Kerala Govt to book builders of Kochi flats scheduled for demolition
The Kerala government on Wednesday decided to book builders of the four apartment complexes in Kochi’s Maradu, which were constructed in violation of coastal regulation zone (CRZ) guidelines, and snap power and water connections, two days after the Supreme Court pulled up the Kerala government over delaying the demolition of these flats, a government official said on condition of anonymity.
The state government also appointed a young Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Snehil Kumar to oversee the eviction and demolition process amid criticism that end users [flat owners] are being punished while builders and officials, who allegedly gave permission to construct the flats in violation of the CRZ norms, do not face any action.
“The situation is fluid. The court did not allow even the counsel of the government to speak. So we have to take some strong action to retrieve the situation,” said a second official requesting anonymity.
The Maradu municipality issued a fresh notice to occupants of the flats saying both water and power connections would be cut in two days and advised them to shift at the earliest. But the residents stood their ground saying they will not shift on their own. “We will not move. Let them evict us forcibly,” said one of flat occupants. Police are also keeping a strict vigil after some of the residents threatened suicide if force was applied.
The government has toughened its posture after the apex court pulled it up again on Monday for not implementing its order. But it reiterated that it is bound to obey the verdict and is likely to submit a detailed affidavit in the court in a day or two. The top court will take up the matter again on Friday.
On May 8, the apex court had directed that these buildings be removed within a month as they were constructed in a notified CRZ, which was part of the tidally-influenced water body in Kerala.
The court then pulled up the state for flouting its orders repeatedly, and gave it an ultimatum to demolish the flats by September 20.
But on September 20, when the state government had filed an action taken report and the chief secretary tendered an apology to the top court, the latter rejected both. In the cabinet meet on Wednesday, chief secretary Tom Jose purportedly said that demolition was the only option before the state now.
Many political parties, including the ruling Communist Party of India I(Marxist), rallied behind the aggrieved flat owners saying it was not proper to punish end users leaving alone builders and the officials who gave permission to them.
At least 1,500 people are staying in 357 flats in Kochi’s bustling Maradu suburbs. Among them are businessmen, film personalities, professionals and retired personnel.
“We sympathise with occupants of the flats. But the government’s role is limited in such cases,” said CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.