Land meant for housing poor given away to build malls?

Photo: Tom Pietrasik/ActionAid

Residents of Ejipura-Economically-Weaker-Section (EWS) housing colony near Viveknagar, in Bengaluru, have been living in tin shed houses for the past 8 years. Their condition was no better earlier. In 1984, a government order was passed asking the State to build houses for the economically weaker sections.

It is only in 1996, that 1512 houses were built spreading across 42 blocks- pucca structures were provided without any basic amenities or facilities. These structures or the ‘houses’ started cracking and collapsing in the year 2004(only 7 years after the allotments were done) killing three people including a child.

The authorities decided that out of the 42 blocks, 21 needs to be demolished while rest can be repaired. But later, all the buildings were demolished and residents were provided “tin houses”. These tin sheds are absolute inhumane dwelling spaces, both in winters as well as in summers. The homes are just a flimsy one room for a family of 3-4 people. Irregularity of water supply, mosquitoes and unhygienic living conditions are all that is a part of the lives of these people who are not ready to give up their right to have a decent life. Shantha Mary, a woman leader from the colony, says – “We are not ready to move from here. We are here for the last 20 years and we cannot think of moving elsewhere from here”.

3000 families are presently staying in this colony of which 30-40 percent are muslims and dalits. They are also informal sector workers such as construction labourers, corporation staff, domestic workers etc.

Out of the 3000 families, only 1640 families would be getting houses which are only 300 sq.ft area (Ground floor +9 storied) as per the orders of the BBMP.  On a total area of 13.5 acres of land only 6 acres would be utilized for multi-storied housing and the rest would be allocated for a commercial complex. 

This is not just a violation of human rights but also a desperate act of land grab from people who are socially and economically vulnerable in the society.

When asked whether they would continue to fight for their rights came the prompt reply from one woman in the crowd “Our struggle is our belief and we would continue with that”.

The Dalit and Minority land Protection Forum formed out of activists and slum communities of Karnataka demand the following:

  • The government should withdraw transferring Dalit and Minority Communities` Land to Private companies
  • Immediately scrap the agreement reached with the EWS-land grabbing private company.
  • All the residents of EWS -quarters land, including the allottees and all those poor who do not have houses, should be provided with houses built on the same land.
  • Use funds under Basic Services to Urban Poor (BSUP), Rajiv Awaas Yojana (RAY), Special Component Plan (SCP) and other government schemes to build houses.  
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