Tag Archives: demolitions

Ejipura Diary: 21 and 22 January, 2013

21st January 2013

I finally decide to leave my comfort zone and head to the site with Andrea and Stephie, taking Karthik’s videos with me.

I brace myself and search my head for the only memory I have of this place to compare it with what I am going to see now, despite having lived in Koramangala for 2 years. It is one of puttering through thigh-level sewage  in the rains inside an auto, water gushing through the tin roofs on to the street and people stranded outside their homes.

Even that does not prepare me for what I am going to see. It is a warzone. Mounds of rubble, fires burning from last night, 5000 people’s belongings lie strewn and buried. Only narrow frames of houses remain, police crawling in and out and all over the site. People are torn between going to work or keeping an eye on their belongings that the cops have threatened to start throwing out. Every single pipe has been occupied. Men and women alike burst out in grief. No one has slept for nights for the fear of being homeless the next. There has been no water or power for four days now. No one has been able to bathe and everyone has to resort to open defecation at night.

Eyes follow us everywhere as we try to talk to people who take a break between carting away the tin sheets that the BBMP hasn’t yet touched and extracting their possessions from heaps- plastic buckets, schoolbooks, utensils, house papers, pictures of gods stick out from under. I am suddenly acutely conscious of everything I own. Everything that can fit in half a tempo or be piled up on a bicycle is stowed away.

Those who talk to us are convinced that they will be picked up the very same evening. They show us their certificates of demolition and biometric cards, while the majority complain that they have not received any.  I promise to return, head to a thinly attended press conference where I try to push pictures and videos on to the handful gathered, again believing in the non-partisan power of the press, when except for The Hindu, I have only seen otherwise. We go back to Karthik’s to try and upload more videos, when Gee calls- they have to be in court the next morning and somebody needs to be at site at the break of dawn in case the bulldozers arrive again. We set our alarms for 5 am and fall asleep at 3.

22nd January 2013

It’s 6 am when we get there. We’re each wearing three jackets and a shawl but shards of cold still wriggle their way in. A JCB is parked outside the colony, its operators asleep in the shadow of its jaws. I try to take a picture, but I’m interrupted by a man who wants to know why I want to take a picture of the men who broke his home. He doesn’t think it is possible that they were just following orders.



We start walking to the closest fire, only to stop at each pipe along the road where someone is keeping watch while his/her family tries to sleep. Each tells us their story, of biometric cards and demolition letters that never came and scraps of paper they’ve been collecting to deserve a spot in a mythical rehabilitation colony in Sarjapura.

 Karthik heads off to buy milk and coffee and biscuits and buns, as the colony slowly rises. We go from lane to lane and home to home, handing out one packet each or half a bun. We are thanked and we are shamed. Even still, we run out every 15 minutes and six trips are made just for breakfast. Along the way, we hear stories- of carpenters, of electricians, of single mothers, of hand embroiderers with university educated daughters, of proud parents whose children work night-shifts at call-centres and attend college during the day and have yet to come home to see their homes like this. Others beg us to take their 10th standard children and admit them in hostels.


We finish serving breakfast only at 11, breaking in the middle to get the women to court on time. A police van arrives and scores of cops get out. We walk to the police chief from the Crime Branch, tell him that activists have been invited by the BBMP Commissioner at 10:30 and try to get an assurance that demolitions won’t begin again until they receive word from after the meeting.

We are told that the police is only there for the BBMP’s protection; right after we meet the women who were battered two days ago, one sustaining a fractured leg in the lathicharge.

The atmosphere is manic and paranoid- we can neither leave the police buildup, in case BBMP chief engineer BT Ramesh comes and authorizes demolition, while at the same time, the Akshay Patra van rolls in for lunch and there are more than we-don’t-know-how-many thousand people who haven’t eaten in days.

Food runs out in half an hour, barely feeding 200 people. I have the hardest fucking time saying no to children who come back or have been sent to get seconds for the rest of the family. I find myself looking for traces of dal in plates to see if they’ve eaten before and ask young Nikat who befriended me if she can point out who’s already been served.

We get on Karthik’s bike to go fetch drinking water, beginning with 2 cans per lane, trying to reassure residents who haven’t had water to drink for a while that there’s more coming. On the ethernet, mails go out and word begins to spread and the phone calls begin. The first volunteer we see there is Dr. Sylvia, followed by BSW students from St. Joseph’s with their professor who dragged them out of class, followed by Pushpa, who helps us delegate work. We hand out 2k a head and send them to get more food from the closest restaurant. Others are sent to get more cans of water and yet another batch is put on a social survey to see if they can come close to a headcount so we know how much food to order. An informal meeting is called for on relief strategy. Since my number has gone out on a lot of mails, I now find myself  responsible for coordinating relief, volunteers and food.

