So, are ‘you’ prepared to compensate the victims of the BBMP demolition?

Nowadays we see a lot of of news about demolitions. The government assures us that this will continue, and that even big builders won’t be spared.

There is a school of thought which holds that either the BBMP or the State Government should pay compensation to the victims of these demolitions, because its officers failed to do their duty.

As a long-time resident of Bellandur village, I start wondering: Back in 2005, Bellandur was considered a model village, and we were free birds. As soon as the BBMP absorbed us to become a city of 9.6 million we inherited its crippling debt of Rs 11,000 Crores. A family of four has to pay off a debt of Rs 44,000. More, if you don’t count the urban poor. On top of that, we have to pay betterment charges for the privilege of joining a bankrupt BBMP, which has no budget for anything.

Nothing of this makes any sense to me.

Now, consider who would be actually paying the damages in this case. If the government pays any compensation (including the very likely inflated and bogus claims), almost the entire cost would be paid by the Bangaloreans, given that the city generates about 80% of state GDP. The remaining 20% of the claims will have to be borne by rural people who are far off from Bangalore. Who is the “victim” here?

Next, I check if this money is well-spent for a worthy cause. And I find that it is actually counterproductive!

First, many of the buyers knew about it, but just followed the gravy train. The scam was too big to fail, with a sure-shot emotional catchphrase:”life-savings of innocent people, with hard-earned money”

The encroachment caused misery to the others (flood, traffic jams). Can we expect those victims to pay a compensation to the encroachers?

Then it becomes a looting scheme with government-sponsored money-back guarantee.

Next, I check if this is a one-time exercise, or a nominal amount. No. Karnataka has a long-standing tradition. The Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act (“KTCP Act”) was amended in 1991 to regularize large-scale encroachment of government land. Recently, newspapers highlighted that a lot of government land was encroached, with the notion of regularizing it (which usually means writing off the loss).

Long ago, the state government had declared an Akrama-Sakrama as a “strictly one-time amnesty” scheme. But then it again declared another Akrama-Sakrama scheme. Thankfully it is challenged in court now.

The Balasubramanian Committee report was not even allowed to be published.The Koliwad Committee has declared mind-boggling numbers for encroachments. They are yet to be demolished.

BBMP Corporator from BJP, N Ramesh has declared another list of encroachments, which also feature in the list of candidates for demolition.

Finally, almost 90% of the high-rises in Bangalore do not have OC. They may face at least partial demolition. All this demolition would create a huge number of refugees and victims. The total compensation would exceed our income.

We are entitled to protect our own life-saving, for our own children. How can we give it away?

There is also a case for questioning if the government is to be held liable for such damages. Clearly, we must differentiate between “staff” and “government”. The government cannot shield their errant officers. And it cannot ask us to pay for this.

It is rather difficult to believe that 

  • The officers apparently did their duty with due diligence.
  • All this happened without their knowledge, in full innocence.
  • None of them benefited financially.
  • All the vigilance teams for 30+ years failed to detect the issues.
  • All the BBMP/government surveyors missed the encroachments.
  • The anomalies were never found in audits and by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

How many people were punished under Section 90 of the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act (KMCA) that provides for punishment of corporation officers and other employees for ‘for any breach of any departmental rules or regulations or of discipline or for carelessness, unfitness, neglect of duty or other misconduct’?

Even if we ignore the previous point for the moment, the question that remains is this: How is this payment to be made? Any government work is a leaky bucket. The same government that presided over this large-scale loot over the last 30 years cannot be trusted to handle the compensation scheme with total honesty. It is best if the compensation is calculated ward-wise, and liability is distributed among the rest of the public within the ward. Once you get the estimate, tell me if you really like the idea of compensation.

Related Articles

BDA layouts will face demolition only if the Cabinet approves it: Bengaluru DC
BBMP uses 50-year-old maps to identify encroachments. Here’s why.

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About Nagesh Aras 24 Articles
Nagesh Aras is a resident of Bengaluru. He works on urban governance issues like mobility, lake and water management, and STPs.