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Demolition drives on lake beds is the burning issue in Bengaluru now. The drive that commenced with the demolition of structures in and around Sarakki lake bed in mid-April has continued with Bengaluru urban district administration carrying out yet another eviction drive at Banasawadi last week.
While the district administration has been hailed for its bold move to clear the encroachments, it has also been criticised for penalising people who have been living peacefully in the city for decades. Eviction drives and rumours surrounding it have indeed made people who have been living in lake beds, anxious. In a conversation with Citizen Matters, the man behind the drive, Bengaluru Urban Deputy Commissioner V Shankar, tries to clear the air surrounding demolition drive.
What prompted the district administration to spring into action in clearing the lake encroachment?
As far as Sarakki lake is concerned, there was a High Court order to clear the encroachment. Though the High Court had ordered in December 2014, to clear the encroachment within six months, we were already late in doing it. We did not want to delay it further and face the music, hence commenced clearing of encroachment on Sarakki lake last month. Karnataka High Court has been time again directing the district administration to clear encroachment of lakes and protect and preserve the lakes of Bengaluru. We placed a step forward in this direction.
Will the district administration demolish only the private layouts or also the layouts developed by the BDA? BDA commissioner has himself stated that 13 BDA layouts are developed on lake beds.
Legally speaking, we should clear the BDA layouts as well because the BDA layouts were formed without obtaining official permission from the Revenue Department and in the absence of conversion of land. 13 BDA layouts were developed on dried lake beds.
Do you target only the commercial establishments or residential buildings as well?
The district administration will demolish only commercial establishments, and we will not touch residential buildings. We had to demolish residential buildings in Sarakki lake in accordance with the High Court order. In Banasawadi, we have not demolished residential structures although two residential buildings were damaged while demolishing commercial establishments. In Sarakki, we have identified two Below Poverty Line (BPL) families, who will be provided rehabilitation. I have directed the officials to sanction them houses under Rajiv Gandhi Awas Yojana.
Will the eviction drive continue? How far will you go back in time, considering that some of the structures in Central Business District like Kanteerava Stadium were constructed on tank beds?
Demolition drive has been stopped for the time being. Though there are plenty of encroachments to be cleared including private and government layouts, we have stopped the drive for now. Our next move will be based on the cabinet decision. If the government directs us to go ahead, we will.
What measures the district administration will take to prevent lake encroachment in future?
I believe, our present move to demolish structures on encroached property will be a warning bell to those who intend to buy/construct buildings without proper documents. We will initiate stringent action against those who commit the crime of encroaching government land.
Can you brief about the actions initiated against perpetrators?
Since the commencement of demolition drive in Sarakki, 466 criminal cases have been booked against house/ complex owners and builders. Cases have also been booked against nine officers for abetting the crime.
What are the cases booked against them?
Illegal structure owners and officers have been booked under 192A and 192B of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act. 192A section is meant for the offense and punishment for unlawfully entering and occupying government land, cheating and creating documents for the purpose of selling/transferring, creating forged documents, failure to initiate action against encroachers etc. These offences are punishable with imprisonment from one year up to three years.
Any suggestions to the people who would like to buy property/ build house/ establishments in Bengaluru?
People should ascertain the legality of property documents before proceeding to buy or build a house on it.