May 17th was a bad day for residents of three low-lying lanes at HBR 5th Block Layout, near Manyata Tech Park. That day’s heavy downpour saw all their homes being flooded, causing losses of tens of thousands of rupees.
K Sai Kiran, a resident, estimates his loss at Rs 79,000 from the heavy rain that day. This includes Rs 50,000 for damaged furniture, Rs 10,000 to fix damaged electrical appliances, Rs 15,000 for car repair, and Rs 4,000 to clean up the house.
Another resident Vijay estimates his loss at Rs 60,000 from similar damage. Ashwini Sreetama says her losses come to Rs 41,000 which includes the repair of her computer printer. For Muniya Naik, the cost of repairing tiles, cleaning up the house and sump, painting works and repairing a damaged sofa came to Rs 33,000.
Fear of flooding is an emotion residents of this area live with every time it rains. Soon after the May floods, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, along with local leaders, visited the area and promised compensation for the damage caused to their homes, says Ashwini. But no resident has received any compensation so far.
In recent years, floods are becoming more frequent in Bengaluru. And every time it happens, the chief minister has been announcing compensation. Here are some some of the promises made:
- May 18, 2022: Karnataka CM announces Rs 25,000 compensation for flooded homes, Rs 5 lakh for those killed in Bengaluru rains
- November 24, 2021: Bengaluru’s Yelahanka flooded: CM announces Rs 10K as immediate compensation
- October 24, 2020: Bengaluru rains: Compensation of Rs 25,000 for each house that got affected, says BSY
And some compensation has been paid out. According to a report in the Jagran Times, as of May 27th, BBMP had paid compensation to 2835 households affected by the mid-May rains, and was verifying the details of another 476. However, the Jagran Times article also says that city MLAs had raised objections that many affected households were not surveyed. Whereas, in October 2020, as per news reports, about 344 households had received compensation.
After the rains this May, BBMP had issued a circular directing revenue officers to create a Google Form that captures details like GPS, date and time stamped photos, and bank account details of those affected. Officers were to certify eligible people, so that compensation could be paid directly to their bank accounts. The amount ranged from Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000 depending on the extent of damage.
However, many affected people are unable to get compensation or are even aware that the option exists.
Given the city’s poorly maintained stormwater drains and sewerage lines, as well as the construction of larger numbers of houses in low-lying areas, the number of households entitled to compensation would be way higher than BBMP estimates.
Even HBR 5th Block Layout residents became aware of the compensation option only because elected representatives had visited their locality during the May flood. The Layout’s association then obtained details of the application process and informed residents. Applicants were to submit to the association their Aadhar card, bank statement and photos of the damaged caused. Then an officer from BBMP’s Revenue Department was to visit the locality and verify the damage claims, so that the amount could be assessed and released.
But many houses here have not yet been surveyed. An officer from BBMP’s Revenue Department did come to the locality recently, but visited only one lane out of the three affected. Vijay says the officer did not visit his house at all.
Sai Kiran feels the compensation process itself is problematic. “Photos are mandatory for getting compensation,” says Sai. “But floods are life-threatening; how can we take photos in such a traumatic situation?” Besides, even the maximum compensation amount of Rs 25,000 will not cover the residents’ losses.
Lack of awareness
While residents of HBR 5th Block have at least applied for compensation, many in other flood-prone areas are totally unaware that they can even apply.
At Guddahalli Layout 5th cross, in Padmanabha Nagar, Ravikumar, secretary of the Layout RWA, says he is unaware of the compensation process, and that he has no faith in the system anyway. Ravikumar is disappointed by the lack of response of BBMP officials when he sought help during the May 17th floods. “The ward AEE (Assistant Executive Engineer) picked up his calls only three days later and never visited the area, putting the blame on the BWSSB (Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board),” he says.
Flood water gushing in along with backflow from the toilets inside the house caused Ravikumar’s house to be submerged in about 4 ft of water. “Flooding started at around 6 pm and went on till 11 pm on May 17th,” says Ravikumar. “We couldn’t do anything, the water we poured outside would come right back. Furniture was submerged. Since our sump was filled with sewage, we didn’t have drinking water for two days. There was feces all over the house, and it took days to clean up. The cleanup roughly cost Rs 8,000-10,000.”
The family still suffers the aftereffects. “Now we have rodents in the house, and we fear snakes may start coming in. Earthworms are coming out of toilets and sinks. And we don’t know about the invisible damage to the house”. It was only a couple of years ago that Ravikumar had to spend Rs 30,000 to repair his bike damaged by flooding.
Some residents of HBR Layout 2nd and 3rd blocks, whom this reporter spoke to, also suffered from frequent floods, but weren’t aware they could apply for compensation. Pius Maria Prasad of HBR 3rd Block Layout frequently spends money cleaning his sump, and sometimes his house, after floods. He says, “If I know the application process, I would definitely apply, because how long can we put up with this?”
Besides, all the affected residents are demanding not just compensation, but a permanent solution to stop overflow from stormwater drains and sewerage lines. They have been negotiating with the BBMP to get works done in their areas, but there hasn’t been much progress.
Even if paid, compensation is inadequate
Ashok, ARO at Yelahanka division, says they have processed compensation for 13 families – 10 in Yelahanka ward and three in Chowdeshwari ward. “Compensation has already been paid to 12 of these families. One case is with the Accounts section because of a technical error that may get rectified soon.”
Ashok says that all three houses in Chowdeshwari ward have suffered losses up to Rs 50,000 each. “But we can recommend a maximum of only Rs 25,000, we can’t go beyond that limit,” says Ashok. “If a house is fully damaged, we can recommend a maximum of up to Rs 5 lakh as per the norms.”
Ashok says the compensation amount is based on the SDRF (State Disaster Response Fund) guidelines as well as CM’s announcement of compensation amounts. “The amount [for each affected household] is decided based on our assessment of the materials that got damaged, such as foodgrains, clothes, etc.”
The compensation amounts prescribed by the SDRF, are in fact quite low. In the last few years, Karnataka government, has been announcing higher amounts than what’s mentioned in these guidelines, especially in the context of heavy floods in other parts of the state.
For example, while the government has announced Rs 3-5 lakh for a fully damaged house, the current SDRF guidelines prescribe only Rs 95,100. Similarly, though SDRF guidelines allow only Rs 3,800 for families to buy essential items and resume their lives, the government has increased this to Rs 10,000.
In the context of crop losses due to floods, the state had also asked the Centre to revise compensation under the SDRF grants.
The current SDRF guidelines don’t specify the compensation for loss of belongings due to urban flooding per se. This reporter was unable to reach senior BBMP officials to get clarity on how the government decides on the compensation amount.
What is clear, however, is that many eligible citizens have not received the compensation amount even a month after the May floods. And they will have to keep spending every time a heavy rainfall strikes their area.
[With inputs from Majid Sohaib]