Wednesday, 30 January 2013

EWS Evictions: The Aftermath

The demolitions at the EWS quarters in Ejipura started on 18th Jan 2013. In a matter of a few days, a thriving bustling community of about 1500 homes was razed to the ground. There have been a variety of efforts by various volunteer groups to reach out to the victims by providing water, food and assistance with finding alternate shelters and providing some financial aid to cover part of its costs. 

As of yesterday, on part of one perimeter directly outside the original demolished site there were 34 families who were braving out with their young and old under harsh sun and nowhere to go. The reasons range from not having any identification to avail of some financial assistance, to not having enough money to meet the rest of the required rent deposit before they could move into some other home. 

All this time, the state has provided several assurances of help to those evicted while remaining unbudging on the issue of actually holding off from further eviction drives - now from the streets and footpaths around the razed area.  Even as I type this note, I have heard that police are forcing remaining families out of the area. It is reported that one woman has poured kerosene over herself and tried to commit suicide. 

The photos below were taken yesterday afternoon. They tell their own stories. Can the state do this to its own people? And where can the poor go?

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Sun over Water & Energy Potential

First of all, let me make myself very clear. Anytime I start talking about energy, electricity, power etc. I am doing it in an absolute and firm context of my well researched, well considered and therefore a deep and entrenched opposition to nuclear - energy, weapons - you name it.

A pilot program in Gujarat, from last year, had completely escaped my attention. The project was to generate 1 MW of electrical energy by covering 1 km Narmada canal with solar panel; additional benefits include saving on canal water evaporation, and eliminating need for additional land and avoiding displacement. Even though this idea has emerge from the Modi state, I still like it.  And, the idea appears to have been picked up by Karnataka -BJP Gujarat's sister-state .Karnataka has 1 lakh kilometers of irrigation canals and with 1 MW per kilometer potential, you work out the math.

The idea has been particularly endorsed by the Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah for replication in the Damodar valley, especially since, as he says, the cost of solar energy generation has dropped to Rs.7/unit from Rs.18/unit.

Now, with a good idea like this, can we get rid of all big, bad ideas that are expensive, dangerous to life, hazardous to health, polluting of environment, irrational, and unnecessary, like nuclear, thermal, large dams etc etc.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

BBMP's Large Donation to Maverick

Over the last few days, BBMP and its bulldozers, under the protection of a large and armed police force, have razed about 2000 shelters of the Economically Weaker Section in Ejipura. These actions have been carried out using terrible brute force and in arrogant impunity on the basis of a high court order of Aug. 2012. The Ejipura story is a larger than life greek tragedy unfolding from within realms of India's push for fiscal growth, and its horrific need to hide its all pervasive poverty behind glittering malls - like the one which will arise from the rubble of destroyed homes and lost lives. The photos below are taken by MirnoPasquali

Big Questions that remain: Why a PPP between BBMP and Maverick Pvt Ltd.? Why the diversion of public property, earmarked for our Economically Weak Sections (EWS), to private companies for profiteering? Why the sacrifice of shelters of our poorest, to build Malls of the rich?

Maverick Constructions, via its PPP will get 8 acres of prime property in the heart of Kormangala - one of the poshest localities in the city. According to reports this is valued at anywhere from 200 to 300 crores.
If we take the property cost in Koramangala at Rs.10000/sq.ft (market rate) then 8 acres = 8x40000 sq.ft = 320000sq.ft will cost 320 crores - consistent with the above values.

In exchange Maverick will build 1640 homes of 312 sq.ft each. Even if we adopt a construction cost of Rs.1000/sq.ft (for an average middle class type home) - the entire cost of construction to Maverick is 312x1640x1000=51 crores. So, Maverick Constructions will profit anywhere between Rs. 150 - 250 crores - just by entering into this agreement.

The Govt. claims that it has no money to construct EWS homes, although BBMP's annual budget is more than 4000 crores. Also Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), city's other civic body,  has failed to collect similar sums in rents from its malls, even while earmarking  additional Rs.500 crores more for building new malls.

So..Whose interests does the State really serve? And, how are the EWS displaced families in Ejipura, now on streets, benefited?

Rich Power

I do not usually frequent malls – this is my preference. So when I do, I am stunned and appalled at the shocking display and abuse of power - I  mean electric power. I decided to explore this further, especially in the context of our power hungry, and rapidly nuclearising nation.

So how much power does it take to run a single mall? Typically in Bangalore the number is around 4 MW –  let us see what these numbers actually mean: 4 Mega Watt  = 4000 Kilo Watt which is equivalent to lighting 40,000  100 Watt bulbs. So, during working hours, each mall consumes a power equivalent of forty thousand light bulbs!! And, shopping malls guzzle power during entire day unlike most Indian households which turn on lights mainly at night. For about 25 malls in the city  this means a million light bulbs lit during an entire day, each day, for the entire year, just so that the rich may shop in brightly illuminated, privileged spaces.

In Bangalore, with a population of about 8.5 million, between 9-11% live in urban slums i.e. roughly a million people. Most slums have erratic and limited power supply, even at night; some are not connected to the grid at all. So, the million light bulbs in the malls could instead light a million homes of our poor, or run their water pumps or reduce load shedding in homes; we could even limit ourselves to creating less damaging power - like  nuclear or thermal power plants or with large dams.

The bottom line is" Why should shopping or entertaining the rich of this city replace lighting requirement of a million homes?"