On Saturday morning, BBMP officials arrived in the narrow by-lanes of Nyanappanahalli with earth movers. They were on a mission to reclaim storm water drains (rajakaluves). The night before, they had marked the alignment of the drains with red paint. But there was a hitch: The rajakaluves no longer existed. And if they had, they would have passed right through the middle of 10 properties.
Determined to remove the encroachments, the civic officials first demolished the house of Pradeep Rao, a tea vendor in his 60s. A portion of the 2.4 metre rajakaluve was reclaimed. But before the earth movers could turn to the remaining nine properties — all multi-storey buildings — the property-owners intervened.
After heated arguments with BBMP Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad, who was part of the demolition team, the alignment of the rajakaluve was changed. Civic officials decided to mark a new path for the drain that would not require the other buildings to be razed entirely. Only a portion of the properties would be demolished to make way for the drain.The tragedy
“The property owners pleaded with us, and offered to relinquish 2.4 m of land in return for not taking land in the middle of their plots, which would destroy entire buildings. We agreed on humanitarian grounds,” Mr. Prasad explained.
But as per the new alignment, Mr. Rao’s house need not have been demolished.
The selective demolition did not end there. While Mr. Rao’s house was razed, the BBMP allowed owners of the other nine properties to execute a relinquishment deed to each give up 2.4 metres of land. Residents will recruit their own engineers to oversee this.
“We need to put up scaffolding and carry out a surgical cut to ensure that the other parts of the building remain undamaged. This has been permitted by the BBMP commissioner. We have begun work,” said Vasudha, one of the nine property owners.Tea vendor's life in tatters
Pradeep Rao has a cardiac ailment and was only recently discharged from hospital. He ran a tea shop in a portion of his house and had rented out the first floor. His wife works as a domestic help.
“They informed us on Friday night that the house would be demolished. About 50 policemen and earthmovers came in the morning. They started demolishing our house without even giving us time to vacate in an orderly manner. An hour after our house was razed, they changed the alignment of the drain,” rued Usha Rao, Mr. Rao's wife.
Mr. Rao broke down saying, “There are huge loans on the house. There were two tenants on lease. Now I stand on the street, with my shop, the biggest source of income, gone and with the burden of repaying the loans and returning the lease amount.”What about the layout developer?
Ananta Padmanabha bought a site in the layout in 1995. “The layout plan was approved by the BDA. The building plan was sanctioned by BBMP. I have a khata. The people who developed the layout had usurped a rajakaluve, which has resulted in the loss of our homes and life's savings,” he rued.
BBMP officials agree. “Inquiries reveal that the private layout was developed by L.K. Satyanarayana. He had duped property owners. We will be making a list of officials, who were culpable, and the developers. We will take suitable action against them,” said BBMP Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad.
However, residents of Nyanappanahalli are sceptical. They point out that no developer or civic official has ever been punished.