Namma Mane | Our Home: Vivekananda Vasanthi Sankeerna

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    Introduction:

    Vivekananda Vasanthi Sankeerna, located in (northern, southern, central, eastern, etc) Bangalore, is a declared and rehabilitated migrant settlement. Founded in 1970, Vivekananda Vasanthi Sankeerna is comprised of exactly 1544 households, all of which are members of the scheduled caste community or are religious minorities. The settlement was declared a slum by the KSDB in 1990.

    Vivekananda Vasanthi Sankeerna was originally started 40 years ago by a collection of people from Bangalore, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh. Initially, the area was covered by trees, lakes, and rocks, but as time progressed, the nearly 800 households began to clear the area themselves. After a few years, a fire broke out in the settlement, prompting the residents to build houses out of cement sheet instead.

    Till 1984, this land belonged to the BDA, which denied requests from the settlers to help develop the area by building houses for them. In response, the residents approached Mr. Nazeer Ahmed, a social activist, to help the area begin the process of declaration. Mr. Chandrashekar, Mr. T Sooley, Mr. Subramani, and Miss. Vasanthamma helped the community take this initiative. The application process was finally started in 1989, and the area was declared a slum by the KSDB in 1990. After declaration, the residents of the settlement began to construct semi-permanent houses.

    In 2007, the KSDB began the survey process which precedes rehabilitation, the first step in providing a form of public housing to the residents of the area. However, the CM at the time, Mr. Kumarswamy, was opposed to the KSDB taking such a step. The residents rallied against him in the next election for not representing their interests, and in 2009, Mr. Yeddyurappa was elected as CM. During his term, the KSDB sanctioned 1500 houses for the area, and began their construction. By 2013, approximately 1200 of these houses were completed. The houses, in the form of apartments, were distributed by the area councilor in a lottery system. Each family which received an apartment was provided with biometric cards for identification. The remaining 300 households were moved to temporary semi-permanent shelters near the settlement until the completion of the remaining 300 apartments.

    Vivekananda Vasanthi Sankeerna is a rehabilitated slum, meaning that not only has the area been declared by the KSDB, but the slum has been moved from an area deemed unfit for human habitation to housing provided by the KSDB. When the KSDB rehabilitates slums, it typically does so in the form of apartment buildings. The KSDB is also mandated to provide basic drainage, sanitation, road, and water services upon rehabilitating or declaring a slum. Despite this mandate,the residents of Vivekananda Vasanthi Sankeerna cite house-to-house (pipe) water and drainage services as their biggest needs.

    VVS 2Vivekananda Vasanthi Sankeerna is a rehabilitated slum, meaning that not only has the area been declared by the KSDB, but the slum has been moved from an area deemed unfit for human habitation to housing provided by the KSDB. When the KSDB rehabilitates slums, it typically does so in the form of apartment buildings, due to a focus on vertical construction by the state and central government, meaning that the residents of a KSDB rehabilitated slum often do not obtain hakku patras, or titles to the land on which they reside. Instead, they receive possession certificates, biometric cards, and allotment letters, giving them ownership of the individual apartment rather than the land plot. The KSDB is also mandated to provide basic drainage, sanitation, road, and water services upon rehabilitating or declaring a slum. Despite this mandate, the residents of Vivekananda Vasanthi Sankeerna cite house-to-house (pipe) water and drainage services as their biggest needs.

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    Mr. Chandrashekar, 53,  one of the leaders of the settlement, has been living in Vivekananda Vasanthi Sankeerna with his wife, Ms. Vennila, and two sons and daughters for over 30 years. Their eldest son, Prashanth, studied till the 9th grade, and now works as a contractor in local buildings, earning approximately Rs. 10,000 per month. Prathap, 21, also studied till the 9th grade, and now works as a salesperson for Airtel, earning approximately Rs. 6,000 to Rs.7,000 per month. Their eldest daughter, Pavithra, 19, studies in the 10th grade, but she has no interest in continuing her education. Their youngest daughter, Vaishnavi, 12, studies in the 6th grade.  The family is respected in the community, and Mr. Chandrashekar represents over 120 households whenever there are any community issues. Mr. Chandrashekar is especially passionate about reducing fraud in the house allotment system and developing the settlement.

