Ejipura— one word, many sentiments

Mounds of debris, scattered belongings, people sitting under the hot sun, gazing into nothingness, Ejipura EWS has a cloud of gloom and destruction hanging over it.
What if you woke up one day and realized that the home you had been living in was illegal and it had to be razed? What would you do? Where would you go? How would you even begin to come to terms with the fact that you were homeless?
Ramu(name changed) , 8, woke up Saturday morning to a loud noise. He couldn’t find his mother in their tiny shanty. He went out, still groggy from sleep and saw some men pulling out the tin sheets from his friend, Hari’s home. Hari’s mother was crying. Ramu saw big bull dozers standing in line. He finally spotted his mother near one of the bull dozers, asking someone not to demolish their house. Ramu, scared, clutched his school bag and decided to sit on the roof of his house. After all, they wouldn’t demolish his home with him on it. His logic was infallible, but one of the men shoved him off and Ramu fell—he hurt his arm.
There are many Ramu’s and Hari’s baking under the harsh sun and freezing in the cold, suddenly destitute and with nowhere to go.
The BBMP, on Saturday started the demolition of the shanties at Ejipura following a court order staying the demolition.
Aisha, who stays in the EWS quarters overlooking the slum says, I thought my house would collapse because of the bull dozers. The construction is so poor. I guess, now even we have to start looking for homes. After what happened to a few of my friends in the slum, I’m not so sure about my home.
Most of the settlements in the slum are illegal and the residents do not have khattas or proof that they were allotted sites.
Sudha,54, used to stay in Koramangala with her husband and son four years ago. After her husband’s sudden demise, unable to keep up with the rents there, she moved into a rented shanty in the slum. Now, she has nowhere to go—the rents around Ejipura for a one room house start from Rs. 5,000 and the owners demand an advance of Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 40,000. Sudha works as domestic help and earns around Rs. 3,000 per month.
Rs. 36 may not be a big deal for most of us, but for these people, who are being relocated to areas like Sarjapur, the bus fare for commute itself takes more than a quarter of their income.
Anantha, who paints buildings for a living, has Rs. 40 in his pocket and a blank expression on his face. His children go to school in the school run by the corporation nearby. To move into a house near Sarjapur, it would cost him at least Rs. 40,000, advance and temp costs included. He has already pulled his daughter out from school, since the school is too far from where they are planning to relocate. He has no money saved and he hasn’t gone to work in the past three days. Anantha says that he contemplated sucide at times.
The police make an appearance, trying to get people to clear the area away ASAP. One of the dwellers told the police, “Don’t tell us that we have an hour remaining, you ruined our life in an hour. Now I can’t find a place in an hour.”
Mukunda, an auto driver, has already moved his family to Sarjapur. He says that the government had told people well in advance—a year ago that the slums had to be evacuated. He had pooled in enough money, since he was living on rent. Mukunda said that the original owners were given plots and it is wrong on the part of the encroachers to demand rehabilitation. “It was meant to happen, tomorrow if not today. It is the government’s land and its worth millions of rupees. Why shouldn’t the government use it productively?” He said.
The local MLA and the corporater hadn’t visited the site until yesterday.
When the MLA did finally come, on Tuesday, he went on the defensive, telling off volunteer workers and the students who had come to help or look around and take in the reality. Dressed in crisp white clothes and a costly wristwatch, he seemed uncomfortable and out of place in the whole setting.
He had the audacity to say “Do not make fun of these poor people by taking pictures and videos. We know they are poor. If you want to help, give them money, give them a home. What help are you doing? Giving them water? These people always had water.”
The water tank built there 10 years ago has stagnant rain water.
What is more amusing is the fact that the slum dwellers who were so filled with rage against the MLA, were impassive. They didn’t stand up to him. When he was going on his tirade, they stood watching, some even agreeing to what he said.
Development is good, but at what cost? Why have so many people put up shanties there in the first place? Why have they come to the city?
Most of them have no identities and in the view of the state don’t exist. Maybe they are illegal residents; maybe they have no business protesting there. But, there is one thing that can’t be ignored—they are real, their pain is real, their angst is real, their sense of dislocation is real and now, they have nowhere to go.

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