Nearly 100 labourers on the streets as their dwellings were destroyed


Gangadhar, 24, a mason from Yadgir district, has spent most of his life in makeshift sheds in a slum on the Kacharakanahalli lake bed that houses three other slums and a temple complex. He went to his native place before Ugadi, to participate in the annual village fair. But he couldn’t return due to the lockdown.

Today, Gangadhar and around 50 others don’t have a home. “A week after we went home, we got a call from some of the residents of our slum, who had stayed back, that a group of men barged in and destroyed our sheds,” he recalled.

As soon as bus services began, around 50 of them – all men – returned to the city to take stock of the situation. “We were shocked to see that the entire slum had been razed. Another slum with around 45 sheds nearby has been burnt down,” said Mallesh, 26, also a mason.

Around 50 labourers, who have returned from their hometowns, are now living on the streets exposed to the heat and rains. “We sleep inside a nearby church during rains. One night, all of us huddled inside a goods vehicle to protect ourselves from the rain,” said Shivu, 23, a construction labourer.

A community kitchen was under way when The Hindu visited the spot on Tuesday, with rations and kitchenware distributed by Karnataka Slum Development Board and Aam Aadmi Party. Not just are their sheds demolished or burnt down, most of their possessions have been stolen. “Television sets, stoves, cylinders, almirahs… they’ve all been taken away,” said Shivu.

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The labourers are at a loss as to who may have demolished and burnt their dwellings. “We don’t know who they were. It happened one night when most of the men were away,” said Basamma, who was among the 18 families that stayed back and were stuck in the slum during the lockdown.

Activists and residents allege that this is an attempt at land grab. The K.G. Halli police have registered a case against unidentified individuals, but no arrest has been made.

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Sagar Biswas

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