Death has gone visiting at the EWS Quarters, Bangalore #Vaw


MAULED

BY BASAVARAJ ITNAL , http://www.talkmag.in

Bangalore is losing prime public land to a builder with a track record of contract deviation. The crisis at the EWS Quarters site in Koramangala shows yet again how politicians and officials readily sacrifice citizens’ interests to favour themselves and their friends

You could see it as a dark joke. Or as a poignant drama in which the rich and the powerful, hungry for profits, drive out thousands of poor people from their ramshackle dwellings. It is all this, and more.

 

Death has gone visiting at the EWS Quarters, built by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike in Ejipura, adjoining Koramangala, many times. In 2004, one of the 42 blocks collapsed, killing three residents. When the monsoons arrived in 2007- 08, another block collapsed, claiming three people, including a child. The latest casualty is a woman who reportedly died of shock after the eviction on Wednesday.

 

In the last 10 years, BBMP could have built new houses for the poor on the same expanse, but it dragged its feet, with the sole intention of evicting residents and handing over the land to a private developer. The company that has benefited from the BBMP’s delay tactics is Maverick Holdings and Investment Pvt Ltd, the same company that built the Garuda Mall in the upmarket MG Road-Brigade Road area.

 

Everyone who matters in the BBMP, the police department and the Vidhana Soudha knows Maverick Holdings has hoodwinked the government by grabbing four acres, which it got for free to build a public car park, to build Garuda Mall.

 

While at it, Maverick broke a few building bylaws, evaded stamp duty, and faced a Lokayukta inquiry. A more upright administration would have blacklisted them from future projects. But, even as citizens watched in disbelief, the BBMP has again entrusted 15 acres of prime land in Koramangala to this company with an untrustworthy track record.

 

The Garuda Mall story

 

In 2000, when the SM Krishna government convened its Global Investor Summit, the concept of public-private partnership (PPP) was mooted in the infrastructure sector. The BBMP invited tenders to build a multi-level public car park on a four-acre plot. The land, in the heart of the city, was being used as a lorry workshop by the municipal corporation.

 

The BBMP gave the land to Maverick for free, on the grounds that they were participating in a public infrastructure project. The developer was to build a car park and collect user fees for 30 years to recover their investment. Amidst reports of manipulation in bidding, Maverick won the contract and promised to build the car park according to the contractual terms.

 

But from 2000 to 2004, BBMP modified the terms of contract at the behest of Maverick, permitting them to create commercial space alongside the car park, and also to build a multiplex (now functional) and a business class hotel (yet to come up). In December 2004, the then Chief Minister N Dharam Singh inaugurated a swanky mall, which The Week magazine ranked as No 1 in the country. The public purpose behind the project had been completely defeated. It had now become a fully commercial project.

 

In effect, the citizens of Bangalore lost prime land to a builder, while parking continued to be a problem. During the construction, Maverick also encroached on 3,465 sq ft of public land. When the BBMP council raised the issue, Maverick said it would pay a penalty and regularise the deviations when the Akrama Sakrama scheme came into force. The scheme, which seeks to collect fines and legitimise violations, has encouraged large-scale deviations and turned urban planning into a farce.

 

Maverick and the BBMP signed their joint venture agreement on a Rs 200 stamp paper, while the stamp duty they owed the government exceeded Rs 1 crore. The Inspector-General of Registrations impounded the document in 2008

 

 

The EWS Quarters story

 

One of the mandates for the BBMP is to provide housing for the urban poor. In 1992, the BBMP said it would build flats for the economically weaker sections. It borrowed money from HUDCO, identified 15 acres it owned opposite the National Games Village in Koramangala, and drew up a plan. Forty-two blocks with 36 flats in each were built and went into the hands of beneficiaries identified by the BBMP. The police department, for whom it was first offered,turned it down, saying the construction was substandard. The final buyers paid a subsidised price, and the municipal authorities facilitated soft loans.

 

But within a year, the buildings developed cracks and looked run-down. The BBMP paid Rs 5,000 to each flat owner towards repairs. After a year, part of a block collapsed and the government constituted an expert committee to look into the quality of construction. The committee reported that the quality was dismal, and the blocks might collapse any moment. Clearly, people were risking life and limb by staying there. A callous BBMP did not initiate any action against engineers and contractors responsible for the poor quality of the construction.

 

Instead, incredibly, the BBMP decided to demolish all the blocks and build new flats. The government objected, asking how the new blocks would be funded. In reply, the BBMP said it would adopt the PPP route! The BBMP was entitled to recover the full cost from the contractor in addition to a penalty. It was dutybound to punish the engineer who allowed the contractor to get away with sub-standard work. But no, the BBMP was in a hurry to strike a deal with the private sector.

 

Maverick makes an entry

 

In 2004, the BBMP invited bids for the reconstruction of the EWS Quarters. The developer was to build single-room flats for the poor on five acres. To recover his costs, he would be allowed to build a mall in rest of the land, stretching to about 10 acres.

