Former Ejipura EWS residents’ lives worse after eviction: Report

Assessment of Ejipura EWS quarters case, four years after demolition

Early in the morning, around 7.30 a.m., on 18 January 2013, BBMP officials, bulldozers, a demolition crew, and a police force consisting of approximately 500 policemen and 20 policewomen reached the EWS housing settlement. When residents tried to resist the demolition, they were subjected to violence. The police arrested 21 women dragging them into their vans, some of them by their hair. They were taken to two police stations, implicated on false charges, and detained overnight. Residents reported that the BBMP Commissioner had assured them that evictions would not begin until the end of the academic year (April). But this and other cogent arguments fell on deaf ears. By 21 January 2013, no home was left standing.

This is how the demolition of Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) settlement in Ejipura took place, four years ago. A report by Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN); Delhi, Forum against EWS Land Grab; and Fields of View, Bengaluru, documents the days of misery and the effect of it in detail.

Between January 18 and 21 2013, all homes in the EWS settlement of Ejipura/ Koramangala, in Bengaluru, were demolished, leaving about 1500 families homeless. After losing their homes and personal possessions, many families were forced to survive on streets without any shelter, food, livelihood, and healthcare. Many lost their jobs. The impact of the eviction has been devastating and long-lasting for the affected families.

In the absence of formidable state response to help the evicted, Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN); Delhi, Forum against EWS Land Grab; and Fields of View, Bengaluru, conducted a study to determine the real extent of the losses and costs incurred by the community as a direct result of its forced eviction. The findings of the study have been compiled in a report titled ‘Bengaluru’s Continuing Inequity: An eviction impact assessment of Ejipura/Koramangala four years after its demolition’, which was released recently.

M R Prabhakar from Forum against EWS Land grab mentioned that he was a part of the evictions that happened five years ago where families, women and even children were forcibly evicted from their settlements. The eviction has been documented in two reports which cover eviction data and its impact analysis ranging from mental anguish to children’s education.

Ms. Violet Mary, a senior citizen from the EWS settlement was invited to release the report. Vinay Sreenivasa from Alternative Law Forum, said that HRLN, Forum against EWS Land Grab and Fields of View had conducted extensive surveys and impact analysis which is documented in the report. He added that it is difficult to record the pain and rage of people who were witness to the demolition of their own house.

Dr. Sylvia Karpagham, a public health expert and practicing doctor, spoke about the impact of evictions on the health of the community. She mentioned that there were 1500 women and 2000 children living in the settlement. She also mentioned that toilets and water tanks were the first structures which were bulldozed and demolished because of which they had to walk long distances to access water and sanitation facilities due to which they were forced to reduce their water intake which had severe implications on their health like diarrhea, malnutrition, respiratory disorders, malaria etc. The public health system including ICDS, anganwadis etc remained non-responsive to their needs abandoning them and to fend for themselves.

Mr. Sunil Dutt, Senior advocate at High Court of Karnataka, said that many laws have been passed to protect the vulnerable sections but have proven ineffective and toothless when it comes to enforcement and execution. He said that law is not equal to everybody and access to justice for the weaker sections has become difficult.

Y J Rajendra, a senior activist, thanked the organisations who were behind the survey, analysis, documentation and compilation of the report which consists of some significant findings and key recommendations. He said that there has been a severe travesty of justice and it can be said that it is partly due to the failure of the judiciary. He said that caste is an important issue that must be given due importance when such incidents occur to indicate the significance of social justice. Isaac Selva, from Slum Jagatthu, thanked the gathering.

Key findings of the report and recommendations:

The researchers spoke to 107 people for the survey, as a sample. The report delves into the human right to adequate housing, in detail, before getting into the EWS case, setting the legal context. IT explains how the demolition of houses without the provision of alternative housing/resettlement/compensation has resulted in extreme hardships for the people evicted, in the form of rising ill-health, mental trauma, loss of livelihood, loss of education, and increased security and safety concerns.

The researchers found that as a result of the eviction, there has been a reduction in the monthly household income, by an average of seven per cent. This decrease in income has been accompanied by an increase in monthly household expenditure by six per cent.

To survive, families are coping by adopting different strategies, such as reducing food consumption or not visiting hospitals, in order to keep healthcare costs to a bare minimum. The consumption of intoxicants has increased after the forced eviction. Four years after the eviction, families are living in rental housing or in relatives’ homes or creches/anganwadis. Only 42 per cent of those surveyed have permanent housing, whereas 55 per cent are living in temporary structures. Two per cent are living in semi-permanent structures, and one per cent are reported to be homeless.

The report recommends that there is an immediate need for all families residing in the EWS quarters during demolition to be provided with adequate rehabilitation and financial reparation of their losses by the government. At the minimum, each family should be paid Rs. 4,00,000 as compensation. The right to adequate housing must be respected, protected, and fulfilled by the concerned government, in collaboration with Urban Local Bodies, within a consultative framework, which includes the voices of those affected and adheres to India’s national and international human rights obligations and commitments.

The full report can be accessed here.

Editor’s note: A series on the Ejipura EWS project, by Citizen Matters, can be seen here.

This report has been curated based on a press note sent by Fields of View.