I return to the main street, only to see that the MLA Harris has arrived to personally insult every volunteer or outsider he can find; some of the girls are in tears, others use this as a chance to ask him pressing questions about the relocation site in Sarjapur to which he has no answers. More help arrives despite it, and the day is consumed in trying to keep it together.

City of Pieces

Picture by Javed: http://moonchasing.wordpress.com
Picture by Javed: http://moonchasing.wordpress.com

(This story first appeared here on 11 February 2013 in DNA’s Bangalore edition)

What have I learned in two weeks of trying to remotely coordinate relief work at EWS Ejipura? It’s hard to distill anything close to an overarching homogenous feeling.

There is grief, that is for certain. Every single home has been squashed into the ground and none of our scurrying around, tweeting or pleading could stop it. 115 families are now living on the footpaths surrounding EWS, while 30 families are now homeless in Sarjjapur, miles away from their homes, their jobs, their schools and their lives.

There is anger at the brutal efficiency that wrecked over 1500 families in less than a week who had been ignored for 9 long years in makeshift tin sheds. There is betrayal that we should have expected, as promises of temporary shelter and reprieve were broken by every high-ranking stamp worth its weight in the Vidhana Soudha. And add to that the colossal guilt that this was done to build another sanctum for our top-dollar, a parking lot that will magically metamorphosize into a mall, just like its predecessor on Magrath Road. Go to EWS now and there is nothing to show for the thousands who lived and dreamed and fought the odds here, but flattened land and a high fence pronouncing the dawn of the brave new age of the Public Private Partnership. Except that the public who are legally entitled to be here have now, either been kicked to the kerb or forced into tempos with their meager belongings and 5000-2000 rupees in hand to mythical rehabilitation sites across the city.

Doubt underlies everything. Single mothers, senior citizens and pregnant women wait for godot with their biometric cards and any scraps of paper generated over the years that qualify them for shelter or relief. Many of them have none. They have endured the cold, the  shock, the harassment, the complete disruption of their lives, the loss of livelihoods and dignity as they are forced to look to us for relief, with no access to water or toilets or compensation.

There is immense respect for those who were on the ground way before the first tin sheet fell, lying in the path of bulldozers, braving assault and feeding thousands from their own pockets. There is shame that even the more sensitive among us had blind spots right in front of our eyes, as if we have the privilege to pick which battles to fight, only to ignore our immediate environment.

Finally, there is gratitude. I’ve easily received over a thousand calls this week, offering food, water, clothes, blankets, manpower, medicine and media support. Over 200 volunteers between their teens and 40s spontaneously offered help when we’ve needed them the most, braving intimidation by the police, hauling food and water on foot when barricades were put up, bunking work to put in 12 hour shifts of food distribution, rushing to the scene when things got ugly, helping those displaced find jobs, enrolling children into schools and hostels, treating the sick, surveying needs and staying with us to teach newer recruits. The city of Banglaore could perhaps teach those responsible for this disaster a lesson in humane rehabilitation, but that would mean letting them off the hook.

These last two weeks have only reaffirmed what we’ve felt in struggles across the country: the importance of the larger community to be an active witness in the face of suppression. The demolitions took place not in the Saranda forests, but right around the corner from Koramangala. Not one national news channel descended in the week-long demolitions, and so the need to document things that we are neither trained to see nor shown ourselves becomes key. If it were not for citizen blogs, social media and a few good papers, the exodus of over 5000 people from the heart of Bangalore would’ve been a blip on the news radar.

Despite the wreckage and weariness, I have learned to trust in the kindness of strangers and in the strength of ordinary individuals, whatever their affiliations. I have learned that you do not need to be a disaster relief specialist or a full-time activist to know how to care. I have learned to put cynicism aside and weigh cautiously on the side of hope. My city has shown me how.

Ejipura Timeline: 1991 to 19th January 2013

The Ejipura timeline (building on this Citizen Matter timeline)1991: Completion of EWS quarters which was started in 1987

November 10, 2003:
Block 13 collapses. 21 of the 42 flats could have been repaired, but the BBMP decides to demolish all the buildings.

October 2004:
BBMP floats tenders for the reconstruction of the EWS quarters.

February 2006:
Infrastructure Development Corporation (Karnataka) IDeCK recommends Akruti Nirman as the preferred PPP partner.

May 2006:
The BBMP claims that there are some discrepancies in Akruti’s bid and it identifies Maverick, the second highest bidder, as the PPP partner

October 2006: The BMP council passes a resolution proposing to award the contract to Maverick.

November 2006: Akruti files a writ petition in the Karnataka High Court challenging the council’s proposal to award the contract and obtains a stay against construction.
The stay remains till 29th May 2008.

July 2007: An 18 month old baby, Mahalakshmi and Perumal a 40 year old man are killed and 3 others are injured when another block collapses

August 10, 2007: Siddique dies of contact with live wire in a demolished building.

