Under pressure, BBMP has been releasing maps so that people can identify encroachments and remove it themselves out of the goodness of their hearts. But when they went to check out the maps, not a single encroachment was in sight. All people found were coconut tree, trees and buildings. No signs, arrows, circles or any indication showing encroachments.
What are the coconut trees and big tree hiding?
BBMP Commissioner N Manjunath Prasad has said that these maps have been prepared by the Department of Survey, Settlements and Land Records of the Revenue Department and not by the civic body.
At different points of time after the recent flooding in Kodichikkanahalli, BBMP officials have said that they have a list of buildings which have encroached on storm water drains. Even as they issue notices to houses in residential areas, and continue demolitions, there are rumours that builders, mall owners, tech parks have been left out.
With the maps out and no one to blame, there is speculation that by not revealing the full list, the BBMP is protecting the rich and private builders. These include real estate firm Purvankara, and according to some media reports, Sandalwood actor Darshan. In all this drama, former BJP councillor NR Ramesh released a set of documents alleging that certain influential properties had been ignored. However, these documents do not indicate the latest legal status of these properties, making it impossible to judge whether or not they are still illegal.
Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike says the encroachment drive will continue for the next four months, and there is a growing perception that only middle-class households are being targeted while powerful people are being let off.
The calls for making the list of encroachers public are growing louder. However, there is a claim that if the BBMP releases the list, people might get a stay order. Others however, argue that this is technically not possible, because the Karnataka High Court has given BBMP permission for the demolitions.
Former Lokayukta N Santhosh Hegde, says â€śThe BBMP should reveal the list so more people arenâ€™t cheated. Culprits inside the municipality should be dealt with legally. No one knows the city better than government. I totally agree with the demolition drive. Well, if a few houses are causing a large area to flood then it only makes sense to remove them. When a couple of areas were flooded in during the last monthâ€™s rains, the media did a good job by exposing that it was because of encroachments. Why sympathise now?â€ť he said.
Head of CIVIC Kathyayini Chamaraj points out that the BBMPâ€™s revenue maps are over 60 years old.
According to the law of adverse possession a person who has been living for more than 30 years on a particular piece of land, which may be recognised as a storm water drain, would still have legal rights if he or she has never been issued a notice.
â€śThe court has to go into legal aspect and must make sure he or she is paid a compensation by the BBMP before the demolition begins. Even otherwise as a principle of natural justice, the corporation should give the people 48 hours before it commences the demolition drive,â€ť she said. The BBMP should upload maps that are less than 30 years old to give a clear picture of lakes, lakebeds and SWDs, she added.
In the absence of usable maps, member of Bengaluru Restructuring Committee, V Ravichander, says he is collaborating with the BBMP in preparing digitized maps. â€śThis is being done only as a public service. The maps will come with a disclaimer saying it is only an indication and not the last word. We only have village maps that were last update in 1966. We are planning to incorporate layers that will show water bodies, SWDs and others. A person who is checking must go back to mother documents and verify whether his or her property is in problem. A person whose house is 20 meters away from the water body definitely need not worry,â€ť he said.