March 03, 2024
Telangana: House Site Movement Activists Continue to Face Police Wrath

S Veeriah

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THE poor in Telangana, who have been waging struggles for houses and house site pattas for the last three years, are now looking towards the Revanth Reddy-led Congress government with high expectations. 

In this background, a state convention was held on February 20 in Hyderabad with the activists of the ‘hut centres’ (centres where landless poor demanding house pattas have erected huts).

About 250 activists representing 69 centres in 19 districts participated in the convention and appealed to the newly formed Congress government for the allotment of house sites. 

It may be noted that only two-and-half months have passed since the Congress government came to power in the state and the hut centre was demolished in Mahabubabad. Within a week, a centre in Hanmakonda was also destroyed, and the leaders were arrested. These incidents have caused great concern to the poor who are waiting for house site pattas. 

The Congress party has assured the house sites and Indiramma houses in its election campaign. The poor, being deceived in the name of double-bedroom houses under the BRS rule, are eagerly waiting for the Congress government to fulfill its promises with regard to housing. 

In fact, Congress leaders in many areas visited the hut centres and extended support during the BRS rule. With the same Congress now assuming power, the aspirations of the poor have been strengthened. 

There are 30 lakh homeless poor in the state as per the ‘Comprehensive Family Survey’ conducted by the previous government. Considering the severity of this situation, the Congress has promised to resolve this issue in its election manifesto.

After the incidents of Mahabubabad and Hanmakonda, a team of CPI(M) state leadership met chief minister Revanth Reddy and minister of housing Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy and represented the houses and house sites issue. It was asked to withdraw all the cases filed against the activists. The team appealed to the ministers that all the people residing in hut centres should be given pattas and provided with financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh from the state government and Rs10 lakh from the central government for the construction of pucca house. 

The chief minister himself promised to withdraw the cases. They also guaranteed the house sites. 

Contrary to the above, the district police and revenue officials have made stringent attacks in Jagityala, Korutla centres. Leaders and activists were attacked at midnight and arrested. 

Cases of attempt to murder and others were filed against them. Simultaneously, the huts were demolished using earthmovers. The poor lost all their belongings and money. The police and revenue authorities made these assaults with the support of land grabbers and real estate agents. 

Besides this, they have tried to destroy the hut centre in Peddapalli as well. 21 people have been charged with attempt to murder in Jagityala and Korutla. Six people were remanded for 22 days and three others for 38 days. One case after another was filed against them to prevent bail. Out of nine, CPI(M) state committee member Lellela Balakrishna and four women are among them.   

CPI(M) has brought the seriousness of the issue to the attention of the state government several times. It held discussions with the chief minister three times and twice with the housing minister and urged to drop all the cases filed by the BRS government during the three-year housing struggle. 

Even though the state government responded positively, in practice, the cases have not been cancelled yet and new cases have been registered. 

During the land struggle, 79 cases were filed against a total of 717 people during these three years. Charges of attempt to murder levelled against the leaders and activists who are struggling for the poor indicate the cunningness of the authorities. It is appropriate for the government to drop all these cases immediately, which is ready to give houses and house sites to the poor. 

When the Congress government came to power, the authorities received applications from the people under the name of ‘Praja Palana’ for a week in the basties and villages. Many issues were specified in a single application. But there is no mention of house sites in the list. Naturally, it is a matter of concern for the homeless poor. Hence, all the applications submitted for house sites at the tahsildar office should be considered. 

The movement of houses and house sites has faced many constraints for about three years. The goons attacked Jakkaloddi and other centres. 

While the election campaign was going on, the hut centre was attacked and destroyed for the 18th time in Mahabubabad, 10 women activists were taken to police station and tortured. It was also demolished for the 19th time after the formation of the Congress government. During the election time, the BRS MLA provoked the mobs to attack Jakkaloddi (Pragathinagar) center in Warangal. 

At that time the Congress candidate Konda Surekha gave her support to the poor. Now, she has become a minister. Naturally, justice is expected for the poor.

The authorities and real estate agents are campaigning false allegations with regard to house site struggle centres in many areas stating that people are collecting money and selling plots in the name of house sites. It is also claimed that even the people who have houses are also erecting huts in the centers, and some of them belong to other districts. Homeless poor may come from other districts and build huts.  CPI(M) challenged the officials to enquire and prove the allegations. If the poor were allotted house plots or Indiramma houses in their districts, this issue would not arise. CPI(M) clearly states that house sites should be given to eligible persons only. In some areas, the authorities are making arguments that the house sites will be allotted to the natives of the town/mandal, which is meaningless. 

Rural poor are migrating to cities for their livelihood and naturally settling there. It is the government's responsibility to allot house sites to them. The poor people who have removed the trees, bushes, and garbage to make the land habitable, are living in huts with snakes and scorpions. There is a lack of basic needs like drinking water, electricity, and roads. The aged and children are suffering from many problems, and the situation calls for urgent attention from the government.

During the elections many leaders visited the centres seeking their votes. The political leaders should change their perspective and treat the poor as human beings. They must be provided with minimum facilities by the municipal and gram panchayat authorities in the struggle centers.

The state convention of the house sites activists urged the government to identify the government land and earmark for housing plots. It was decided to ensure that people who have not applied yet, submit applications for houses and house sites in time. The convention decided to organise district level conventions and the movement to be extended to all districts.

The BRS leadership, who did not imagine the setback, started criticising the Congress government from the day it was formed. They could not wait even a hundred days for the implementation of the six guarantees. People did not receive this attitude well. At the same time, the state government should also adhere to their promises. The minister for housing has given assurance to the CPI(M) delegation for the allotment of pattas after the Sankranthi festival. It is the responsibility of the government to take immediate steps to allocate land at the same place where there are residing in huts and issue pattas. As per the award of Delhi High Court, the right to shelter is a part of the right to life, and our constitution provides the right to life for each citizen. Hence, the state government should address the issue of houses and house sites without further delay.



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