'We have no place to go,' plead Maradu flat residents, but government firm on demolition

'We have no place to go': Maradu flat residents confront chief secretary
Award-winning film actor Soubin Shahir (second from right) protests outside Holy Faith apartment in Maradu during Chief Secretary Tom Jose's inspection on Monday. Photo - Josekutty Panackal
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Kochi: The Holy Faith H20 apartment at Kundannoor in Maradu municipality witnessed emotional scenes on Monday when Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose arrived for inspections.

The apartment is one of the five residential complexes facing demolition in Maradu municipality for violating coastal zone regulations. On Friday, the Supreme Court had tasked the chief secretary with the demolition. The court also asked him to submit a compliance report on September 20.

'We have no place to go': Maradu flat residents confront chief secretary
Chief Secretary Tom Jose inspects the flats to be demolished in Maradu, along with Ernakulam District Collector Suhas. Photo: Manorama

Hours before Tom Jose's arrival, hundreds of residents assembled at the building's entrance holding placards that read: “We have no place to go.” Apparently sensing trouble, Tom Jose, who was accompanied by District Collector S Suhas, left the place, ignoring the residents' pleas for audience. His visits to other apartments were uneventful.

After completing the inspection, Tom Jose said the government has initiated steps to demolish the apartments.  “The state government has to implement the Supreme Court order. The government will implement it," he said.

'We have no place to go': Maradu flat residents confront chief secretary
One of the five apartments in Maradu facing demolition. Photo: Manorama

On Sunday, it asked the Maradu Municipality to carry out the Supreme Court order to demolish illegal flats immediately.

The Ernakulam district administration, meanwhile, claimed that it has prepared a plan to rehabilitate the residents.

'Court did not consider people's lives'

Filmmaker Blessey, who is a resident at Holy Faith, said the Supreme Court did not consider the fact that human beings are living here. He said the residents have not received demolition notice so far.

“We came to know about the court order through media,” he said.

'We have no place to go': Maradu flat residents confront chief secretary
Residents of Holy Faith apartment confront Chief Secretary Tom Jose when he arrived for inspection on Monday. Photo: Manorama

Asked if stopping the chief secretary was helpful, Blessey said, “Nobody stopped him. He should have asked us about our grievances. Those who are liable to implement the court order have not listened to us. Only the media are asking us about our plight,” he said.

State award-winning actor Soubin Shahir, another resident, said he was not aware of any legal issue when he had bought the flat. “We bought the flats after consulting our friends who live here. Nobody was aware of the violations. This all happened in a flash,” he said. 

“We hoped that the officer would listen to us. We wanted to convey to him that the apex court order was a result of the errors committed by a few officers. We are innocents,” Beyoj Chennatt, another resident said.

Beyoj said the chief secretary refused to accept a memorandum by the Maradu Bhavana Samrakshana Samiti. “But I forcefully handed it over to him,” he said.

Filmmaker Major Ravi, who has been living in the apartment for the past 10 years, said the protest was a reflection of the people's helplessness. 

“When there is no one to help them the people will take to the streets. The government should avoid such a situation,” he said. 

The soldier-turned-filmmaker hoped that the chief secretary would convey the feelings of the people when he submits his report to the government. Even as the demolition threat hangs on them, Holy Faith residents believe that the Supreme Court will deliver a favourable verdict if it hears their version.

Latha, a homemaker, was on the verge of breaking down into tears when she said, “all the women here have decided not to leave the flats when they demolish it.”

'We have no place to go': Maradu flat residents confront chief secretary
Residents of Holy Faith apartment in Maradu protest against the proposed demolition. Photo: Manorama

No celebrations

Holy Faith apartments used to brim with activities during festivals. But the residents will not be celebrating this Onam as they are wary of losing their priced possession. “All the 90 families here have bee living amicably. We used to celebrate festivals and birthdays together. But the court verdict changed everything,” Latha said

Celebrations came to halt after the Supreme Court first issued the demolition order on May 8, 2019. “ People here have not even cooked anything in the past few days,” she said.

“We have been paying all taxes ever since we started living here. We are saddened that there is no one to listen to our grievances,” Ramesh, another resident said.

Usha Gopalakrishnan said she is still hopeful of a favourable verdict. She lives in a flat bought by her son Rajeev, who works in Bahrain.

Riya P Kottam, a law student, is not so optimistic. “We are blacked out,” she said.

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