Amidst high drama, Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar met residents and rights activists, representing the over 2,000 families that have been rendered homeless by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike’s eviction drive in the EWS (Economically Weaker Sections) Quarters in Ejipura here Friday.
Mr. Shettar assured the crowd he would direct the BBMP to immediately start constructing temporary structures to enable residents to continue in the same area till the end of the academic year. Activists said that he responded positively. This extension has been given in the interests of hundreds of schoolchildren who would have had to discontinue if the parents were forced to move, he said.
Activists claimed that the Chief Minister also said that he would talk to the Police Commissioner about the allegations of harassment and alleged use of force on residents.
A large contingent had gathered outside Mr. Shettar’s residence, but it wasn’t until late evening that they were given an audience. Till then, the police restricted them to Crescent Road where the crowds increased by the hour.
On Thursday night, residents of this large shanty town spent their fourth consecutive night out on the streets.
On Tuesday, a 60-year-old woman, Rosemary, who was evicted along with her family, died allegedly because of trauma.
Left in the cold
Residents said the health and sanitation situation was worsening here with every passing hour. They accused the government of abandoning them, with not so much as a health camp being held here.
Besides rehabilitation, residents are demanding that they be allowed to stay on at Ejipura till the end of the academic year. Since Tuesday, several senior officials and politicians, including the Home Minister had assured them that the government would erect make-shift structures in a section of the plot in order to allow the residents to stay on till April.
However, Isaac Amruthraj, an activist, pointed out that nothing had changed on the ground, and the policemen came every hour to “build pressure” on residents to leave. “Late into the night they keep coming and threatening them. Everyone, including the Home Minister, BBMP Commissioner and Chief Secretary told us that this was a mistake. But what are they doing to rectify it?”
Money with rider
Residents also alleged that some persons who claim to represent the area MLA, N.A. Haris, were promising them Rs. 2,000 as “instant compensation” if they vacated the area immediately.
The Ejipura group that reassembled at Crescent Road included students, members of non-governmental organisations, Dalit rights activists, members of the Samata Sainik Dal and Dalit Sangharsha Samiti, and a few representatives of farmers’ rights groups.
Mall to come up
The 15-acre plot, located in upmarket Koramangala, is slated to be used to house a mall, which will be developed by Maverick Holdings Pvt. Ltd., and a residential complex for the original allottees of the EWS Quarters. No concrete provisions have been made for the thousands living here.