- The five buildings house over 300 families and is near a lake
- CPM's Kodiyeri Balakrishnan called the top court order "unacceptable"
- The municipality said they can't demolish buildings without state nod
Five buildings with over 350 flats in a posh locality in Kochi have become the centre of protests, after the Supreme Court ordered for their demolition by September 20. Days after the Supreme Court pulled up the state government for not implementing the demolition orders, leaders from the ruling party and opposition in the state, have joined the protesting residents.
The protesting residents include celebrities from the film industry, retired and working professionals and senior citizens. The five buildings house over 300 families and are by the side of the lake and in close proximity to the National Highway.
At the main protest venue for the residents, party flags of CPM, Congress and BJP are prominently visible - giving out a rare message of support to people - irrespective of the political divide.
Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, the CPM state secretary, called the Supreme Court order "unacceptable" while addressing the protesting residents.
"Where will the debris be taken after these huge buildings are demolished? This will become a huge environmental concern. The Supreme Court's order is without any empathy and against natural justice. These homes belong to the rich, some have been arguing. We must not forget that many of them have put in all their savings to buy their homes, after years of work."
Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, along with parliamentarian Hibi Eden, also visited the residents and strongly opposed the Supreme Court's order and said the state government must approach the Attorney General and represent the matter before the top court in its entirety.
Residents share their ordeal with NDTV, say that they "have not been heard."
"It's absolute injustice. We have not even been heard. The Supreme Court appointed a committee for a report and not one flat owner's opinion has been sought. We have been given 5-days notice. Where are over thousand people supposed to go in five days," popular film director from Kerala, Major Ravi told NDTV.
Maya Prem Mohan, 60, who lives with her 90-year-old mother, says they cannot afford another house at this age.
"My husband passed away. With whatever money I got, and with the help of my children, I bought this flat to stay with my elderly mother. We have not much savings left. We have medical needs. Where can we go at this age? Can we afford another house?" she asks.
The Supreme Court has ordered for the demolition of the buildings because according to the sub-committee report, the flats are in violation of the environmental norms under Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ).
The report states that these flats when constructed were under CRZ III which has a restriction on any construction in 200 metres proximity to a water body. However, according to the municipality commissioner, the area has now has been revised to CRZ II category.
"These flats are now under CRZ II I am told, though we are yet to get official notification on this. It earlier was under CRZ I and III as a panchayat and that was when the construction was not permitted. This area now is under municipality," municipality commissioner TH Nadeera told NDTV.
The municipality has the primary responsibility to demolish the building and is treading cautiously. "We cannot demolish these buildings without the state government. So they have to decide and assist us, if this needs to be done. It's a huge financial expenditure - over 30 lakhs and there are environmental concerns. It's not just about these 350 families, but several thousands, living in and around them," TH Nadeera added.