A large number of protesters, supported by 20 civil rights groups, showed up at the Tilaknagar police station in Bengaluru on Friday. Their demand? To get back the land that was earmarked for civic amenities, during the time of making the Bangalore City Corporation (BCC) Layout in Jayanagar. In this case, the land was meant for a community hall. However, the activists alleged that private vested interests have taken over the land and have already begun constructing an apartment complex in the area.
The protest was organized by Bahujan Maha Sabha. According to a High Court order in 2014, space allocated for civic amenities cannot be transferred to any private entities, but can only be utilised for the public, whether it be for a park, or a meeting hall.
The local people, who cannot afford the steep prices for private halls in the locality, say they asked to have a government community hall in the empty space, â€śWe donâ€™t have any space for weddings, small private meetings or events for people from poorer communities, so the citizens in the surrounding areas began to ask for a community hall in the civic amenities land,â€ť says R Shekar, the State President of Bahujana Maha Sabha.
The activists approached the then Mayor in 2011 with the communityâ€™s request for a marriage hall, which he approved. â€śSubsequently, however, his term came to an end, and the government proposed a library in its place. Construction activities began in 2016, and we found that the area looked nothing like a library. Upon filing an RTI, we were shocked to discover that private builders had taken over the land and was constructing an illegal apartment building,â€ť he adds.
According to the documents that were received through a RTI request, a private builder was carrying out the construction in a joint development with Geeta, a private individual.
Shekar alleges that Geeta approached the courts seeking a site as compensation for her property, which was lost due to the construction of a road on top her property. â€śThe standard procedure is to give some financial compensation for any land that is handed over to the government. However, Geeta was not satisfied with the Rs 3.5 lakhs which she was given, and appealed to the court seeking a site.â€ť
It is unclear how BBMP allotted this piece of land to Geeta, but the BMS alleges that local Corporator N Nagaraj was aware of the land transfer. The corporator did not respond to our repeated attempts to get in touch with him.
â€śWe have observed a trend towards the making of land allocated for civic amenities towards private use. A similar case of civic amenities land being taken over by private milk federations has been observed in Nandini Layout, and the residents there too, are protesting this,â€ť says Arun Prasad, a social activist.
â€śWe demand that the land be taken back immediately, and the government builds a community hall in the same place. We will not accept any other compromise,â€ť Shekar says.