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Time is of no concern when building houses for the poor

Sudipto Mondal
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Slum-dwellers evicted for the BMIC project in 2009 are still waiting for their homes

So near, yet so far:Those who had to vacate their homes in Veerabadranagar more than three years ago, now live at the periphery of the under-construction apartment complex in Bheemanakuppe in Bangalore.— Photo: K. GOPINATHAN
So near, yet so far:Those who had to vacate their homes in Veerabadranagar more than three years ago, now live at the periphery of the under-construction apartment complex in Bheemanakuppe in Bangalore.— Photo: K. GOPINATHAN

So how long does it take to build a low-cost apartment complex with 256 single-bedroom flats? One year at best and two at worst, any architect or civil engineer will tell you.

When the slum-dwellers at Veerabhadranagar sacrificed their huts for the development of the controversial Bangalore-Mysore expressway project in May 2009, they were assured that their rehabilitation colony at Bheemanakuppe near the Big Banyan Tree would be completed in one year.

It has now been more than four years since these 256 families vacated their huts. The apartment complex where they were to be relocated is still just a skeletal structure. The foundation and the pillars of the JNNURM-funded project were already in place when the displaced families were put up in temporary tin sheds adjoining the construction site in June 2011.

Ask the Karnataka Slum Development Board’s Technical Director Sannachitaiah, and he says, “It will be completed by March 2014.” When he was asked the same question by our reporter in June 2012, he had said that the construction would be completed by December 2012.

If the recently inaugurated police quarters at Adugodi was built in 15 days flat, why has the quarters for those evicted from Veerabhadranagar taken so long to be completed?

No toilets

Speaking of the quality of life at the colony where they have been temporarily put up, Devaputra Doddamani (37) says the slum board has not even provided toilets. Most of the residents go to the adjoining construction site where their houses are being built to relieve themselves. “You know what hurts most?” said Mr. Doddamani. “Nobody stops us from using the premises because on most days, there is nobody there.”

Mr. Doddamani, a construction worker, was sceptical about the Re. 1 a kg Anna Bhagya scheme. He says most of the slum-dwellers do not have ration cards. “When we moved from Veerabhadranagar our cards were cancelled and the authorities at Bheemanakuppe are refusing to give us new ones,” he says.

Too far to PDS outlet

However, he is one of those who managed to save his BPL ration card registered at Veerabhadranagar. “I have to spend Rs. 30 to travel to Veerabhadranagar to collect the rice at Rs. 1 a kg. The bus conductor charges another Rs. 15 for the sack of rice that I carry back.”

“What about the multiple trips we have to make for sugar and kerosene?” asks 70-year-old Basaiah Swami, another resident.

During the recent Assembly elections, those campaigning for the candidates at Veerabhadranagar visited them at Bheemanakuppe. “When we asked them for money to travel to the voting booth, some of the campaigners called us corrupt,” says Markappa Melappanouru (32). “After all this, we are the corrupt people,” says Basaiah Swami.

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