How did my house become yours, ask allottees

Slum-dwellers displaying the biometric cards they were given before they were evacuated from the site in 2009, in Bangalore on Friday. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy  

At a widely publicised function held on November 21, 2012, Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar inaugurated a housing complex in Ragigudda for people from Economically Weaker Sections, which was funded by the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). The event saw him distribute allotment tokens to hundreds of erstwhile slum-dwellers whose shanties had made way for the multi-storeyed housing complex.

But on Thursday night, when the beneficiaries moved to take possession of the houses that they were ‘allotted’, the dwellings just did not exist. It took nearly 24 hours of frantic searching for Zameer Khan (30) to finally realise that the allotment token he was given was fake.

When The Hindu reached the spot on Friday afternoon, there was utter chaos in the Ragigudda housing complex as hundreds wandered around aimlessly, allotment tokens in hand.

Others, like Mr. Khan, couldn’t find the house that was allotted to them. M. Suresh (40) found somebody else in the house allotted to his family. “I recognised them as people close to some politically influential persons in the area,” he said of those who have allegedly occupied his house.

In the midst of all this confusion, The Hindu discovered houses like the one owned by local Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramani sporting vitrified tiles, posh sanitary fittings, semi-modular kitchen and fancy lighting. While people such as Mr. Khan didn’t even have one house, Mr. Subramani had managed to fuse two houses and make it into one large dwelling.

The Karnataka Slum Development Board’s Technical Director Sannachintaiah refused to believe that such enhancements had been done. “You are saying that somebody broke walls and joined two houses? It is illegal and it’s impossible,” he said. Mr. Subramani’s brother, Venkatesh, on the other hand, struck a defiant note. “We had the money and we built a posh house. The others are jealous of our prosperity,” he said.

The project to build flats in Ragigudda was announced by the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa in September 2009 following which 1,443 residents of the original slum were evacuated. At the time of evacuation, each was given a biometric card for identification.

A few weeks before the incumbent Chief Minister inaugurated the brand new complex, the list of residents evacuated in 2009 was put up. “As many as 179 names were missing in the list, which was made public on November 9, 2012. This list also had 50 new people who we had never heard of,” said Ravi Keerthi a local activist. When the original residents raised an alarm, a third list of allottees was announced. “This time another 380 new names made an appearance and an equal number of original allottees vanished from the list,” he said, giving The Hindu a copy of the three official lists.

Residents who spoke to The Hindu identified the new allottees as followers of local BJP leaders. Mr. Sannachintaiah dismissed claims that outsiders had entered the area. “We will conduct an inspection. We have not received any complaints. Let the residents point out the outsiders,” he said. The agitated residents, however, claimed that despite repeated calls to the officials, nobody had come for an inspection.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 12:15:53 AM |

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