Residents of Biyabani in Indore, hundreds of whom lost their houses and businesses in an anti-encroachment drive, have paid dearly for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Smart Cities project.
The Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) last month razed more than 400 allegedly illegal constructions in the area as part of the redevelopment plan. Residents, however, claim to have legal registry documents and valid permissions for their houses from the municipal body.
“Our houses were constructed prior to Independence,” said Ramu Rathore, whose house was partially razed on March 29. “We have registry documents of Madhya Bharat government and documents of Holkar State. We have been paying municipal taxes and all other taxes that the corporation demands.”
The IMC in its notice claimed that the residents had encroached on the road’s setback area, which is illegal under the MP Municipal Corporation Act 1956 and MP Land Revenue Code 2012, and that it had to be removed in public interest. Similar notices were sent to all 400 owners.
“With our houses, we also lost our businesses,” said Ashok Kumar Jain, 70, a tea vendor in Biyabani who wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi after his double-storied house and shop was turned to rubbles.
The civic body in an affidavit in court said the affected would be fairly compensated, but 15 days on and it is still unclear if the residents will be paid or not.
“There is no provision for compensation,” said mayor Malini Gaud. “We are ready to give additional floor area ratio, and for those who have lost their complete structure, we will construct a new building in Lodha Colony for relocation of families...For the poor who lost livelihood in the demolition drive, we will give job to one family member in the municipal corporation.”
The bone of contention is that while the IMC claims the road between Mhow Naka and Tori Corner should be 80 feet wide under the 2021 master plan, Chapter VI under the clause 6.3(18) says road widening does not apply to legitimate structures in the Central Zone.
Biyabani falls in the Central Zone and its residents say that their buildings were legitimate.
Nonetheless, demolition drives continue and it is estimated that the civic body has taken possession of land worth Rs 400 crore so far.
The high court has also shut the door on the possibility of a PIL.
The aggrieved have been instead asked to file individual writ petitions, a tedious and costly affair. The court also disposed six writ applications asking the litigants to claim compensation from the municipal body without assigning a time limit for compliance.
In many instances, the corporation has not complied with the orders of the court and forcefully evicted people.