 

More than 30 bidders participated in the tender process, and three were shortlisted— Maverick Holdings, Akruthi Builders and IDEB. The Mumbai-based Akruthi Builders was the preferred bidder, according to an evaluation made by the Infrastructure Development Corporation of Karnataka (IDeCK). The BBMP opened the bids, but allowed Maverick to make a handwritten alteration to claim it was better than Akruthi. A dispute arose, and the BBMP referred the bids to three consultants. Maverick was favoured by two.

 

Eventually, in October 2006, the BBMP council passed a resolution favouring Maverick. Akruthi Builders challenged it in the Karnataka High Court, which stayed the project. In 2008, during President’s rule, the Karnataka government appealed to the High Court, promising it would act fairly if the court vacated the stay. The court obliged. Subsequently, the project was cancelled by the Governor’s executive committee.

 

Akruthi Builders continued to contest the case. After two years of litigation, the High Court ruled in favour of Maverick not after hearing the case, but on technical grounds. By then, BS Yeddyurappa had become the chief minister, and his first cabinet meeting approved the project in favour of Maverick.

 

Akruthi Builders filed a writ appeal only to withdraw it a few days later.

 

Who is Maverick?

 

Maverick Holdings and Investments Pvt Ltd is a company headed by former Karnataka Director-General of Police B N Garudachar. His son Uday Garudachar is its Managing Director. Other directors include family. Its office is on KR Road in Basavangudi.

 

The loose ends

 

  • The BBMP has entered into a joint venture with Maverick without the consent of the owners of the flats
  • The BBMP has not penalised or recovered costs from the contractors who first built sub-standard quarters.
  • The municipal authorities have not explored the possibility of building flats on their own.
  • The BBMP has not taken into account the poor track record of Maverick while awarding the project.

I sympathise with the poor families. We are aware of what Mavreick Holdings has done in the case of Garuda Mall. The EWS project has seen a six-year legal battle. It may be difficult to change or cancel the deal as many governments have approved it. I appeal to Bangalore citizens to give us suggestions on what we can do in this matter.

 

           

                                                                                                                                                                                           D Venkatesha Murthy,  Mayor

                                                                                                                                                                               

 

We are simply following a High Court order, which asks us to vacate the land so that Maverick Holdings can start construction. As far as their track record on Garuda Mall is concerned, we cannot comment. Both the government and the High Court have allowed them to participate in the EWS Quarters joint venture.

 

                                                   

                                                                                                                                                    H Siddaiah,  BBMP Commissioner

                                                                                                                                              

 

                                                                                                                        

 

 

 

How safe is Bangalore for North East Indians? Where is ‘rule of law’?


2:50 AM, 25th October 2012, Bangalore, Manohar  Elavarthi

I feel very tired and exhausted after spending 5 hours running around in the Bangalore City, waiting in front of Seshadripuram Police Station and interacting with the police personnel. I am writing this in the midnight as what I saw today is extremely disturbing and frustrating.

Tejaswini, activist handing the 24×7 NorthEast telephone helpline (http://northeastsolidarity.blogspot.in/2012/08/north-east-helpline-launched-in.html) on behalf of Peace and Solidarity Forum received a phone call at around 9:30 PM on 24th October 2012 from a person of Tripura origin living in Seshadripuram area. He told that North East Indians living in his building were facing constant physical assaults, extortion and threats using dangerous weapons for the past 2 months. Tejaswini, Bharati, Hanumath, Harish, Prakashraj (fellow activists from Praja Rajakiya Vedike http://www.facebook.com/prajarajakiya) and myself rushed from different locations of Bangalore and reached Seshadripuram around 10:15 PM.

We met 8 North East Indians (from Assam and Tripura) living in the same building, 4 people each living in a small room with very little ventilation. They are working as security guards/ sales persons in Mantri Mall/ Orion Mall/ nationalised banks/ other establishments in the nearby localities. These workers didn’t leave Bangalore City during the exodus of estimated 30000 North East Indians out of Bangalore City in August 2012. These people try to save as much as possible from their meagre salaries to be sent to the families back home in the North East. Their ordeal began after Ramzan in end-August.

4 goondas named Karan, Santosh, Manjunath and Ramesh, who live in the same locality started coming in the night, mostly in groups of 2/3 and harass, abuse, threaten and extort money from these North East workers. Multiple time they used sharp knives to threatened these workers and threatened to kill them if they don’t give them money. Multiple times many North East workers were physically assaulted. On the afternoon of 6th October 2012 (Karnataka Bundh on Cauvery issue) 2 of the goondas physically assaulted a worker and asked him to collect Rs. 500/- each from the workers’ from their monthly wages (generally received on 10th day of each month) and give it to the goondas if they want to be be safe. The goondas threatened to kill all the North East workers otherwise.

This seems to have led to most of the 100+ North East workers living in the building running away from there in the past 20 days. Some have shifted to other areas and others have left Bangalore City. Those who continue to live there faced increased brutality. Goondas physically attacked 2 North East workers on 23rd October 2012 night and extorted Rs. 2000/- from them. In the morning of 24th October 2012, the workers went to the Seshdripuram Police Station and complained about their ordeal. Police didn’t bother to take any action. Same day at 7:30 PM the goondas barged into a room, hit a North East worker and snatched his N-70 NOKIA mobile phone away. The workers started calling their people in Tripura and Assam. According to them one of their friend from Tripura got the NorthEast helpline telephone number from the Chief Minister of Tripura (?).

