BDA slobbers over Beggars Colony morsel

Once reeking of death, the colony is spruced up and is being eyed by many
Last Updated : 06 June 2011, 18:29 IST

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Today, the rehabilitation centre is a beehive of activity with inmates involved in a host of activities involving development of skills to yoga. Surprise of surprises, a large well-stocked library operates on its premises.

Just as the place is regaining some dignity and normalcy, the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) has issued an Expression of Interest (EoI) for the prized piece of real estate. The intent is fairly clear. Even though the Chief Minister and his many Cabinet colleagues promised to keep the sylvan surroundings away from land grabbers, the place, evidently, is not meant to be reserved for beggars.

The BDA has asked people to respond to the plan of constructing a convention centre, a star hotel, commercial and retail centre, office space and entertainment centre over land spanning 113.30 acres.

The state of affairs at Beggars Colony and the government’s decision to hand over the land to BDA for ‘development’ is the subject of a PIL, which is being adjudicated by the High Court at present. As such there is no stay on the 2010 order of the government which transferred the land to BDA.

Evading questions

When contacted, BDA Commissioner Bharatlal Meena sidestepped the issue stating, “We have only called for Expression of Interest. We might not go ahead with it. We will follow what ever the Court orders.”

It is not clear if the BDA is floating the EoI for the fun of it, if they are casual about following it up. But so far, according to Meena, they have received no responses. The total land transferred to the BDA in an order dated June 6, 2010 was 123.30 acres. Out of it, 10 acres is marked for a 800-bed super speciality hospital, again on a PPP basis.

Facility razed

The order also states the BDA will raze the existing facility for beggars and shift it to the northern part of the land spanning 38 acres.

Minister for Social Welfare A Narayanswamy does not even make a pretence that he can help matters. “It is not easy. These decisions were taken before I took charge and even if I want to, I do not think it can done by me alone,” he confessed, when asked if he wanted to protect the land from being commercially exploited.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing

All the plans to ‘improve’ the existing land is a form of land grabbing the government seems to have developed into a fine art. The 164.33 acres of land was what remained after parcelling out bits and pieces of the original 308.33 acres to a Leprosy centre, BWSSB Board, National Institute of Unani Medicine, BDA, BMTC and BBMP.

In 2007, the government had submitted an affidavit in the High Court wringing its hands in despair about the attempts to encroach this precious land. Very self-righteously, the Government declared its plan to construct hostel facilities for SCs, STs and OBCs and increase the facilities for the present relief centre (which it did in 2008 by adding three more buildings).

The government reasoned that they were paying a high rent for hostels for all these people and hence it would be smarter to provide their own buildings for thousands of men and women who were coming to the City to study and work. Unless the government has recently taken to calling its hostels as convention centres and star hotels, it can be safely assumed that they have dropped all pretence of social welfare.

Published 06 June 2011, 18:29 IST

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