BENGALURU: Close to 100 families suddenly became homeless, as the BBMP woke up to its duty of clearing lake encroachments in Bengaluru on Saturday. But the crucial question remains: Why were these buildings allowed to be constructed? Who sanctioned their plans? Will the government initiate action against the BBMP officials who are responsible for these citizens’ lost homes?
Are these demolition drives just eyewash? Experts say they are just knee-jerk reactions to last week’s flooding. In April 2015 too, demolition drives were undertaken by the BBMP on the Sarakki lakebed. It razed 180 buildings covering 38 acres and recovered land worth Rs 2,000 crore in 10 days. And it continued to do so in patches in Banaswadi and Yelahanka after the Bengaluru Urban DC sent notices to slum dwellers in Allalsandra, near Yelahanka. “Why was the exercise stopped? Did they have to wait for floods? Why is there no permanent policy on such issues? Why is it so piecemeal?” ask urban activists.
But BBMP officials contend that whenever they issue eviction notices, citizens get a court stay and continue to live there. “Our hands are tied,” said an officer.
When rain mixed with drain water gushed into houses in Akshayanagar in Bommanahalli zone on July 29, the BBMP found the storm water drain work was incomplete, which resulted in the flooding. BBMP commissioner N Manjunath Prasad told TOI, “Encroachment of lakes is the biggest issue for us. We will have to mercilessly clear them.”
On Saturday, mayor Manjunath Reddy who undertook and supervised the demolition drive across the city, said, “The CM ordered us to demolish encroachments on lakebeds and storm water drains, and we are following his orders.”
Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar says everything boils down to punishing officials who allowed builders to construct houses in buffer zones. “House owners are suffering while the officials and builders are going scot-free. They should be prosecuted. I had already written to the CM, giving him time to prosecute government officers who should have not followed and enforced the law and instead, deliberately chosen to favour builders to make money. Under the Prevention of Corruption Act, misconduct means turning a blind eye to lawlessness or corruption, and is equal to committing a crime. I am determined to fight these people and prosecute them in a court of law,” he said.
A responsible government should have sued the builders who built structures on storm water drains or lakebeds, and fooled residents and buyers, and got the builders to compensate citizens so they can gracefully exit these threatened places and move to safer homes. But the state government is insensitive to citizens and paralyzed by the builders’ lobby, with conniving officials in the system,” he told media.
Last week, the BBMP issued a public notice to citizens, saying those who construct on lakebeds do so at their own risk. “But why are officials or the BBMP allowing them to construct in the first place?” asked an urban activist.
Credits ET Realty