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Monday, Oct 14, 2019

Kerala govt calls all-party meet on Kochi flat demolition as SC deadline approaches

The Maradu Municipal Corporation in Kochi had asked 357 families to vacate their flats by September 14 but they refused to move out saying they had no alternate dwelling to shift to.

india Updated: Sep 15, 2019 19:44 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Supreme Court has ordered the demolishment of five apartment complexes in Kochi.
Supreme Court has ordered the demolishment of five apartment complexes in Kochi.(Mint Photo/ Representative image)
         

With the Supreme Court ultimatum to demolish five apartment complexes in Kochi just four days away, the CPI(M)-led Kerala government has called an all-party meet on Tuesday to discuss the issue. The apex court had pulled up the state government on September 6 for not implementing its previous judgment and directed it to demolish flats which violated coastal regulation norms by September 20.

After the Supreme Court made its position clear, the Maradu Municipal Corporation in the port city had asked 357 families to vacate their flats by September 14 but they refused to move out saying they had no alternate dwelling to shift to. As the deadline for demolition draws closer all political parties in the state have rallied behind the aggrieved flat owners. Worried, the state government has approached the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai to chalk out a plan to demolish high-rise flats and study its impact on environment.

Flat owners say they were not heard by the court and they bought their flats after obtaining all permissions and licences and it is wrong to punish them for the possible mistakes committed by builders and others. The permission to construct flats was granted in 2006, when Maradu was a panchayat and later it was upgraded to a municipality.

The case dates back to 2007, when the vigilance wing of the state local self government directed the Maradu panchayat to cancel 31 building permits for various violations including coastal regulation zone (CRZ) norms. But later, the Kerala High Court had stayed its order.

Three years ago the Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority (KSCZMA) had moved the Supreme Court saying these five buildings came close to the backwaters violating CRZ III norms. (According to CRZ III, the area should be relatively undisturbed. The area up to 200 m from high tide line has been earmarked as no development zone). On May 8 the Supreme Court had ordered demolition of five flats.

“The panchayat had submitted an affidavit in the High Court saying the area comes under CRZ II. If there is any violation why did the KSCZMA take so long to approach the court in 2016? It is purely a technical issue,” said P P Joseph, a retired bank employee, staying in one of the flats. “It is sad builders, officials who gave permission and others go scot-free while people who bought the flats with their hard-earned money were treated like criminals, he added. Some of the residents have threatened suicide if they are evicted forcibly.

Officials of the KSCZMA refused to comment saying they could not anything at this juncture since the case was before the highest court of the country. All political parties including the ruling CPI(M) have pledged support to agitating owners. “The government will do everything to alleviate their suffering,” said the CPI(M) state secretary after visiting them.

Senior Congress leader and former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh also supported the flat owners. “Yet, in a similar case of violation in Kochi it imposed penalty on DLF and regularized it. It had stayed the demolition of the Adarsh Housing Complex in Mumbai. Why such differential treatment,” he wrote on his Twitter handle. The SC has summoned the state chief secretary on September 23.

First Published: Sep 15, 2019 18:23 IST

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