Basti dwellers fight against Jabardasti by land mafia, govt

Basti dwellers fight against Jabardasti by land mafia, govt

It was in the early 1980s when people residing in a few hundred shacks erected on Bojagutta hillock were spending sleepless nights with no street lights, standing to their ground to protect their land from being encroached by ‘pehelwans’ of Baarkas, Chandrayangutta, Yakutpura, Dabirpura and other areas of the old city.

Hyderabad: It was in the early 1980s when people residing in a few hundred shacks erected on Bojagutta hillock were spending sleepless nights with no street lights, standing to their ground to protect their land from being encroached by ‘pehelwans’ of Baarkas, Chandrayangutta, Yakutpura, Dabirpura and other areas of the old city.

The slum which was under Karvaan assembly constituency had the support of local legislator BaddamBalreddy, due to which the colony existstill today. More than three decades have passed and there were several attempts by the all-powerful political and criminal individuals and organizations to grab the land of Bojagutta.

There are three slums on Bojagutta (Vivekananda Nagar, Sreeram Nagar and Shivaji Nagar) having more than 2000 houses. The slum dwellers still continue to protect their lands, but for the latest double bedroom bonanza of the State government which has put the people in a dilemma whether to accept the offer or not.

The lands in Bojagutta originally belonged to the Nizam of Hyderabad. The lands were gifted to one Hyder Ali Khan who was a Supreme Court Justice. After the Urban Land Ceiling Act was passed, it became government land. For the past several years, Ayodhya Society, Hanuman Society and Mustafa Society have been claiming parts of the hillock as allotted to them by the government.

These societies have been claiming ownership of lands in the courts of law. Most recently, the High Court has also passed an order stating that the ownership claim of one of these societies was false and TDP MLC Deepak Reddy who was behind Hanuman Society’s claim was arrested and sent to jail in this case and reiterated that the land belonged to government.

The residents of Bojagutta were overjoyed and celebrated, as they hoped to get their lands regularized now, after several years of struggle. Their happiness was short-lived. They are now gearing-up for yet another struggle to protect their lands and achieve property rights for the little pieces of land they have been in possession for the past few decades.“The Government of Telangana had issued GO 58 in 2014 to regularize lands and we had applied for it, but as the matter was sub-judice the revenue officials couldn’t regularize our lands then,” said Narsimhulu, President of Vivekananda Nagar Welfare Association.

Now that there is no litigation on the land, State government has come up with 2BHK housing plan for the basti people. The plan is to build 2000 flats with 20 blocks in 13 acres of government land.However, without any notification or an area sabha conducted, people are being asked to vacate their houses for construction of 2BHK houses. While the district administration says the plan is to construct G+9 housing, the Corporator says the plan is to construct G+3 housing.

The State government wants to construct the colony within a year. But the basti people have not been consulted for their opinion about what the area of the flats would be, how many houses would be allotted and how the colony would look like.When contacted by this reporter, Bangari Prakash, Corporator said, “We will use police to arrest those who create hurdles. Basti people will beat those ‘basti people who will go against our plans.”

He assured that allotment letters would be given to the people before vacating them. But people are apprehensive about the idea because there is a high chance that once they take the allotment letters and vacate, somebody may file another case in the court and get a stay order.“Once we vacate, we will get scattered. If the land gets into litigation people will not be able to fight for their lost properties as individuals.

Why doesn’t the government take this up phase-wise and first build blocks in open land which is available on the hillock, shift people there and then go for demolishing another colony and start building there? This way we wouldn’t have to get disturbed at all,” suggested Shankar, a colony leader. The Corporator has made it clear that even if the ‘basti people vacate, no money will be given to them for staying as tenants outside.

He has also made it clear that one family would get only one flat.“Those who are smart will have the opportunity to get more than one flat. Two families can live in one 2BHK house. Even if there are two sons who are married, one son can stay along with his parents and the other will get an additional flat only if he is married,” the Corporator said.

The Corporator has also said that there is no need to issue a notification as a resolution has already been passed in the GHMC Standing Council and that an administrative sanction was the only thing left to be done.There are also discrepancies in the number of houses being constructed by the government and the number of households in Bojagutta.

Just like in other basti evacuations, the local people’s representatives are resorting to spreading rumours. The representatives, with the help of some henchmen are spreading rumours that the residents of Shivaji Nagar have already accepted for 2BHK housing. This is to mislead the residents of the other two bastis.

“There are 40 families from Kollapur village in Mahabubnagar district living here for the past twenty years. We all have categorically opposed 2BHK houses. We are demanding the government to measure and distribute 60 square yards of land to all the basti people,” said Narasimha Reddy, a resident of Shivajinagar.Another surprising thing is the role of media.

When the basti leaders along with the Corporator went to thank the RDO by offering a bouquet after getting the favourable court judgement, the next day the news in papers somehow read that the basti people went to meet the RDO for construction of 2BHK houses.

There are different opinions of the residents of all the three bastis. The geography of the colonies, economic situation of the people and aspirations of the people are different. But one thing is for certain. The basti people are not going to settle for anything less than getting property rights for the lands they are in position of, at least for now.

Traditionally Bojagutta has been BJP’s stronghold. Bandari Prakash, the present Corporator of the area, was a BJP Corporator before winning on a TRS ticket. The basti people have lost hope on political parties like BJP even though they have strongly been supporting the party for the past three decades.“When Union Minister BandaruDattatreya was the Urban Development and Housing Minister, he had adopted our basti but he did nothing for us,” said a basti leader.

The people now feel betrayed by BJP, the party which has won Karvan assembly seat several times in the past due to the large Hindutva vote bank in Bojagutta. Now that the basti has become part of Nampally constituency after delimitation, priorities have changed for the BJP leadership, alleged the basti leaders. “If the government wants to develop and improve our living conditions, why not issue us pattas first and then talk about 2BHK?” asked Balraju, another basti leader.

The basti has well-developed pipeline drainage system from the top of the hill to the bottom and good drinking water supply every alternate day. There is a power sub-station and anganwadi centres. There are well-built houses in the basti which make it an already developed basti. The basti people feel that all that the government can do to improve their situation is to give them property rights by giving them pattas first.

By Vivek Bhoomi

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