January 23, 2013
Rosemary (60) one of the thousands rendered homeless by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike’s recent demolition drive at Ejipura, died on Tuesday evening after spending nearly three days out in the open. Before the bulldozers arrived, Rosemary lived stayed in her 150 sq ft tin hut with her son Sasi Kumar (46), daughter Sobha (38), her husband Govindraj (40) and their six children aged between 17 and 5.
Speaking to The Hindu early on Wednesday morning Ms. Sobha said that her mother’s death was a direct consequence of the demolition. “She had barely eaten anything in the last few days. All she did was cry. The cold [out in the open] was unbearable. She was trembling and was constantly complaining about the cold,” she said.
“I had only Rs. 250 with me. The neighbours gave the rest to put up this tent to prop up my mother’s body,” Ms. Sobha said pointing to the tent erected in the middle of the road opposite her demolished hut. Residents could be seen contributing flowers and incense sticks to the bereaved family. Ms. Sobha said she did not have the Rs. 3,000 needed for a coffin and an additional Rs. 3,000 for a grave. “We have not lifted the body because we don’t have money for even a vehicle,” said Ms. Sobha, who washes dishes at a nearby hotel and is the only breadwinner in the family. The children, all of who are enrolled in the nearby government school, have not attended classes since the demolition.
Speaking of his mother in her last moments, Mr. Sasi Kumar said: “She kept saying that she wanted to die here. We have lived here for nearly 20 years.”
BBMP denies allegation
BBMP officials, however, denied that the demolition was to be blamed for Rosemary’s death.
“We don’t know what kind of illness the woman had previously. It is difficult to say she died because of hunger and cold. This can be proved only after a post-mortem, and in such cases, the family rarely agrees for one,” a senior official said on condition of anonymity.
Asked if the BBMP would provide compensation to the family, he said BBMP was seriously considering the issue on humanitarian grounds.
Like many others in the area, the family had rented a hut in the shantytown whose owner has accepted the compensation from the BBMP and surrendered his claim to the property. At least 1,000 families like Rosemary’s have been deemed encroachers as a result. In partial recognition of their status, the BBMP had given such tenants a gurthina cheeti or rights certificate in 2005.
Activists fighting on behalf of the displaced people tried to stage a protest in the centre of the city with the dead woman’s remains. But the Audugodi police intervened and took possession of the body. Police sources said that it has been sent for a post-mortem examination.