Slum dwellers at Freedom Park ended their protest when Karnataka Housing Minister M Krishnappa met the protesters and assured them that their demands will be met.

 Give land rights enact no eviction policy Slum dwellers demand at Bluru rally
news Protest Tuesday, February 20, 2018 - 20:18

Hundreds of slum dwellers from several districts across Karnataka protested at Freedom Park in Bengaluru on Tuesday demanding that a bill be passed giving them land and property rights. 

Slum dwellers in the state continue to live in precarious conditions with no ownership of land rights which means that they are often at the mercy of the government's whims and can be evicted from their homes at any time.

"1184 slums in Karnataka are in Urban Local Bodies (ULB) land. If the Municipality has to implement schemes, they evict slum dwellers in these areas and start their development programmes. Even builders collude with the government to evict slum dwellers and we want to put an end to that by bringing in land ownership rights because then government cannot take unilateral decisions on clearing slums and will provide adequate compensation and rehabilitation," said Narasimha Murthy, State Convenor of the Slum Janandolana speaking on the sidelines of the protest. 

Slum dwellers at Freedom Park ended their protest when Karnataka Housing Minister M Krishnappa met the protesters and assured them that their demands will be met. 

The demands include property and land rights for slum dwellers and a 'no eviction policy' on the lines of the Delhi government.  

Slum dwellers vent their ire

A few slum dwellers who turned up at the protest have been seeking measures for years now. Shettalaiah from Tumakuru came to the protest with around 200 people from his district. Shettalaiah is a social worker and slum dweller and he reiterated that land and property rights would go a long way in improving the lives of slum dwellers. "Currently there is a housing policy. The government builds houses for slum dwellers but that is not enough. We want a separate bill to be passed and it has to become a right so that we are not removed," he said.

He is adamant about a 'no eviction' policy because getting evicted, even with rehabilitation elsewhere, disrupts the lives of slum dwellers. "If we are removed from the slums we live in, the main problem is that children have to change schools. Also, many slum dwellers work in households nearby and people cannot spend on travel. Sometimes, there are no markets in the place they are rehabilitated in," explained Shettalaiah. 

Slum Janandolana – an organisation working for the welfare of slum dwellers, has been pushing for land rights through street meetings across Karnataka and spreading awareness about the issue. 

With Karnataka set for state assembly elections in May this year, the slum dwellers are hoping that political leaders will take note of their demands and make it part of their election manifestos.  

"We met KPCC president G Parameshwar and raised our demands. We have also met leaders from the BJP and the JD(S). Kumaraswamy has assured that he will reserve 1,000 acres of land for slum dwellers in Karnataka," said Narasimha Murthy. 

Political parties focus on urban poor

Earlier this month, the BJP held a 'slum vastavya' programme in which BJP leaders including BS Yeddyurappa slept in slums across the state. Yeddyurappa stayed in the house of Muniraju, an auto-rickshaw driver from Gandhinagar in Bengaluru and convened a meeting with slum dwellers while senior leaders - Jagadish Shettar and KS Eshwarappa, slept in slums in Hubballi and Shivamogga respectively.

The BJP also released a socio-economic survey of slums in the State, called ‘Slum Daurbhagya’ (slum misfortune). The name is a pun on the various 'Bhagya' schemes started by the Congress government.

The Congress government has also started Indira Canteens as part of its outreach for the urban poor. 

Narasimha Murthy however hoped that the leaders would take note of what life was like in slum areas and give slum dwellers land rights in addition to the amenities currently promised. "We hope that it is not just being done for political gains. The BJP leaders have stayed in developed slums. They should learn to live in slums where there are no toilets and also spell out their position in the election manifesto and only then we will know that they are working for developing slums," added Murthy. 

In August 2017, Odisha made history when it became the first Indian state to give land rights to slum dwellers in small towns and property rights to those living in urban areas. 

If Karnataka is to follow in Odisha's footsteps and give land rights to slum dwellers, it will impact an estimated 40.5 lakh people which is almost 22.56% of the state's urban population. 

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