    VVS 4Vaishnavi is Mr. Chandrashekar’s youngest daughter. Although not her birth father, Mr. Chandrashekar has treated Vaishnavi as his own, saving her from her birth mother (his relative), who wanted to murder Vaishnavi as an infant because of her sex. Currently in the 6th grade, Vaishnavi hopes to one day be an engineer. However, Mr. Chandrashekar wants her to become an officer in the Indian Administrative Services, a highly respected position, to show her birth mother that being female is never a burden.

    VVS 5Vaishnavi stands next to the family refrigerator, an item they are able to afford because of the subsidized housing provided to them by the KSDB rehabilitation process. The family also owns a washing machine, gas stove, numerous pots and pans, DVD player, and two televisions. Additionally, they keep several pets, including over 5 birds and a many fish in a fish tank they keep near the small temple area in their home.

    VVS 6A small portion of the residents of Vivekananda Vasanthi Sankeerna do not live in the subsidized apartments provided by the KSDB when the area was being rehabilitated. Instead, they live in semi-permanent cement sheet houses next to the main road. While these structures provide shelter, it is far from ideal; water enters the home during the monsoon season, causing many people to leave their homes during rains. Every one of the individuals in this portion is eagerly waiting to move from these dwellings to the apartments when they are completed.

    VVS 7Yet, the area is still lacking adequate drainage, and a sizable portion of the community still resides in the cement sheet dwellings declared unfit for human habitation by the KSDB 25 years ago. However, the 300 households residing in cement sheet huts are hopeful for the future, when they are able to move into the apartments, and the greater security, and thus potential for economic advancement, that will give their families.

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    From left: Mrs. Mangamma, 45; Mrs. Maheshwari, 32; Mrs. Uma’s daughter, Spurthi, 2; Girish’s Sister, Mrs.Uma, 30; Her Daughter, Sneha, 4;
    Mrs. Mangamma, Mr. Girish’s mother, works as a maid in nearby apartments, earning up to Rs. 3000 per month. Mrs. Maheshwari, 32, also works as a maid, earning up to Rs. 3000 per month. Mr. Girish and Mrs. Maheshwari have one son, Kiran, 13, who is in the 9th grade. Mr. Girish’s sister Mrs. Uma, 30,  who lives with her husband next to her brother Girish house. Uma has two daughters– Sneha, (far right) 4, and Spurthi (center), 2. Almost a joint family but living in different houses in the settlement.

    VVS 9To supplement her income, Mrs. Mangamma also collects castor seeds from small trees in front of her home. She dries the plant in bulk in a clearing in front of her home; the sun’s heat separates the seeds from the rest of the plant. Mrs. Mangamma sells the seeds in bulk every 2-3 months, or after she collects about 50 kgs of the seeds. Depending on where she sells the seeds, she earns Rs. 23-25 per kg of seed.

    VVS 10Mr. Girish, 38, is a painter. He lives in the temporary sheds near the rehabilitated apartments with his mother and wife of 25 years. Mr. Girish first came to the area 25 years ago with his mother, working as a coolie in a local construction project. He says that “Then, there were even less facilities and services. The houses were all cement sheet.”  He says the part of Vivekananda Vasanthi Sankeerna which has yet to be fully rehabilitated still lacks proper drainage and water services, and he still lives in the original cement sheet house he constructed 25 years ago.

    VVS 11From overhead, Vivekananda Vasanthi Sankeerna looks very similar to other lower middle class apartments. Water tanks sit on the roofs of each building, and satellite dishes are also ubiquitous.  While many of the older generation are still employed in the same jobs as before the rehabilitation process, they have high hopes for their children, who go to school at a much higher rate, due to greater security of residence.

    VVS 12Varun,17, and his family own a small kirana store, known colloquially as a ‘petty shop’. Operating out of this small apartment, the store, which consists of a table teeming with snack items and several clotheslines displaying chips, toys, and candy, sells everything from lentils, eggs, and milk, to toothbrushes and shampoo. In addition to working at the store, Varun also attends a government school, where he is studying pre-mechanical engineering. Like many of the residents of Vivekananda Vasanthi Sankeerna, he sees education as the means for economic advancement and “to move forward in life”, a sentiment reflected by the higher rate of education among young adults residing in the area.

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