In Part 2 of this series, we wrote about how over a thousand families forcibly evicted from the Ejipura slum in 2013 are yet to be rehabilitated. At the time of their eviction, these residents were promised alternative accommodation at a new EWS (Economically Weaker Section) quarters in Sulikunte, along Sarjapur Road. The new quarters were built in 2017. But less than 400 families live there presently, almost a decade after their eviction.
The reason: the city corporation BBMP lacks clarity on who the deserving beneficiaries are. As per BBMP’s records, 792 out of the 900 flats in Sulikunte have been allotted so far. However, many former Ejipura slum residents did not made it into BBMP’s beneficiary list. They also claim that people who never lived in Ejipura slum have been allotted flats. Neither BBMP nor the Karnataka Slum Development Board (KSDB), have answers.
Since the allotments are yet to be completed, basic facilities like water and power supply have not yet been provided at the quarters, located way outside the city. The premises are in utter darkness at night, causing many residents injuries from falls and snakebites. Residents here put up with these conditions as they can’t afford to pay rent elsewhere.
900 flats for 1000+ families
The most glaring issue is, as per BBMP’s records, at least 1000-plus families used to live in Ejipura slum. But the Slum Development Board (KSDB) built only 900 flats in Sulikunte to rehabilitate them.
Ejipura slum itself was originally an EWS quarters for low income families, built and allotted by the BBMP in the 90s. But poor quality of construction led to the the quarters collapsing within a short time. BBMP then built tin sheds as a temporary replacement for the poorly built quarters, resulting in the site taking on the characteristics of a slum. Many families then rented out their quarters to tenants and moved elsewhere.
The residents referred to in this article are the tenants that BBMP evicted from the tin sheds in 2013, so that the quarters could be rebuilt for those who originally lived in them.
Shantha Mary was among the hundreds of tenants who challenged, in the Karnataka High Court, the BBMP’s decision to evict them. They argued that BBMP had identified 1101 tenant-families during a survey in the slum in 2003, and issued them identity cards (guruthina cheetis) in 2007 which they submitted in court along with their voter ID cards and ration cards as proof of residence.
In fact, earlier in 2005, the BBMP Council itself had passed a resolution that all these tenants too, in addition to the original residents, would be accommodated in the new quarters to be rebuilt on the Ejipura site.
Yet BBMP argued in court that the residents had no claim to the land and would be accommodated in Sulikunte only.
In 2014, the court permitted BBMP to evict all 1101 families from Ejipura. But it also ordered BBMP to allot them flats in Sulikunte. Which means, according to the tenants and the 2014 court order, there were 1101 families to be rehabilitated. BBMP did not challenge this number in court.
BBMP had started the process of creating a ‘beneficiary list’ around 2012 itself, and had been issuing biometric ID cards to the slum residents who would be allotted flats in Sulikunte. This list was to be prepared based on the guruthina cheetis BBMP had issued to them in 2007. But over the years, BBMP documents mention varying beneficiary numbers. And in all of them, the number of beneficiary families were above 1,000.
So even though the BBMP knew that over 1000 families would have to be rehabilitated, the Slum Development Board (KSDB) built only 900 flats at Sulikunte. Documents show that the KSDB had sought the Centre’s permission to build only 900 flats under the Rajiv Awas Yojana. As do the tender documents KSDB issued in 2013.
“We have no idea when the remaining 201 flats will be built,” says Shantha. She has neither received a biometric card nor been allotted a flat, even though she was a petitioner in the court case.
Shanta believes that residents like her who went to court are deliberately being excluded. In 2016, Shantha along with 72 others who were petitioners in the HC case sent a legal notice to the BBMP Commissioner for excluding them from the Sulikunte beneficiary list. The notice said that various ID cards proving they were Ejipura residents were already part of the court records.
Six years later, they are still awaiting a clear response from the BBMP.
