Venkata Subba Rao, a resident of RBI Colony in Jayanagar is a happy man. In 2005 he spotted the auction of the now dry Byrasandra tank (near Jayanagar Swimming Pool) by Indian Overseas Bank and initiated legal action. Five years later, this month, BBMP is fencing the lake land to protect it and remove encroachments.
From left Ramalinga Reddy, Gangambika and Hema Chandra. Venkatasubba Rao pouring the milk. Pic: Chetan Boray.
The fencing program was inaugurated on 23rd by Gangambika, (INC) Corporator of Jayanagar (Ward 153). “First of all we have to make a border to improve, we are going to make this lake as a tree park”, she says. MLAs Hema Chandra Sagar (BJP, Chickpete) and Ramalinga Reddy (Congress, BTM Layout) also attended the function.
At present one chunk of 14 acres 11 gunte of the lake land is control of the BBMP and a 1 acre 32 gunte portion has been encroached and it has to be recovered, says BBMP- Executive Engineer Manjunatha Reddy. The encroachment is from residential buildings which are currently unoccupied. "Right now we are fencing only the road side area but the other part will be fenced after the encroachment is removed." The BBMP is adding a 612m fence and repairing a 140m older fence.
* Lake land size: 14 Acres, 11 Gunte.Encroached part: 1 acres 34 gunte
* Fencing work entrusted to Karnataka Rural Infrastructure Development limited
* The length of the new fence is 612m. An existing and damaged fence of about 140m is also being repaired.
* Cost for this project inclusive of jungle clearance, leveling, lowering, and foundation work: Rs.1 crores
To reach this stage, the Byrasandra lake overcame many obstacles.
On 26th July 1985, Karnataka Government formed an Expert committee under the chairmanship of N Lakshman Rao to examine the problems relating to preservation and restoration or other wise to maintain desirable environment of lakes in Bangalore. On 11th Feb 1986 the report was submitted. The state government accepted the report ‘s recommendations and ordered that unused tank beds were to be handed over to Horticulture Department or Forest department.
Expert committee also recommended that about 10 hectares of the Byrasandra tank may be handed over to Forest department in order to establish a tree park. The forest department planted nearly hundreds of trees then but today, only five to eight trees remain.<
Byrasandra Lake getting ready for a Tree Park Pic Chetan Boray.
Developments since then have been captured in a BBMP-authored status report of 2009 signed by two of its engineers – Assistant Executive Engineer (Hombegowda subdivision) and Executive Engineer (Chickpete).
According to this report, in 1992, the then BMP started filling up the tank in a view to shift the slums from the NIMHANS quarters. Residents of Reserve Bank Colony filed a writ petition in High Court to stop this. They pointed to the state government’s earlier decision to develop a tree park on the tank’s land. On 3rd April 1992, court granted an interm stay on the slum relocation and ordered that no human habitation be allowed on the surface of the tank. On 23rd October 1992 final orders were passed making the interm stay absolute. Currently no slums are settled on the lake land.
Then in 2005, the same lake was ‘sold’ by Indian Overseas Bank in an auction for a sum of Rs.7.60 crores. One Siera Developers had taken a loan from the bank’s Jayanagar branch, for which the tank was illegally used as collateral. They defaulted on the loan and the bank proceeded to recover its dues. It is here that Venkasubba Rao stepped in and the Reserve Bank of India Employees Association (RBIEA) filed a case in the High Court and brought a stay.
Recalling the incident to Citizen Matters, Rao, who is currently Secretary of RBIEA says, "One fine day we saw a board saying the lake is to be sold. Basically it is government property so we filed a writ petition".
The auction was also bought to notice to BMP commissioner. BMP filed an objection but the bank’s recovery officer conducting the auction did not consider it, and as a result the land was sold out. The Deputy Commissioner for Forests (Bangalore Urban) filed a criminal complaint in Tilaknagar Police Station against Indian Overseas Bank regarding the mortgage of the tank belonging to the Forest Department. But the action taken by the Police in this regard is not known.
Coming back to the present, the Forest Department has handed over the land to the BBMP, and fencing has begun. Now there is no suit preventing the BBMP’s steps to protect the tank land. Two other proceedings remain pending: a writ petition regarding the debt of the Siera Developers at the High Court and proceedings before the Debt Recovery Tribunal. ⊕
Citizens should start referring to these lands as “public land” instead of “government land”. —
make this the topic of another article!
Congratulations to the This is probably the tip of the iceberg regarding such cases of land grab or a public resource, which are happening actively everywhere in Bangalore and else where:
– Take the case of the hilly land near and around Uttarahalli road – this is clearly not agricultural land. But that has not stopped developers building educational institutions and private religious structures on those hills.
– There are several such cases in the 100ft ring road in Banashankari 3rd stage. The Land between the Banagiri temple and DG petrol pump have been claimed and occupied by various entities – one has even built a school (without a play ground) on one such parcel of land.
– What about the case of “BDA Nisarga” near Kamakhya theater – This was supposed to be a park in BDA’s original layout development plans – Suddenly in the mid-1990s one part of this land was allotted to the BDA Nisarga apartment and another to a religious “non-profit” JSS group. The irony is that the JSS building is rented back to the income tax department for undoubtedly a profitable income.
– Consider the case of the shrinking Nagavara lake and the lands that are going to a growing IT park in that area. A strategically placed road killed off drainage to half of the lake and was filled it in and was then conveniently allotted to a tech park later on.
Citizens should start referring to these lands as “public land” instead of “government land”. Government land suggests that this is a resource at the mercy of the people who are in control of the government. Public land will truly empower people to enforce and demand the public ownership and reasoned development of such lands. The use of which should reasonably compensate the wider public rather than a select few in government.
How does this happen? A bogus developer uses government land as a collateral and gets a huge loan? The Bank must have colluded with the developer to loot some cash. Anyways, hats off to Venkat Rao and others for sticking with the project. Hope we see a lake with water soon.