The North East workers told us that they have to give a large amount of their money to these goondas. They said that they are fed-up of giving their hard earned money to these goondas and having no money to celebrate the festival (most of them are Hindu and others are Muslim). By around 10:45 PM we went to the Seshadripuram Police Station. In spite of all our efforts the police personnel were not willing to register the complaint or take action in catching the goondas (the workers wanted to show the houses of goondas so that they can be caught by the police). The police showed no interest in doing their duty. We were told by the police personnel to come on 25th morning as the Police Inspector will come to the station at that time. After waiting (and standing as they made us wait outside the station, where there is no seating) for more than 2 hours in front of the police station, we decided to inform the media.

In spite of it being middle of the night, media personnel from many Kannada-news channels and 1/2 newspapers reached the station in less than 15 minutes time. After media starting to interact with the victims, police started doing their duty. Police started pressurising us to lodge the police complaint before talking to the media. With in 30 minutes time, the Police Inspector also arrived at the station. Police were able to detain 3 of the 4 accused in the Police Station within the next 30 minutes. I am not sure what would have happened without the media presence. Police suddenly started offering us chairs to sit inside the station. They promised security for the North East workers today night. They took the written complaint of the workers and promised to give the FIR copy tomorrow morning.

Even when the police were doing their work after the media intervention, the driver of police Zeep threatened 2 of our activists who accompanied the North East workers in the Zeep to identify the houses of the goondas. He told that there will be no safety for North East workers if we lodge a complaint against the goondas. He told that the goondas have a lot of support in the area and that 50000 strong crowd from the area will hit the North East workers and our activists tomorrow. He told the activists not to register a complaint against the goondas.

Why are the police not-responsive to us? Why is police driver seems to be on the side of goondas? Why are police seem to be soft on these goondas? Do police benefit by being soft on goondas? If this is the police response when a large section of activists come to police station, what will be the police response for the complaints of ordinary citizens and particularly those from disadvantaged sections of society?

Will these North East Indians get justice? Will they be chased away from the area soon. We also heard that one of the goonda (Karan) has multiple police cases against him already. Are we putting the North East Indians in danger by asking them to take action against gross injustice?

This is not the first time, there are many instances of police neglect in the past as well, some of them are

– police took more than 2 hours in the night to visit the house of a North East Indian in Koramangala area who was threatened

– police took more than 2 hours in the night, when a house of North East students were attacked in Banaswadi area with stones, after reaching the place the drunk policeman demanded money from the students

– police didn’t book a case against a senior police officer and his son for brutally assaulting 4 North-East students in the National Games Village recently. Police seems to have fed the false story in the media that the students were drunk and were dancing to the loud music in their flat when the incident took place. Forget loud music, the flat itself was locked at that time. The 4 students were waiting downstairs after coming to visit their friend (who stays in a flat in that apartment complex) as their friend was away. This happens in a place where 2 senior-most officers of North East origin – Mr. Lalrokhuma Pachao (present Director General of Police, Karanatka) and Mr. HT Sangliana (ex-Bangalore City Police Commissioner and ex-Member of Parliament elected to Loksabha from Bangalore City) live in the same area.

It looks like there is no ‘rule of law’. Police are supposed to enforce the ‘rule of law’. Where do ordinary people who have no activist or media connections go? Is there some home? Is there some way?

I will end here, for now.

CONTACT MANOHAR AT – manoharban@gmail.com

Immediate Release- Evicting the Poor at EWS Quarters, Ejipura, Bangalore


Press Release

 

Evicting the Poor at EWS Quarters, Ejipura, Bangalore

 

PUCL-Bangalore strongly condemns the illegitimate move by BBMP to

forcefully evict residents of the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) slum in Ejipura, Koramangala by switching off their water supply, blocking their common toilet facilities and  not collecting garbage – which is now piling up there.

 

In a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with Maverick Holdings Ltd, BBMP exchanged eight of the fifteen acres of the original EWS land, for construction of 1640 quarters for the community. What makes this deal unacceptable to the current residents is that these are for allotment only to the original residents of the BBMP quarters, which were razed to ground by the authorities when one of the buildings collapsed.

 

Most of the beneficiaries under the current scheme no longer reside in the EWS slums; the poorest and needy, who currently live there, do not qualify for any benefits from the state, even when evicted and their homes razed.


In the context of forceful evictions of slum dwellers, Supreme Court has ruled that right to shelter is a part of right to life, enshrined by Article 21 of our constitution. PUCL demands that state run organisations, like BBMP, not resort to draconian means to render our poorest shelter-less. PUCL further demands that BBMP exhibit some constitutional responsibility and make immediate provisions, within the current plan, to also house all those whom it desires it evict – namely, all the current dwellers of EWS quarters.

Arati Chokshi
General Secretary,
PUCL-BLR

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