Jayakumar V, working in Muscat, the capital of Oman, is back home for Onam holidays. He is finding it hard to give his child a reply as to why they are not spreading the traditional floral carpet for this Onam. They have come home to one of the Matter adu flats that is awaiting demolition by September 20 on the orders from the Supreme Court.
There are around 1,500 people like Jayakumar in the around 400 posh apartments in the five flat complexes at Maradu where municipality officials began issuing eviction notices on Tuesday. They have been asked to leave in another five days.
Jayakumar and most of the residents at Holy Faith, Kayaloram, Alfa Ventures, Holiday Heritage and Jain Housing flats assert that they will not vacate. In a sort of a suicide threat, they say if the flats are demolished, they will 'die in the debris'. This Onam day, many of them have joined a hunger strike outside the Maradu municipal office.
The Supreme Court passed the demolition order since the flats were constructed violating the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms.
The residents have reasons to oppose the demolition. While there was gross violation of norms, the builders were hand in glove with the municipality (then a panchayat) officials and got necessary permits in 2006 and undertook construction, the owners went by the clearances given by the authorities, bought the flats and have been paying taxes. They claim they were not aware of the violations as what they had was a 'legally' cleared project. The builders too never told them that was an issue which would come up in a court of law.
Besides, when the matter came up in courts, none of the owners was heard. It was only builders, officials and the local body representatives who were heard.
The then panchayat secretary, who gave the clearance and is now undergoing a jail term, and the builders who managed to illegally get the approvals, have no issues. The owners ask whether they should "now live on the streets" after spending all their earnings to buy a flat.
They propose to file a curative petition as have not been heard. They still believe there exists legal remedy.l and want the State Government to file an appeal.
They claim that the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change had given approval for the Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMPs) regarding the 10 coastal districts of Kerala. But the approval was pending in the court.
The municipal office-bearers have passed a resolution seeking support for the 'hapless' owners while through the secretary pasted eviction notices purse the flat complexes and also invited tenders for demolition works.
Incidentally, the Government has been silent as the clearances were given during the LDF regime of the panchayat and the Supreme Court Bench has been harsh on it for lapses in several cases.
There is the view that the eviction notices and tender for demolition are a ploy to see that the Bench does not admonish them for contempt of court and in the meantime efforts would be made to present the plight of the owners.