All was well for dwellers of Krishnanagar basti (slum) in Hyderabad's Golnaka area until last week. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) served notices to the residents here, asking them to hand over the possession of the land. Since then, fear of eviction has gripped the residents, who live on the banks of a 'nala', which carries water from the Hussain Sagar to the Musi river.
The GHMC officials want to acquire the land, primarily to widen the road, and to construct a bridge from the Ambedkar statue in the area up to Zinda Tilismath Road. For this, they would need to demolish several homes of the slum dwellers. Although the officials said they would give solatoum double the structure's worth, most the houses here are tin sheds, which will not help them, in any way, to find land to construct a house.
The colony, which has three blocks, accommodates over 600 houses with a population of over 1,000 and the residents say they have been living here for at least 90 years. Though government land, it was assigned to the landless many decades ago. Many of them have pattas (title deeds), too.
Most of the residents of the basti either belong to the Scheduled Castes (SC) or the Muslim community. Since the officials served the notices, many have refused to leave their homes, as they say that they have no other place to go.
M Yadaiah, a 70-year-old, said he has been a resident of the basti for as long as he can remember.
When TNM visited the locality to understand the situation on the ground, Yadaiah's son, Mohan Krishna, who is a private employee, said, "The officials have been saying that they will visit the basti and discuss the compensation. But, even if we are given monetary compensation, where can we go and find shelter?"
A Srinivas, who has two children, ekes out his livelihood by running a small kirana shop. "My father was born here and my grandfather grew up here. Asking us to leave for a wider road will only make our lives pathetic. Where else in the city can we go and live?â he asks.
Urullah Khan, a 65-year-old resident, said âWe have been living here for decades. We have paid our taxes and electricity bills. There is an alternative route to construct the road and bridge without affecting our settlements, and the government should consider it.â
G Sai, a 28-year-old daily wage construction worker who took us around the narrow and tapered lanes of the locality, said his grandfather, who was born here, worked as labourers during the Nizam's rule and contributed to the construction of this city.
Incidentally, the notices have strengthened the resolve of many locals to stay put. "We are not going to move. We were born here and we will die here," said 50-year-old Roshan Begum.
Meanwhile, the residents also met Amberpet MLA Kaleru Venkatesh, who has given them the assurance that they won't be evicted.
âWill go ahead with evictionâ
The GHMC officials said that they will go by the rules. When TNM reached out to GHMC Deputy Zonal Commissioner, Secunderabad, K Venugopal, he said, âEviction will not take place without any prior notice. We will follow the rules and disburse due compensation.â
GHMC Town Planning Officer Narsing Rao told TNM, "It is part of the master plan for the city, to construct a road and bridge in the area. It was approved by higher officials and at the ministry level concerned, to address congestion and other issues in public interest.â
He further added, "We have notified around 60 structures in the area, which will be affected. We have served notices as well. Compensation will be given for the portion of land after assessing it as well as solatium that is double the structure's worth."
However, as residents pointed out, many of them live in tin sheds and the worth of the 'structures' that they call home is not much. Even double its cost will leave them unable to find land in Hyderabad where they can construct a house.
The official also said that they would not be able to provide land as compensation, as per the rules.
Housing rights and human rights activists who visited the area said that the government should give clarity to the dwellers and address their concerns, before taking up the project.