After SC rap, Kerala govt to snap water, power lines to 357 Kochi flats
The Maradu municipality, where these flat complexes are situated, has decided to cut power and water supply to the flats to wear out occupants who refuse to shift.Updated: Sep 25, 2019 12:14 IST
The Kerala government has decided to act against the four apartment complexes in Kochi that violated coastal regulation zone (CRZ) norms following repeated strictures from the Supreme Court over the delay in demolishing four apartment complexes.
The Maradu municipality, where these flat complexes are situated, has decided to cut power and water supply to the flats to wear out occupants who refuse to shift. The civic body has asked the State Electricity Board and State Water Authority to sever connections before September 27, the day the top court will take up the case.
Besides this, the state government has appointed a young IAS officer Snehil Kumar to oversee the eviction and demolition process. The city police will also be kept in the loop to avert a possible law and order situation, a senior revenue official said. The government has reiterated that it is bound to obey the Supreme Court verdict and it is likely to submit a detailed affidavit in the court in a day or two.
In May, the top court had ordered the demolition of 357 waterfront flats saying they violated CRZ III norms. On September 6, it pulled up the state for not implementing its order and gave an ultimatum. The court passed strictures against the state for flouting its judgments repeatedly and gave an ultimatum to demolish the flats by September 20. But on September 20, the state government filed an action taken report and the chief secretary tendered an apology to the top court, the court rejected both.
The snapping of service lines is viewed as an ultimatum to flat owners to leave their homes and avert a possible law and order situation. Some families have threatened suicide if authorities use force to evict them. The municipality had issued eviction notices twice but residents refuse to budge saying they don’t have any place to go.
While hearing the case on Monday the court had pulled up the state chief secretary saying he will be held personally responsible if unauthorized constructions were not removed as directed by the court. The court also observed that the state’s attitude was of defiance and it will not hesitate prosecute officers concerned.
The state has been going slow on the issue citing “humanitarian side” and it even called an all-party meet to discuss the issue. Many political parties, including the ruling CPI(M) has rallied behind the aggrieved flat owner saying it was not proper to punish end users leaving alone builders and officials who gave permission to them. “We are bound to implement the verdict. There are some concerns on how to carry out demolition and we will address them. We will settle the issue amicably,” said state local self government minister AC Moideen. But he reiterated the government’s contention that flat owners were not heard properly.
However, the flat owners haven’t given up hope. “We hope mercy will prevail. It is a question of our survival. Demolition of such high-rise buildings will create more ecological problems,” said P P Joseph, a retired bank official, one of the residents of the flat. He said builders sold the property to them and it was improper to punish only end users leaving builders and officials who gave permission for it.
“We are innocent. Most of us have taken heavy loans from banks to buy these flats. We all know banks won’t give loan to a contentious property. We haven’t lost hope,” said another tenant P Verghese, an NRI.
The flat issue dates back to 2006 when the vigilance wing of the state’s local self-government body directed the Maradu panchayat to cancel 31 building permits for various violations, including coastal regulation zone (CRZ) norms. But, later Kerala High Court had stayed its order and construction of flats continued.
The case came before the Supreme Court in 2016 after Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority (KSCZMA) moved a plea saying five buildings—four occupied and one under construction—came close to the backwaters violating CRZ III norms. According to CRZ III, if an area is notified it should be relatively undisturbed and untouched. In May this year, the SC ordered the demolition of 357 waterfront flats saying they violated CRZ III norms.
These flats were built on the banks of backwaters in Kochi’s bustling Maradu suburbs. Among the residents of the 357 flats are businessmen, film personalities, professionals and retired personnel.