Namma Mane | Our Home: Ashraya Nagar

     

     

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    Introduction:
    Ashraya Nagar is an undeclared migrant settlement in northern Bangalore. Located near the Bangalore-Tumkur Highway (NH-4) and the Metro Railway Station, it is well connected to the main road and various industries and surrounded by suburbia. At present, there are approximately 2725 households in Ashraya Nagar, and 70% of the residents are Hindu.

    Ashraya Nagar was founded in 2007 by some 10 families from the Gulbarga colony on wasteland located near some small factories in northern Bangalore. Originally consisting of makeshift huts, the settlement grew until the area was demolished by the BBMP due to its location in the midst of high voltage power lines. For this same reason, the BBMP also refused to provide services to the residents of the settlement. After this incident, the residents of the settlement, led by Mr. Balakrishna and Mr.Hanumanthappa, local area leaders, constructed semi-permanent homes using cement sheets.

    After the demolition, the settlement experienced three fires, due to the leakage of electricity from the high voltage power lines. To combat this, they requested the ex-CM, Mr. Kumarswamy, to provide more permanent housing and assist the slum in applying for declaration from the Karnataka Slum Development Board (KSDB) which would help the residents attain better services. However, the application for declaration was ultimately rejected, as Ashraya Nagar is considered inhospitable for humans because of the power lines. In 2014, the High Court ruled that the area must be rehabilitated and the residents of Ashraya Nagar must be moved to another area. The BBMP has provided 25 acres in Chikkabidarakallu, an area located 5 kilometers from the settlement. However, many residents do not want to move, a sentiment caused by the desire for land titles and a lack of political unity among the area’s residents.

    AN 2Ashraya Nagar is spread across 5.14 acres of land belonging to the Karnataka Electricity Board. Along with the over 2725 households in Ashraya Nagar, the land also hosts high voltage electricity lines. Because of this, the KSDB has declined to declare Ashraya Nagar, instead designating the area as unfit for human habitation and scheduling the area for rehabilitation, which means that the residents will be temporarily relocated whilst housing, in the form of apartment buildings, is built in a safer location. The residents of Ashraya Nagar have declined rehabilitation, lobbying instead to obtain hakku patras (land titles) for the area where they currently reside. They prefer hakku patras to rehabilitation because obtaining a hakku patra allows them to sell the land or pass the land to their descendants for generations, whereas rehabilitation only allows them to pass down the house they receive, rather than the land itself, which has more value.

    AN 3Located near the northern edge of Bangalore, Ashraya Nagar is surrounded by small scale industries and garment factories, which a majority of the residents of Ashraya Nagar are employed by. It is also very well-connected to major transportation paths, like the Bangalore-Tumkur Highway (NH-4) and the Metro Station.

    AN 4Nearly all of the houses in Ashraya Nagar are semi-permanent dwellings. 35% of the homes are constructed with mud and mud bricks. 15% of the houses are other semi-permanent dwellings, and the remaining 50 % of the homes are constructed from cement sheet. The roads are nearly all unpaved, or lined with mud brick, and inner alleyways are narrow. Wild dogs roam the area as do chickens and goats. There is no real drainage system, water instead settling in small streams that play host to mosquitos.

    AN 5Mr. Hanumanthappa, 57, has been living in Ashraya Nagar since its founding. He is the founder and President of the Ashraya Nagar branch of the Karnataka Dalitha Sangharsha Samithi, a neighborhood organization whose main goal is to facilitate access to better government services. The Sangha, founded in 2008, has over 300 members. Although the organization holds elections every three years for its leader, Mr. Hanumanthappa has won each one thus far, something he credits to his “sincerity and commitment to the people of Ashraya Nagar”. According to him, the biggest challenge facing Ashraya Nagar today is rehabilitating the residents of the area to the 25 acres of land provided by the BBMP.

     

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    From left :Jayamma, 50;  Parvathamma, 38
    Jayamma and Parvathamma, relatives, sit inside Parvathamma’s home. Originally from the Hosadurga Village in the Tumkur district, Parvathamma emigrated to Ashraya Nagar 10 years ago with her husband of 16 years, Mallikarjuna, lured by the promise of free land to be distributed in the area by the ex-Chief Minister, Kumaraswamy. Mallikarjuna, 40, works in a local construction field, while Parvathamma works in a local garment factory as a helper, earning Rs. 4500 per month. Their two twin sons, Jayaprakash and Jai Jagdish, 15, also accompanied them to the Ashraya Nagar area. Jayaprakash has discontinued his studies after failing the 8th grade, whereas Jai Jagdish is studying at a private college. Both Jayamma and Parvathamma are members of the Sangha founded and led by Mr. Hanumanthappa.

    AN 7Parvathamma’s home is built of cement sheet. It consists of a single room, with a fifth of the  80 square foot space  divided by a smaller piece of cement sheet, separating a small pantry area (left) and a bathroom (right).  Above the separation is a small loft, which serves as storage space. Besides numerous pots, kitchen utensils, a gas and a kerosene stove, and plastic buckets and barrels, there is little else in Parvathamma home. The only furnishings consist of two plastic chairs, stacked in a corner.

    AN 8In 2008, some arsonists set fire to the huts in Ashraya Nagar. Parvathamma is among the many whose homes were damaged or destroyed as a result of that crime. However, the incident served as a turning point for her: she joined the Karnataka Dalitha Sangharsha Sangha, founded by Mr. Hanumanthappa. Here, she receives a call from a member of the association on her mobile phone. Mobile phones are very common in Ashraya Nagar, as are televisions with satellite dish connections, and gas stoves & cookers.  Fewer have 2 wheelers (10%), rickshaws or other three wheelers (5%), and music systems or CD/DVD players (15%).

    AN 9Every Sunday, Mr. Hanumanthappa leads meetings with the members of his sangha in the KDSS headquarters. They discuss various issues, from local needs, preparations for local celebrations, and social issues, to the status of hakku patras and rehabilitation. The sangha has been effective in some regards, helping the area receive a borewell in 2009, and a government school in subsequent years.  A small nursery school, operated by KDSS, is also housed here on weekdays for the children that live nearby.

     

    AN 10The MLA for the Ashraya Nagar, Mr. Munirathnam, planned to provide permanent houses to the people of Ashraya Nagar. However, the construction of these homes has since stopped, as the residents of Ashraya Nagar are also asking for the provision of hakku patras for the land on which they currently reside, a difficult task as the area is considered unfit for human inhabitation by the KSDB. Furthermore, multiple political parties operate within Ashraya Nagar with very little unity, another reason why many residents of Ashraya Nagar are unwilling to move. However, after the construction of these houses is completed, a portion of the residents of Ashraya Nagar will move into these homes.

     

    AN 11Although some parents send their children to a private school for better education, most children in Ashraya Nagar attend this government primary school, located inside the settlement. This school only offers education through the 5th grade, after which, some children begin working in local factories or construction sites. Others continue through secondary school. Many students who continue with their education, however, drop out  in the 9th or 10th grade, start working, and spend their earnings on alcohol.

    AN 12A majority of residents of Ashraya Nagar want to move out of the area to somewhere better, but they also want titles to their land. Combined with a lack of political unity behind a single leader or party to help them achieve their goals, the process of moving out of the settlement to a better area has been challenging. For now, they remain in Ashraya Nagar, and hope for a better future through their children.

     

     

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