Jan 22: Amid razed homes in Ejipura (Bangalore), the cry is “where do we go now?”

January 22, 2013

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/amid-razed-homes-the-cry-is-where-do-we-go/article4329771.ece

Zarina Begum, a domestic help who has been living in Ejipura for the past 20 years, cannot believe that she is homeless now. She and thousands others were rendered homeless as earthmovers flattened the few sheds standing after three endless days of the demolition drive at Ejipura.

On Monday, Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) officials said that the 15 acre and 22 guntas of land, where the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) Quarters once stood, would be fenced on Tuesday.

This will mean that Zarina, who has been living in her one-room shed with her son, his wife and four grandchildren, will have to figure out where to live. She had packed off the others to a relative’s house.

‘No space there too’

“I have been here since the house was demolished. I cannot go to any of my relatives’ homes as they themselves live in cramped spaces. It has been five days since I went to work. I have no idea what I am supposed to do now,” she said, sitting beside a small bundle of her belongings salvaged from the clockwork orchestration of man and machine.

Several of Zarina’s neighbours too haven’t gone to work in almost a week. They now fear that their absenteeism may also lead to loss of livelihood.

Lakshmi and Sathya work as domestic help at the National Games Village.

“We don’t know if the house owners have replaced us already. First, we lose the roof over our head and now there is uncertainty over our jobs,” wept Lakshmi.

Schooling disrupted

Yesudas, a plumber, said that children in the area could not be sent to school on Monday. Francie J., a Class 6 student of a nearby school, said that her schoolbag and books were packed along with her family’s belongings. “My family is now sleeping on the footpath. We children could not get ready for school this morning. Our parents have left us with our grandmother to guard our belongings,” Francie said.

Despite these crushing odds, some parents have ensured that the current homeless state does not affect their children’s education. Mercy Maria and Rebecca, Class 7 and 4, went to school on Monday.

“We went late. Our teachers were surprised that we came to school despite all this,” said Mercy Maria.

Allegations

The immediate impact of the demolition drive is on daily wage workers. Ramesh S. and Srikanth T., both painters, earn around Rs. 400 a day.

“We have been here helping the families pack their belongings. The so-called leaders here are responsible for our sorry state. They prevented us from taking the compensation of Rs. 15,000 that was initially offered to us to vacate our sheds. They took the money offered by the BBMP and left us in the lurch,” Srikanth said bitterly.

His neighbour Sathya said: “We have now been given two days to move out of the land. Where are we supposed to go now?”

Rights groups

Later in the day, rights groups which have been fighting on behalf of the residents, met Chief Secretary S.V. Ranganath and apprised him of the situation on the ground. He reportedly told them that he would direct BBMP Commissioner Siddaiah to arrange for shelter and compensation for the homeless.

The activists, however, were not able to meet Mr. Siddaiah. They are likely to meet him only on Tuesday.

The land in question is prime property worth up to Rs. 12 crore an acre. The BBMP has signed an agreement with Maverick Holdings Pvt. Ltd. for joint development.

As per the agreement, half the land will be used to construct multi-storeyed residential quarters for the original allottees of the quarters while the remainder will be commercially exploited.