Amala Fathima is another petitioner in the HC case who has not been allotted a flat yet. She has, however, occupied a flat in Sulikunte quarters as she has no other option. “As per the court order, BBMP should have first allotted the flats to us petitioners, and then to other residents,” says Amala. “This has not happened. There have been a lot of issues with allotment.”
It’s been almost a decade since the Sulikunte project was initiated, and most BBMP and KSDB officers who were in charge of the project then, have been transferred. Those involved with the project now say they have no clarity.
“As per the HC order, BBMP was supposed to allot the flats, so the KSDB is only a construction agency in this scenario,” a KSDB official told this reporter, on condition of anonymity. “KSDB took the decision to build 900 flats in 2011/2012. I don’t know the reason for this.”
Varying beneficiary numbers in BBMP documents
KSDB was given the flat numbers to be allotted, by the BBMP. But how these numbers got so messed up is unclear. BBMP documents over the years show there has been utter confusion about the beneficiary numbers for a long time.
- In December 2012: The then-Engineer-in-Chief at BBMP outsourced slum residents’ biometric ID card issual to the NGO Bangalore District Mahila Milan. On December 28th, 2012, the NGO wrote back that they are delivering 1049 biometric cards to BBMP for verification.
- July 2018: A communication from the KSDB Commissioner says that BBMP’s beneficiary list has a total of 1058 people. They requested BBMP to send a revised list of just 900 beneficiaries, so that allotment could be done.
- November 2018: BBMP’s then-Domlur ARO, who is in charge of allotment, writes to the BBMP Commissioner that KSDB was seeking a list of beneficiaries, hence 792 people with biometric cards have been identified.
Chandrappa, who took charge as Domlur ARO recently, declined to comment on the issue. Another BBMP official said there was utter confusion about the remaining allotments to be done. “A human rights organisation has approached us saying 122 eligible people have been left out of the beneficiary list,” said the official. “Another 76 people say there were part of the court petitions and have been left out. There is a lot of confusion about who were actually living in the slum earlier.”
Meanwhile, many including Shantha and Amala say that many people who never lived in the Ejipura slum have been allotted flats in Sulikunte. They allege that Shanthinagar MLA N A Haris facilitated these allotments to his supporters. (Haris, under whose constituency Ejipura slum falls, had actively facilitated the slum eviction in 2013.)
Haris, however, denies this charge. “The allotment is done by the govt departments as per their list, I don’t get involved in it,” said Haris. “The people making these allegations may be local residents trying to get the flats”. When asked about the court petitioners being excluded, Haris said he was unaware of the court order or the exclusion of the petitioners.
How many families lived in the Ejipura slum?
- 1101 – According to former residents, as mentioned in High Court order
- 1049 – The number of biometric ID cards issued in 2012 through BBMP’s initiative
- 1058 – The number of beneficiaries in the list BBMP sent to KSDB, according to KSDB Commissioner’s July 2018 letter
- 792 – The beneficiary numbers in the revised list BBMP created in November 2018
No facilities until allotment is done
Though BBMP is in charge of the allotment, the KSDB is supposed to ensure power supply to the Sulikunte rehabilitation quarters. The KSDB official quoted earlier says that even if people live in the quarters now, the Board can apply for power supply only after BBMP completes allotment.
Read more: Ejipura to Agara, who gets land, who doesn’t
“BBMP has to finalise the allotment and inform us, then within a day or two, we can complete the power line charging,” said the KSDB official. “With this, the beneficiaries will get Bescom (Bangalore Electricity Supply Company) meters in their name, and they need to pay the monthly power bills. Currently we don’t know in whose names Bescom connections have to be taken, or who will pay the bills.” When asked about families already living in the quarters, he says: “I don’t know if the people living there are allottees. There are already vigilance cases against Slum Board officers who provided electricity in similar situations.”
The officer adds that the residents could approach the Kodathi gram panchayat, under which the quarters falls, for other facilities like water.
But with BBMP being completely clueless, it is to be seen if at all, and how, it would complete the allotment process.