Members of the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) voiced concerns about the term ‘encroachers’ being used to describe Ejipura evictees. To prove that they are not encroachers but original allottees, they shared documents of property rights of the evictees, at a press conference held on 9 July 2013.
PUCL, in association with Housing and Land Rights Network, another international NGO focussing on housing for poor, also released a report titled ‘Governance by denial,’ which analyses the related events before and after the eviction.
Ramadas Rao, a member of PUCL, said the allegations of MLA N A Haris that evictees are not genuine allottees are wrong. He referred to the BBMP resolution passed on 28 June 2005, which stated that original allottees will be provided housing.
The resolution copy highlighted that eviction was done on the basis of dilapidated condition of the then existing buildings as a precautionary measure and to construct a residential complex for 1,512 original allottees and a commercial complex . The original allottees were to be given first preference on the housing. It also mentions that special ID cards were distributed among the tenants to mark them as eligible for compensatory housing in the colony.
PUCL demanded a judicial enquiry into the agreement between BBMP and Maverick Holdings and Investments Ltd. A review petition will be filed in the HC challenging the PPP agreement between the duo, asserted a PUCL member.
The fact finding mission, shared a letter dated in 2004, written by former minister R Ashoka, then the MLA of Uttarahalli Assembly Constituency (to which Ejipura belonged to, before delimitation), stating that the residents of the land are bonafide occupants as they have ration cards and voter ID cards.
Arul Selva, another member of the PUCL, noted that the R Ashoka, when he was the Home Minister of the state, stood back when the police forced evictions of the residents.
PUCL’s M R Prabhakar said, “The Public Private Partnership between the BBMP and the Maverick Constructions should be regarded as Private-Private Partnership as there is no benefit for the public in their agreement.”
Prabhakar pointed that as per the old plans of the reconstruction of the EWS quarters, the quarters were to be provided with health centers, two schools, a post office, civic amenities, parks and shops, which has no mention in the present PPP agreement.
As per the Comprehensive Development Plan, 70 % of the land was to be used for the ‘Residential mixed’ purpose and the rest for the commercial purpose. But the revised plan allows 50% of the land to be used for commercial purpose.
An area of 3.31 acres was demarcated for parks and open spaces. In the new agreement, it is reduced to 2.79 acres.
Shanta, one of the PUCL members and an allottee of the EWS quarters, gave her testimony: “We still live on footpath. There are no proper sanitation facilities, no food, not even proper drinking water. Our children have fallen sick. Some have cold, cough and fever while few others are suffering from respiratory problems and malaria.”
PUCL and the Land Rights Networks initiated a drive to investigate the issue and compiled all the documents related to the eviction. The report has scrutinised each and every word in the agreement.
Maverick: the concessionaire and the beneficiary
The report highlighted that Maverick Holdings not only holds the property rights of the Ejipura land but also of the BBMP’s shares.
As per the agreement, the Maverick Holding is given 15.64% of the Ejipura land for the development of EWS quarters and a commercial mall. Except the quarters which is to be built on 7 acres of the land, the agreement mentions that any facilities constructed on the other half of the land can be offered partly or fully to a third party for any use. The revenue generated by this property by way of profits, fees, rents etc, will be earned by Maverick and not BBMP [Article 2.1 (b)]
Article 3.2 (d) of the agreement allows the Maverick to give concession/ license/ rent on BBMP’s shares during the concession period of 32 years or the extended period.
Even when BBMP earns no benefit from the Maverick, it has promised the Maverick to provide exemptions on various policies from the Government of Karnataka and Central Government of India. It also promises to defend the Maverick against any legal encumbrance.
The completion period according to the agreement is 24 months which can be extended if required, on discretionary basis, by BBMP. The agreement has nowhere mentioned about any kind of penalties, for the delay in providing facilities to EWS quarters. It does not have enough checks and balances that prevent Maverick from violating rules.
The termination clause of the agreement lets Maverick Holdings to be entitled to 100% of the book value of the property, if any government action is taken against them for termination.
The termination clause also clearly emphasizes that the Maverick can recover 120% of the capital investment made by them, if BBMP defaults in future.
The report calls attention to the benefits under ‘Concessionaire’s share’ that allow the Maverick Holdings to sell any part of its land with or without any development to, excluding the EWS land to any third party. It also permits the concessionaire to charge any amount of fees or any other charges from the future occupant of the property.
Demands of EWS evictees
- Recognition of the ‘right to the city’ of the urban poor who are an integral part of the development of the city.
- Dissolve the Public Private Partnership between BBMP and Maverick Holdings and ensure that the entire area of land is used for EWS housing as per the 2005 BMP resolutions.
- Adopt and implement UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development- based Evictions and Displacement in all cases of eviction and relocation. As per these guidelines, the report demands compensation to all the evictees irrespective to original or non-original allottees.
- A judicial enquiry into PPP/joint venture project between Maverick Holdings and BBMP and into the attacks of residents and activists during the process of the eviction.
- Investigate and take action against all the BBMP and Police officials responsible for the violent eviction.