November 9, 2007: Block 34 collapses killing 11 year old Xavier and 15 year old Gabriel and injuring 5 others. In almost all the cases, family members still haven’t received compensation.

May 29, 2008: Governor through the Principal Secretary UDD sends a notice to the BBMP to show cause for passing October 2006 resolution.

June 9, 2008: As there is no response for the BBMP, the resolution is cancelled.

September 26, 2008: The state government issues a government order awarding the contract for construction to Maverick

November 6, 2008:
Akruti Nirman, Now called Akruti City Ltd gets a stay on construction from the HC.

February 3, 2009:
MLC files Lokayukta complaint against Maverick Holdings.

March 12, 2010:
Both parties make their concluding arguments to HC and are awaiting the Judgement.

September 22, 2010:
The Karnataka high court directed the BBMP to immediately start construction for rehabilitation of 1640 families, as well as commercial buildings, while dismissing the petition filed by Akruti Nirman Ltd. and disposing the petition filed by families, ordering the BBMP to ensure displaced families were put in occupation of the flats at the earliest. Justice Reddy acknowledges wrong decision on the part of BBMP, but public interest taken into consideration, Maverick should begin work.

Jan 2, 2012: BBMP enters into a concessionaire agreement with Maverick Holdings, signed between Uday Garudachar of Maverick  and BBMP Engineer in Chief BT Ramesh, for the construction of 1640 houses. The commercial space will be leased out to Maverick Holdings for 30 years, for which BBMP will receive Rs. 2.3 crore per quarter.

Jan 14, 2012: Shantinagar MLA NA Harris asks residents to vacate their sheds and move out for the construction to start.

“We were all happy that after waiting for so long that we would finally get a house when Harris arrived on the scene. He said that all of us had to vacate our sheds and move out for the construction to start” says Johnson, a resident of Ejipura for the last 9 years . But move where? “That, Harris said was left to us. He said that we could move to the brand new apartments once the construction was over” Citizen Matters, March 2012

March 2012: Residents being pressurised by BBMP to vacate in a week, water supply to the toilet complex stopped. Residents also told they have to pay-out at least Rs. 20 thousand as security deposit and Rs. 2500 as rental for next 24 months for new homes.

July 10 2012: “The high court on Tuesday came down heavily on the Bruhat BangaloreMahanagara Palike (BBMP) over quarters built for economic weaker sections in Ejipura. After hearing a petition, the court wondered how these buildings had been constructed in the first place. The division bench said it would not hesitate to order a CBI enquiry and make every officer accountable.” “The court also held that the Division Bench in W.P. No.11912/2008 on the matter of reconstructed housing did not permit the BBMP to enter into any contract with third parties for the reconstruction of flats and that the entering into such a contract between the BBMP and the third party prima facie appeared to be in contempt of the order of the Division Bench dated 12/02/2009.”

August 2012: Members of Samta Sanik Dal (SSD), Dalit and Minorities Land Protection Forum (DMLPF) ask chief minister Jagadish Shettar to stop eviction of people living at the economically weaker section (EWS) quarters in Ejipura.

August 2 2012: Karnataka High Court gives BBMP, Maverick and the original allottees one week to sort out matters.

August 24th 2012: Karnataka HC disposes petition by appellants, i.e. original allottees as satified in view of the Agreement Exhibit C (can’t be found online) entered into and recorded in Writ Petition No. 45915/2011. In case of the latter, the HC issues the order for beginning construction, says that all occupants are to be evicted after 8th October, 2012 and they should have the police protection to do so. But it also says that BBMP has made arrangements for R&R of the 1512 original allottees minus those who’ve taken 30,000 at 5 acres of land at Iglur, Hosur Road, and is to hand it over within 15 days to Maverick Holdings to construct temporary accommodation.

http://bangalore.citizenmatters.in/articles/view/4444-ejjipuras-ews-flats-quagmire-settled
http://newindianexpress.com/states/karnataka/article595690.ece

October 9-10 2012: Residents stage a dharna that lasts several days opposing their eviction. Given the option of rehabilitation at Iglur, Anekal or Rs. 30,000 in compensation and told that ‘their ID card was only a proof of residence, not a means to acquire land’ by BBMP officials.

October 18, 2012: BBMP applies for police protection in the High Court to see through evictions, as they stated that residents weren’t amenable to being evacuated.

December 13, 2012. Residents allege threats by goonda elements, political agents.

Jan 10, 2013: Evictions and demolitions begin once again.

Jan 18, 2013: Demolitions intensify, hundreds of residents thrown out of their homes, toilet complex is destroyed. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-karnataka/chaos-in-ews-colony-as-bbmp-starts-demolition/article4321799.ece

Jan 19, 2013: Kaveri, Gee and 21 women arrested along with their 4 children while peacefully protesting at the water tank. Water tank is later demolished that day. Children and two women later released, Kaveri, Gee and 19 others spend the night in jail.