The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) may get a dressing down from courts every once in a while, but there seems to be no end to malpractices on part of the civic body.
While the BBMP itself is complicit in allowing constructions on lake beds and rajakaluves (storm water drain), it demolished 400 huts occupied by low-income group families on Saturday. Moreover, the huts were not in violation as they were not constructed on lake buffer land, and the demolition was carried out without any notice.
The BBMPâ€™s actions meant close to 1,000 people were rendered homeless within a short span. The settlement beside Sakra Hospital is mostly occupied by people who work as security guards, domestic waste pickers and they have been staying in the locality for eight years.
On Monday too, the BBMP officials came with bulldozers to demolish around 200 buildings left in the area, but had to return as the residents were there and prepared this time.
Most of these inhabitants are also from north India and do not speak Kannada.
Vinay Sreenivasan, an activist who came to know about this demolition, said,â€ť BBMP demolished it saying buffer zone violation, but why did it demolish without notice? Where are all the women and children to go? These children are enrolled in schools here, people work here. How can we destroy their lives in one day without notice or rehabilitation? And why big encroachments like DRDO buildings are not removed with such zest?"
"Even if there was violation, BBMP has to do survey, then issue notice then demolish buildings on private property, here no notice,no survey straight demolition!" Vinay said.
In fact, the area where the huts were destroyed are more than one kilometre away from the lake bed.
â€śIn the lake privatisation case filed by ESG, (WP 817/2008) Karnataka HC said buffer zone is 30m from the lake. In the Forward Foundation case, NGT had said that 75m is buffer zone for the lake. Here the lake is 1,300m away from the houses, so no way itâ€™s in a buffer zone,â€ť Vinay added.
The residents who lost their homes managed to erect makeshift tents for the night and got food from people whose houses were spared by the BBMPâ€™s earthmovers.
When asked about the irregularities, BBMP Commissioner N Manjunath Prasad washed his hands off and said that it was a decision of the jurisdictional chief engineer.
Raheem, one of the people whose house was damaged, said the settlement had people from many parts of the country and even from Nepal, who were engaged in blue collar jobs.
â€śWe all had locked our houses and left for work early in the morning. It was only when we came back from work that we saw the devastation. The JCBs had come sometime after 8am in the morning and bulldozed through anything they could till 4pm,â€ť he said.
â€śThere was nobody to oppose as everybody had gone to work,â€ť he added.
Raheem has now taken shelter in one of his relativesâ€™ place nearby.
BBMP Chief Engineer Parameshwaraiah refused to speak on the issue saying he was busy with arranging relief material for the Kerala floods.