From Karnataka, settled in Goa, but it seems neither state cares for them

They feel they have nowhere to go
From Karnataka, settled in Goa, but it seems neither state cares for them
From Karnataka, settled in Goa, but it seems neither state cares for them
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Shekar Siddappa Madar was fourth time unlucky. Living on Baina beach in Goa’s Mormugao taluk, he has seen three demolitions in the 10 years he has lived there. On September 26, his house too, was torn down. Now, he pays an exorbitant monthly rent that is a great strain on his daily wages.

Last Saturday, the South Goa district administration demolished 157 houses, which Goa’s Coastal Zone Management Authority says are illegally built in a No Development Zone. Most of the people living in the area are poor migrants from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

The district administration had previously torn down around 54 houses in June, and 78 in June 2014. In the first move in 2004, authorities demolished around 750 structures in a ‘clean up drive’ aimed at clearing the century-old red light area that grew up as a result of the port in Vasco, 40 km away.

With repeated demolitions, in the last decade, this has become a political issue between two states, but the Karnataka government claims that there is little that it can do.

According Siddanna Metri, president of the Akhila Goa Kannada Mahasangha, 90 percent of the people from Karnataka belong to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. These include the Madiga (SC), Holeya (SC), Kuruba (OBC) and Lambani (ST) and a small number of Lingayats.

“They came at 7 am and finished their work by 10 am with eight JCB (earthmovers). Why do they demolish houses in the monsoon? We are people who work, return home, eat, sleep and return to work the next day. We live in brick-and-sheet houses. (If we are living in illegal structures) can’t they buy land for us? We will build our houses on our own,” Siddanna says.

But this is not an option for Shekar, who says he can barely make ends meet. Hailing from Ilkal village in Bagalkot district, Shekar belongs to the Madar caste. He moved to Baina 10 years ago because work was more lucrative there. “We just have a two-room house in my village. My son lives with my mother and studies there. Had I been there, I would have got around Rs 300-400 for work as a mesthri (mason), but here I get double.”

Now he has found another rented house, 500 metres away from the house that was razed to the ground. “Rented houses cost between Rs 3,000-4,000. Those who can’t pay this amount live on the road.” As in the past, this has happened to the people who were made homeless last Saturday too.

Shekar says that among those whose houses were demolished this time, there are “many people who moved here so long ago that they now have grandchildren here”. “What can they do when their houses are suddenly gone? They have to look after their families. If they don’t have enough money to find a house, they just live on the road,” he repeats.

Uttara Kannada district in-charge minister R V Deshpande told The News Minute that the Karnataka government had spoken to the Goa Chief Minister on September 26 and told him that the demolition was “not required”. “(I said)They’ve been there for a long time. When Parikkar was CM, he had promised that they (those who were evicted then) would be rehabilitated, but that commitment has not been fulfilled.”

He said that the Karnataka chief secretary had spoken to his Goan counterpart, and that the Deputy Commissioner of Uttara Kannada district Ujwal Bose had visited the place on Sunday and had been asked to submit a status report.

Until, then he had requested the Goa government to start “ganji kendras” (soup kitchens). However, since nothing had happened, he had directed the local Kannada Sangha to start soup kitchens.

Asked about the impression that the Karnataka government had nothing to help these families despite repeated demolitions, Deshpande said: “We cannot intervene in the affairs of another government. We can only take the help of the state government (concerned) to sort out issues.”

While the Karnataka government cites protocol for its inaction, Siddanna says that despite repeated assurances, the Goa government has not rehabilitated them. “There our Prime Minister talks about this or that scheme for the poor. Here, the BJP government is demolishing the houses of the poor. What kind of justice is this?”

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