Over 300 families were evicted as four waterfront apartment buildings in Kochi’s Maradu were demolished on January 11-12, 2020.

Demolition of Alfa Serene tower at Maradu
news Maradu Flat Demolition Monday, January 11, 2021 - 19:14

“It was not just a building for us; it was my home. That searing pain I felt when I stepped out of our house for the last time in late 2019... it will linger throughout my life, until my death,” said Liji*. She was a resident of one of the four apartment complexes in Kochi’s Maradu that was demolished on January 12, 2020. Her voice still quivers when she recalls the moment her apartment, in which she had invested 34 lakh, came shattered down in a matter of seconds.

It is being a year since over 300 families, who lived in four apartment complexes in Maradu, were evicted. They were promised compensation from the Kerala government as well the builders months prior to the demolition. But, they are still awaiting their complete compensation. While some residents managed to buy another home from their savings, many are still residing in rented homes, once again hoping to own another home.

It was on January 11 and 12 last year that four high-rise buildings in Maradu Municipality in Ernakulam district of Kerala — H20 Holy Faith, Alfa Serene, Jains Coral Cove and Golden Kayaloram — were demolished by implosion in almost five seconds. The waterfront apartment buildings in Kochi were demolished, following a Supreme Court order for not complying with Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms. It was probably the first time in India that such residential high-rise buildings were demolished by the order of the apex court.

Residents who were able to submit all correct documents received an interim compensation of Rs 25 lakh from the Kerala government as announced by the SC. Although the interim compensation was paid by the state government, the builders have to repay the amount. However, they are yet to receive the rest of the compensatory amount (varies for each owner) from the builders. And they are on an indefinite wait for that.

In September 2019, the Supreme Court had appointed a judicial commission to fix the compensation amount for the evicted residents.

Watch video of demolition:

The compensation for every evicted family has been fixed in such a way that they will be compensated for the amount they bought the apartment for. However, the land value was excluded from the compensation.

All apartment owners have an undivided share (UDS) of the land where the apartment complexes once stood; that is, the land is still in the name of the former apartment owners, even after the demolition. Typically, each owner gets a varying amount of land value.

In the case of Maradu flats, for each family, the UDS land value was higher than the apartment value, at the time of purchase, as mentioned in the agreement. Hence, with the exclusion of land value, the compensation was less for many residents. Besides, the owners get the land value once the entire structure is sold or demolished. However, in this case, since no construction will be allowed due to the CRZ regulation, the owners will not receive land value.

While two builders have already deposited the compensation amount, builders Alfa Serene and H2O Holy Faith haven't deposited crores of money as directed by the judicial commission.

While the residents said the commission did not specify a time frame within which they should receive the amount, they have also raised concerns that the compensation amount is inadequate.

“We brought the apartment for Rs 60 lakh. In addition to the interim compensation of Rs 25 lakh, the commission also fixed our additional compensation at Rs 13 lakh. We don’t know when we will get this. But in total, we are at loss, as this does not even cover half of the amount we invested in buying the flat as well as furnishing the interiors,” Dr Deepa, who was the resident of H20 Holy Faith, told TNM.

Liji, who was a resident of Golden Kayaloram, also raised a similar concern. “Eleven years ago, when we had brought our four-bedroom apartment, it cost us only about Rs 34 lakh. But now, in Ernakulam, where can we get such an apartment with that amount. We now live in a rented flat,” she said.

‘Those stressful days’

For many residents, who were not aware of the CRZ violations tied to the apartment while buying, it was not just the financial constraints that strained them; the emotional toll of losing own house, too, was immense.

“We had settled down for a peaceful life and we were trying to hold our son’s wedding. But all of a sudden, we were thrown out as a family with no house of our own,” said Liji.

Like many residents, Dr Deepa, too, tries to forget those stressful and emotionally draining days when the Supreme Court passed the order, followed by months-long protest, which the flat owners ultimately lost. “My children dread to talk or think about those days. What we lost was huge, but we are striving to live in the present,” she said.

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