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Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019

With ‘regret’, Kerala govt cuts off power to Kochi’s 357 illegal flats, plan out demolition

The power supply was discontinued in the early hours amid protests by the residents of flats that face demolition following the Supreme Court order.

india Updated: Sep 26, 2019 12:59 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Power supply to four apartment complexes in Kochi that violated coastal regulation zone guidelines has been cut off.
Power supply to four apartment complexes in Kochi that violated coastal regulation zone guidelines has been cut off.(HT Photo)
         

The Kerala government ‘with regret’ snapped power supply on Thursday to the four apartment complexes in Kochi that violated coastal regulation zone (CRZ) guidelines. The move followed repeated strictures from the Supreme Court over the delay in demolishing 357 waterfront flats.

The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) discontinued the power supply in the early hours amid protests by the residents of flats that face demolition following the Supreme Court order. The water supply to the flats will be cut by this evening with the government having chalked out a 3-month action plan for demolition. The issue is coming up again in Supreme Court on Friday.

Expressing ‘regret’ over cutting off the power supply, state power minister M M Mani said the government was helpless. “Flat issue will be handled in a humanitarian way. The state government is helpless and it is under tremendous pressure” said CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.

Also read: Explained: What is Kochi flats demolition case, who is involved, what does Supreme Court say

In May, the top court had ordered the demolition of 357 flats saying they violated CRZ III norms. On September 6, it castigated the state government for not implementing its order and put them on notice to demolish the flats by September 20. But on that day, the state government filed an action taken report and the chief secretary tendered an apology to the top court, the court rejected both.

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 flat owners while sparing builders and officials who gave vital permissions for construction.

Also read: Kerala Govt to book builders of Kochi flats scheduled for demolition

The case reached 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 norms, if an area is notified it should be relatively undisturbed and untouched. In May this year, the SC ordered the demolition of the flats saying they violated 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.