On Monday midnight, 120 residents of Sachidananda Nagar got their khatas from the BBMP zonal office at Rajarajeshwari Nagar. “This is a great victory for us. It was ‘freedom at midnight’,” gushes Nethrakere Uday Shankar, 54, one of the leaders of the protest. Shankar is Chief Sub-Editor at a Kannada daily in the city. "I bought a plot in the layout in 1992, and planned to build a house there in 2001. I have been waiting for khata since 2001," he said.
It was around 1.40 am when khatas were given away to all. This rare act by the BBMP officials was because of an order by Commissioner Siddaiah to the BBMP Additional Commissioner (RR Nagar) K M Ramachandrappa. The commissioner called Ramachandrappa at around 8.30 pm, ordering him not to leave office without issuing khatas to everyobody. BBMP had earlier refused to give khatas to the residents for over two years.
The delay was also due to the intrusion of Manjunath, President of Sachidananda Nagar RWA, who insisted that the khatas be given to him first. He was not happy about those who didn’t pay the bribe getting the khatas before him. He was there to collect khatas for the 50 residents, from whom he had allegedly collected bribes to get their khatas done.
Manjunath reached the BBMP office on Monday morning and disturbed the pile of documents of the 120 residents that the officials had already arranged. Many documents were torn and flung on the floor. After the drama that lasted about two hours, the officials had to start working from scratch. Ramachandrappa admitted that this had led to the delay in giving khatas, but did not make a complaint against Manjunath. The police arrived at the scene late and still allowed Manjunath to remain in the office.
They instead prevented the residents who came to collect khatas, from entering the office. When a few residents managed to reach Ramachandrappa’s office, he said that khatas would be all issued to all 170 residents – including those represented by Manjunath – on the same day. Manjunath and RWA Treasurer Munikrishna were already handling all documents, along with around ten BBMP officials.
As the first khata of a resident got ready at around 6 pm, Manjunath launched into a flurry of verbal abuse. Though a few police officers rushed in and made all residents to leave the room, Manjunath, however was allowed to sit in the room.
Munikrishna said, "We paid the khata fee earlier than these residents, why can’t BBMP give us the khatas today itself? Why did all these residents have to come today? Like us, they should have one person to collect khatas for all."
"Residents were upset over the scuffle. Hemalatha B C, member of the aandolana, says, Khatas should be collected individually. BBMP has collected bribe from RWA, otherwise will they let the public handle official files?"
Some residents were allowed inside after a while, but Manjunath’s occasional outbursts continued even as the Additional Commissioner and Sub-Inspector watched. The officials only meekly asked Manjunath to hand over a file every now and then.
When asked why a citizen was allowed to handle official files and why no action was taken against him for abusing officers, Ramachandrappa had no reply. “He wants his khatas first, so I allowed him to sort them out,” he said. Sub-Inspector Narayan Gowda said that no action was taken as Ramachandrappa had not lodged any complaint against Manjunath.
The residents’ leader Dr Shankara Prasad apprised BBMP Commissioner Siddaiah about the situation. It was only after the Commissioner’s intervention that Manjunath was asked to leave the office, “If the police had done this in the morning, we would have got our khatas by now,” said Uday Shankar, at around 9 pm.
Manjunath and all residents, except ten, got their khatas at night. Ten people were issued the khatas on Tuesday morning.
For now, the residents are relieved. “We won our battle. We hope that the remaining residents can collect their khata individually without any hurdles,” said Uday Shankar.