- Compensation for students who lost their books and other study materials at the time of eviction. Enabling them to appear for the forthcoming examinations.
- Provide adequate compensation to Rosemary’s family for her death.
‘Come what may, we will take back our land’
Maverick will pay a fixed sum of Rs 1.72 crores to BBMP on quarterly basis as management fees. On the contrary, Maverick has no restriction on the maximum amount to be collected by them as fees during their concession period.
Against all odds, the PUCL President, Rajendra is determined to fight for the land. The actions of the BBMP contravenes its Council resolution to provide housing and basic amenities to the Urban poor on the entire land. He says, “Come what may, we will take back our land,”
At present, two petitions are lodged in the High Court: One among them is a writ petition signed by 140 evictees demanding to stop the construction of commercial mall and utilise the entire land for EWS quarters, as the plot allotted for the non-allottees of the Ejipura evictees is far out of reach from the city at Sulikunte.
Ramadas said, “The new site allotted for the non- allottees of the Ejipura is a complete cut off from the city. Many of the women are domestic workers. It will cost a lot for them to travel to the city for work. Therefore we are demanding the HC to build quarters on the entire land of the Ejipura so that all of them can be easily accommodated.
The other petition is a review petition filed by eight people in the Supreme Court, challenging the High Court’s order to give housing for original allottees only. SC asked the petitioners to go to HC, and to come back to SC only if the HC does not respond.
Ramadas is looking forward for the results of the Lokayukta’ s investigation. He alleged that the Lokayukta is buying time on account of missing or non-availability of documents. The government ordered Lokayukta in 2008 to probe the engineers responsible for the 2007 collapse and the irregularities in the contract given to Maverick in 2008.
However, an RTI query by PUCL enquiring the result of the Lokayukta investigation stated there has been no conclusion till June 2011 on account of missing documents, hence it seems to be heading nowhere.
What has Lokayukta probe actually achieved?
(Inputs from Navya P K)
Even while Ejipura eviction was going on, this Lokayukta enquiry was pending. Collapse of part of the original quarters had caused deaths there; after this, government demolished the quarters based on recommendation of a consultant named Torsteel Foundation.
After the contract was awarded to Maverick Holdings in 2008, Kumaraswamy had alleged that Yeddyurappa had taken money from the company for awarding them the contract. The government ordered a Lokayukta inquiry in October 2008.
Lokayukta was asked to:
- give directions to take stringent action against government engineers responsible for poor construction.
- check if houses were allotted to eligible beneficiaries
- reason for delay in reconstruction, if there was any intention/dealings in selecting PPP partner and if all rules of the tender process were followed
BBMP and BDA were asked to give all necessary documents to Lokayukta.
First EWS quarters collapse – a flashback
Total cost of the original EWS project was Rs 4.75 crore, with about half the cost borne by the state government and rest by the HUDCO. Construction was proposed in 1983-84, and 14 short-term tenders were issued in 1987. Construction was completed by 1991. Water leakage and cracks in walls observed in November 1991 itself, after a heavy rain. The first building collapse happened in 2003.
A week after the collapse, Torsteel Foundation gave a report saying that the foundation was not damaged, but the dividing walls were not built on foundation but on normal concrete bed. Iron rods were peeping out of roofs. Slopes were not even and bricks were popping out of parapet walls. There were cracks in walls and parapets, moistness in walls, upper roofs were completely damaged in some buildings. Foundation identified 41 blocks for demolition. There were 42 blocks originally, only one was left to be. Each block had 36 homes, and hence a total of 1512 families stayed there.
One of the contractors named Shree Construction in Jayanagar was sent a notice in 2004 to justify their construction. Explanation letters were issued to 10 engineers, but there are no further details of action taken.
No conclusion, says Lokayukta report
Lokayukta’s final report says that no conclusion can be drawn because of lack of records. There are no records to show the basis for the allotment, or whether transparency was maintained during allotment.
Beneficiaries had to pay about Rs 50,000 for their houses. They could repay this in 13 years, at an EMI of Rs 156 per month at 11.5% interest. If a person did not pay the EMI for 3 consecutive months, he would lose the right to his flat. Owners were also responsible for all repairs of their flats.
Until January 2004, only 116 beneficiaries had paid the amount, but not within the stipulated time. 1310 owners had breached repayment rule. 86 flats were unallotted but illegally occupied. BBMP had got Rs 152 lakhs from beneficiaries until then, and remaining Rs 519 lakhs was yet to be recovered, as of January 2004.
BBMP had approved a first set of 600 houses in a June 1993 meeting. A second list of 897 houses was approved in May 1994. The criteria for selecting these beneficiaries has not been mentioned in any record. There are no records of advertisements given in newspapers asking people to apply for houses. Because of this, the report ends saying that no conclusion has been reached.
It does not address other questions raised by the GO such as delay in construction, whether rules for calling tenders under PPP was observed etc.
The above report was submitted in June 2011. Final scrutiny started around then, but the case has not been closed so far.