KEB layout in BTM 1st stage has only one park – until about two years ago this park had a play area which catered to children from the layout and surroundings. But the children’s park was demolished by the BBMP in January 2009, to build a road through the park. The road was built to aid traffic and parking for a Sai Baba temple opposite the park.
Children in the layout now have no option but to play on the streets. "It is dangerous, but children have no other play space. Elderly people also cannot move around easily as vehicles pass through these roads often," says P Shantaraj, 82, a resident of the layout.
Park divided, woes multiplied
With the road built, the park was divided into two – the smaller section, which measures about 30X30 feet, has been ignored since then. BBMP does not maintain this part of the park and it is now a dumping ground.
The layout was formed by KEB Employees Co-operative Society in 1979 and is home to 220 families. The temple was built in the layout’s Civic Amenity (CA) site by Sree Sadguru Sainath Seva Samithi, which had taken the site on a 30-year-lease from BDA in 1997.
The road – only 10.6 m long – was built to connect 6th and 7th main roads of the layout. These roads were otherwise connected, but had dead ends. The new road connects these roads near the dead end, close to the temple.
Now vehicles are always parked in front of houses in this fully residential area. "It is worse on Thursdays when there are bhajans and a large number of devotees visit," says Shantaraj.
Road, temple violate rules
After the demolition, KEB layout RWA filed a case in High Court against BBMP, BDA, Samithi etc saying that the road was illegal and that the park should be restored. After two years of fighting the case, the court dismissed the case this May saying that the road does serve public interest and BBMP was free to use the park the way it wanted. Residents approached the Supreme Court after this, but SC has now refused to admit the case.
"HC rejected the case on technical grounds," says Sunil Dutt Yadav, lawyer for the RWA. Residents had requested for park restoration saying that BBMP was responsible for it under the Karnataka Parks, Playgrounds and Open Spaces (Preservation and Regulation) Act.
According to this Act, BBMP has to notify a list of all parks in its jurisdiction annually and ensure their protection. The law was passed in 1985, but the Palike had never made a list. However the HC bench of former Chief Justice J S Khehar and H G Ramesh ordered that since the park was not notified, it did not have to be protected.
"It is true that the park is not listed, because the list itself did not exist. This maybe correct technically, but the Court should have been proactive and made BBMP responsible," says Yadav.
Also, the Executive Order (EO) of the BBMP to build the road, showed the new road’s width as 3 m. But through an RTI application to BBMP, residents later found that the actual width is around 7 m.
"We were protesting during the demolition. BBMP officials quickly showed us the EO, but we were not allowed to even hold it. We found the discrepancy on getting the documents later," says P N Umesh, Secretary of the RWA.
A third violation pointed out by residents was that the CA site measuring 1122 sq m was actually leased out for building a ‘social, cultural activities centre’, but that a temple was built instead. The lease agreement says that no permanent structure other than the centre should be built, and specifies that residential buildings cannot be built. But the Samithi built a temple, a dental clinic and four residential quarters for its employees, all of which are permanent structures.
Though residents alerted BDA about this many times, there was no action. "The law only makes a subtle distinction between religious and socio-cultural activity. Court should have decided on this. Even otherwise BDA can take action on getting a complaint," says Yadav.
The petitioners had not pointedly raised the question of residential buildings, but may file further cases on this, says Yadav. "There are two arguments we can raise again – one on residential buildings in CA site and another on the road width," he says.
When Citizen Matters contacted the Samithi, they were unaware of details of the case and the judgement. R Suresh, President of the Samithi, says, "The case was primarily against BBMP, we never got involved." He was not available for further comment.
Yadav says that the respondents did not file objections in the case and the court did not insist on it. Residents say that this was probably because a religious institution was involved.
Residents say that it was after their efforts that the park was developed in the first place. In 2000 they got a one-year lease from BBMP to maintain the park themselves. By then the Samithi had started pressing for a road, but BBMP officials at the time had rejected their request. "In 2006 some officials got the play equipments removed from the park saying it was for renovation. But nothing was done further. In December 2008 BBMP officials tried to demolish the park, but they did not have an EO and we stopped them," they say.
Protect ‘public interest’ or the park?
Though residents later requested BBMP and local MLA B N Vijayakumar to prevent the demolition, the very next month BBMP officials returned with an EO and completed the demolition. The EO also says that the decision was taken as per the suggestion of Vijayakumar, by his letter to BBMP in November 2008.
Vijaykumar now says that he supported road construction so that congestion would ease. "Temple authorities had approached me and I thought their demand was reasonable. Thousands of devotees visit the temple on Thursdays and holidays, and park vehicles everywhere, causing nuisance to residents. With the new road, vehicles are able to move around smoothly." Vijaykumar alleges that residents are unwilling to consider public interest and hence pursuing the issue.
Inspector at Mico Layout traffic police station T Venkatesh, who has taken charge four months earlier, claims that the issue has been resolved. "We have removed hawkers in footpaths in the area so that vehicles can park. Constables go there on Thursdays and tow away vehicles that are parked in front of houses."
But residents deny this. "Traffic police puts barricades on 7th main road on Thursdays to prevent vehicle entry. So the new road does not serve any purpose; all vehicles park in front of houses in 6th main, and there has been no towing," says Umesh.
Residents had also filed complaints to Mico Layout police station on noise pollution caused by bhajans on Thursdays. Bhajans are accompanied by musical instruments and audio systems. Residents had said that the area should be treated as a silent zone as there was a school and four medical institutions nearby, but there has been no action on this either.⊕