The residents of a fancy apartment complex in Bellandur (Bangalore), complained to Bengaluru Municipal authorities about the informal residence of working-class (domestic workers, house-keeping staff, security guards and waste-pickers) opposite to their fancy apartments. The accommodation of the poor was an eyesore to look at from their balconies. The poor in their eyes are always criminal and illegal.
The first argument they used was that the residents are staying in the buffer zone of a lake. When as a matter of fact, they are on privately owned land. 1.3 kilometers away from the lake. According to the National Green Tribunal, the buffer zone to be kept is 75-100 meters. The workers are neither staying on the lake land as many ‘legal’ apartment owners would like to believe nor they are illegal. The land is privately owned. The workers have an informal verbal contract with the landowner. For residing on the land, they pay rent. The court of law in India recognizes such verbal contracts. The Draft National Urban Housing Policy 2015 refers to such arrangement as an informal agreement.
The second argument used against the poor residents was that they defecate in the open. Such complaints were made in the past and the settlement dwellers took a note of it. They constructed toilet facilities within their settlement.
For many middle-class residents, it is difficult to understand these nuances. The Bangalore municipal authorities took action on the complaints of these affluent residents to destroy the homes of poor. They started demolition drive and in few hours homes of poor and marginalized were shattered. Four hundred families have been displaced. Further, these families were providing vital services and contributing to the Gross Domestic Product of Bangalore city. Some of the female residents of the settlement work in the given apartment complex as domestic workers. There are many who work as security guards and housekeeping staff in many Information Technology (IT) companies. Few of them are engaged in waste-picking, retrieving dry waste and sorting and sending the sorted material for recycling. Such important people yet affluent society at large thinks of them as illegal and criminal. Municipal authorities have acted in an arbitrary manner and not given eviction notice.
The residents of the given settlement are all migrants from Delhi, Bihar, and Bengal. The irony of the situation is that the affluent residents who complained about the workers’ residence are themselves migrant workers (‘outsiders’) in the city. The workers have been mistreated by Bangalore municipal authorities and the apartment complex residents and stand in violation of the fundamental rights – Right to life, Freedom to travel and reside in any part of India and right to practice occupation and the violation of Indian contract law.
(Pictures have been taken and published after the due permission of the workers)