5,000 people lived in legally allotted housing in Ejipura, near central Bangalore, for more than 20 years. Then in January this year, they were all thrown out on the street and their houses razed. Ever since, these people have been living on the road with nowhere else to go. The young have dropped out of school, the pregnant are delivering babies on the road, the old are dying rapidly. Why? To build a mall. A photo essay on ‘development’ in India.
What used to be the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) Quarters in Ejipura in central Bangalore. All the thousands of residents, some of whom lived there for over two decades, were forcibly evicted in January 2013 on a court order that supports the builder-corporator nexus. The EWS Quarters Ejipura community gathered for a meeting in March 2013. That day, they were promised new housing within two years. Their elected MLAs and corporators have not bothered with where they will live in the interim. Some were given amounts between Rs 10-15,000, inadequate for finding alternative housing. MLA N.A. Haris (Congress), who represents the Shantinagar constituency, addresses Ejipura evictees during the March 2013 meeting that was called to share plans of new housing in Sarjapur to be completed in two years. The 5,000 residents have been forced to live in makeshift tents along the fenced off boundary of their former housing colony. John Peter, 21, has lived in EWS Quarters Ejipura his entire life, or “A to Z,” as he puts it. Peter stands defiantly in front of the fencing board put up by the BBMP and Maverick Holdings around the land. John (left), a 12-year-old orphan, was hit by a speeding car next to the footpath where he sleeps with his cousin Veeramani and his wife Saranya. After being hit by a car at his footpath home, John was later sent away to relatives to recuperate. An elderly woman wails at her condition as passersby on the road ignore her. Sudifa Riyaz, 6, drinks milk on her mother Zareena’s lap under the recycled political banner that is now their flimsy roof. Theresa (left) is 45 and Christina (right) is 22. Christina’s husband Susairaj, 23, used to be employed as an office assistant. He was fired when his employers discovered that he was living on the street. Their son, Kevin, is two. Susairaj has spent 18 years at the EWS quarters at Ejipura. Shaheeda, 24, was eight months pregnant when her home was demolished. She went into initial labour in her roadside makeshift tent. She, her two small daughters and 6-month-old infant Ayaan still live on the road. Tahira Khanam, 40, lives alone. She can’t get a job because employers want ‘proof’ that she’s living on the street. Theresa, 45, used to have a shop in EWS Ejipura and earned Rs 200 per day. She is now unemployed and lives in this roadside tent over a drain. Neelamma, 60, had high fever for a week before she died in July 2013. She was discovered in her plastic tent ‘home’, flooded with the rains. She used to work with Niligiris dairy; she was unemployed when she died. A day earlier, Maqbool Jehan, 70, had also starved to death on the pavement. A family trying to live on the road. A majority of the EWS Quarters Ejipura residents are Dalits. 2,000 children were rendered homeless by the Ejipura eviction, many of them as young as a few months. At least two pregnant women have given birth since becoming homeless. An 18-month-old baby recently died on the street. Mehek, 4, eats outside her tent. After the eviction, the community’s food used to be cooked collectively for some time but it was stopped due to poor quality. Now, everyone is on their own. The gurutinacheeti is a document that proves false the claim that these evicted residents were ‘illegally squatting’ on the land that was their home for decades. The document was provided to them due to a 2005 BBMP resolution. Kevin, 2, sits in front of his makeshift house wall – a poster of the Tamil actor Vijay. His father, Susairaj was fired from his job when his employers discovered that he was living on the street. Most children have been forced to drop out of school since they were evicted from their homes just before their school exams. Women, children and pets gather at dusk. Sexual assault and violence is a constant for both women and children while living on the street. Parveen Taj, 40, is a single mother of six. Her husband has remarried. She is a candid critic of how they were all evicted and has a clear grasp of the history and politics involved. Jayanthi, 17, was 7 months pregnant when she was evicted from her home. Living in filth, without access to a toilet or medical attention, she struggled with her advanced pregnancy. Shaheeda’s brother Akram, 23, is an uncle to all the kids on the street, playing with them and taking them on occasional outings to nearby parks to keep up their spirits. Children playing carrom on the street. Violet, 70, and her husband used to live in the neighbouring Yellanagar slum. When that was demolished, they moved into EWS Ejipura. Evicted again, she stands in the only space she now has, with no walls or even a sheet over her head. Her few belongings are perpetually rotting in the rain. Violet stands in front of the new housing that was supposed to be ready for Yellanagar slum residents like her months ago. Squatters have already occupied this half finished, already-crumbling ‘housing’.
Suganda was arrested for trying to oppose her home’s demolition. She and her family now live in a single room tin hut between a garbage dump and a sewage river, for which they pay Rs 2,500 monthly rent (plus a Rs 25,000 safety deposit).
Manju, 30, (seated, left) at her husband’s funeral. They couldn’t pay for his ailing kidney. Like most others, they lost their jobs after eviction. She has two children, a girl and a boy who is hearing and speech impaired. Palliniswamy, 60, sleeps in a giant pipe link on the road. He lived in EWS Ejipura for 20 years before being evicted.