”
The decision was taken in the interest of thousands of schoolchildren rendered homeless as a result of the recent demolition drive at the EWS (Economically Weaker Section) Quarters land, he said. “But they [BBMP] will have to provide relief keeping in mind the legal aspect. There is a High Court order to demolish [the tenements].”
The 15 acres and 22 guntas on which the shantytown is located is slated for the construction of a glitzy mall as well as higher quality tenements for the original residents. As part of a joint development agreement that the BBMP entered into with Maverick Holdings and Investment Pvt. Ltd., half the land will be used for the construction of 1,512 EWS apartments.
Maverick Holdings will build the mall on the other half. Eviction of residents for the project has been stalled several times since its inception with residents and rights groups staging protests, alleging that it reeks of a scam as the land was reserved for economically weaker sections of society.
A top BBMP official who didn’t want to be named told The Hindu the residents could be temporarily housed on a two-and-a-half acre plot at the far end of the demolished colony.
The catch, however, is that the promoters of Maverick might not consent to this ad hoc plan. “The land, after all, belongs to them now.” But all efforts are being made to seek consent, he said.
The breakthrough followed hectic parleys on Tuesday between activists fighting on behalf of the displaced residents and senior officials of the BBMP as well as the Urban Development Department.
Sources said that BBMP Commissioner Siddaiah took the lead in convincing the political establishment of the need to provide humanitarian relief to the hundreds of families displaced over the last three days.