Elderly evictee dies in Ejipura
An evictee of the EWS quarters at Ejipura, who was forced to live on the streets following the demolition of her home, died on Monday of suspected renal failure.
Neelamma, 60, had reportedly developed a urinary tract infection a week ago. Police said she had been experiencing repeated respiratory and gastrointestinal infections ever since her eviction. She is survived by two sons – Kumar R and Ramesh R.
According to Kumar, Neelamma had been healthy before her eviction. “We had been staying at the EWS quarters for more than a decade and not one day was she sick,” he said “Ten days ago, however, she became bedridden and found it difficult to walk as she had suffered a stroke.”
Kumar added the she had visited doctors and was on medication. “But on Monday at around 10 am, she passed away suddenly,” he said. “It is because of the eviction that she developed the infection and health complications.”
Dr Sylvia Karpagam, a public health doctor and the co-convenor of Jana Arogya Andolana Karnataka, maintains that still there are around 100 evictees living on the footpath in small tents erected near an open drain.
Karpagam, who issued Neelamma’s death certificate, said: “Ever since the eviction, there has been a rise in malnourishment among children and women. Urinary infections have increased due to the unhygienic conditions they are forced to live in.”
Evicted EWS residents maintain that Neelamma was the second elderly woman to die in recent weeks. Another evictee, Maqbool Bi, 70, allegedly died on June 28, after developing breathing problems and severe cold. One of the evictees, Shantha D, blamed on the problem on the site of their tent camp. “Since the tents are near an open drain, we have been facing the menace of mosquitoes. Adding to the problem is a large vacant plot where BBMP lorries unload garbage. It is due to all these problems, many people are falling sick. Every day, we are struggling here.”
BBMP health officials have expressed ignorance about the two deaths. When the Palike’s Chief Health Officer Dr S B Nagaraj was contacted by Deccan Herald, he said, “The Palike’s engineers concerned should be shifting the evicted residents to other places. We had earlier carried out spraying activities at their camp site and fogging will be done depending upon the situation. I will direct my officials to immediately visit the place to take necessary action.”
Karpagam, however, castigated the officials of the Health and Family Welfare Department and the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, who she claimed had never visited the camp site.
Fatalities are a common occurrence for the evicted living out in the open in the harsh monsoon
If the summer was harsh, the monsoon has been merciless towards the residents of Ejipura housing colony for economically weaker sections, who were forcibly evicted in January this year to make way for a mall and a residential complex. Two elderly women died on consecutive days this week and one toddler died of the cold a month ago.
Neelamma (60), who was running high temperature for over a week, died on Monday evening in her plastic tent that overlooks the site where the construction of the mall is apace. “The tent got flooded every time it rained. We could take it because we were younger, but Amma was too old,” said Neelamma’s son Kumar (38). Neelamma, Kumar and brother Ramesh (42) shared the tiny tent, which is no larger than an average work cubicle. There are at least two dozen similar tents on the footpath opposite the construction site.
A day earlier, on Sunday morning, the Viveknagar police found the body of 70-year-old Maqbool Jehan on the pavement outside the police station. She too was one of the women who had been displaced by the demolition in January. A police official said Jehan died due to cold and hunger.
“Her mentally challenged daughter Salma (25) has been missing since her death,” said Siddharth, a researcher at IIMB who has been helping the displaced people in his individual capacity.
Riju, whose grocery store overlooks the pavement where Ms. Jehan was found dead, told The Hindu, “The night before she was found, it rained heavily.” Shanta Mary (35), another displaced person, said Ms. Jehan was too old to work.
“She relied on alms to feed her daughter and herself,” she said. While other evicted people at least had enough money to set up tents, Ms. Jehan was left with no option but to sleep in the open. “She feared for the safety of her daughter. That is why she used to sleep in front of the police station,” said Ms. Mary.
A few weeks before these deaths, at 4 a.m. on July 11, there was a birth on the same footpath. Nusrath gave birth to a girl out in the open. Her husband, who had been arrested by the local police on robbery charges, was not present. Hearing her cries, the neighbours rang for a government ambulance. “The ambulance driver cut the umbilical cord,” Nusrath told this reporter.
The ambulance then took her to the Primary Health Centre run by the BBMP in Austin town. Here, the mother was in for another shock.
“The nurse demanded a bribe of Rs. 600 to attend to me and give the birth certificate. I had only Rs. 300. She did not care for the Below Poverty Line card [which entitles her to free healthcare]. “The ambulance driver gave me the rest of the money from his own pocket,” she says.
On June 25, Clara, who lives three tents away from Neelamma’s, lost her 18-month-old daughter to the rain and cold. “I didn’t have enough money to treat my baby Adrena,” Ms. Clara said.