"Go back", "Go back", slogans rent the air as Kerala Chief secretary Tom Jose along with Ernakulam District Collector S Suhas reached the H2O Holy Faith apartment in Maradu municipality in the district. Scores of apartment dwellers, including senior citizens and children rushed to the car shouting slogans.
Expressing their angst against the Supreme Court verdict that will pull down their homes, residents of the apartment demanded that the government should give them relief. H2O Holy Faith apartment, is one of the four apartment buildings that have been ordered to be demolished for violating Coastal Zone Regulation (CRZ) norms.
The Supreme Court last Friday had given an ultimatum to Maradu municipality that the four apartment buildings – H2O Holy Faith constructed by Holy Faith Builders and Developers Pvt Ltd, Jains Coral Cove by Jain Housing and Construction Ltd, Golden Kayaloram built by KP Varkey and VS Builders and Alfa Serene constructed by Alfa Ventures – should be demolished within September 20. SC had also asked the Kerala Chief Secretary to file a report regarding the demolition on September 23.
“We have been denied justice. This is the only asset we have. What does the court and government expect us to do? We have not even finished paying the loans we took to buy this apartment nine years ago. We won’t leave this place whatever happens, they can only demolish our homes only after killing us,” said Haseena, a resident of Holy Faith.
Filmmaker and actor Major Ravi, one of the residents of Holy Faith apartment, told TNM that they have not been served even a notice in this regard by the Maradu municipality.
“We only came to know about the incident through media. Till date apart from the present visit of the Chief Secretary, no one has communicated anything officially in this regard,” said film actor Soubin Sahir, another resident of H2O Holy Faith.
The residents also expressed their disappointment with the Chief Secretary's visit. “The officer did not even care to ask us what we have to say. He just came here, looked at the surroundings and left. We, the residents are not guilty in this case but are victims who have to face the brunt of it,” said another resident Latha.
Meanwhile, officials who visited Golden Kayaloram apartment, did not face any such public outburst. But families there too said they were disappointed with the visit.
‘It was a lapse of the officials’
The residents of the four apartments are unanimous in saying that all of them are victims in this matter of litigation.
The Supreme Court order of May 2019 has clearly stated that the Maradu panchayat, which was the then local body, had ‘issued permissions in violation of relevant statutory provisions and CRZ notifications’.
“This is a lapse from the part of the official machinery and now we are facing the brunt of it. The government can maybe put an end to this issue if they accept the fact that the mistake was from the part of the local body,” Binne, a resident of Golden Kayaloram apartment.
A total of about 334 families own houses in the four apartment buildings. Most of the apartments were bought by the residents in the last 10 years. It was in 2005, when Maradu municipality was still a panchayat, that the four apartment buildings received permission to be constructed.