Ankitha, a Gujarati working in a PR firm in Bengaluru is staying in a Paying Guest (PG) accommodation in Marathahalli. Once the lockdown was announced, most people left for their hometowns. But a few like Ankitha stayed back as they were either held up with work or by the time they decided to leave, it was too late!
PGs and co-living accommodations in Bengaluru must maintain highest level of hygiene, overcrowding of rooms and common areas is strictly prohibited and they cannot forcefully evict occupants citing pandemic as a reason.
Even though the guidelines clearly mention ‘no forceful eviction’, many PG owners are requesting their occupants to consolidate into one facility. The owner wanted to club all the occupants together so that management of the facility became easier. But in such a case, the number of occupants would increase. “Currently the kitchen is being shared by 5-6 people, but the landlord was proposing to double the number of occupants and the kitchen would be shared by upto 10 people,” says Ankitha.
What do the PG owners say?
The owner of Bhawana PG, who runs 17 PGs in Bengaluru, says income tax records of the previous financial year show that there were 18,000 PGs in the city in 2019-20. Almost 70% of the occupants have left the PG accommodations in her own facilities. Of the 30% who have opted to stay back, have clubbed all the PG occupants into a couple of buildings, but with the permission of the occupants.
“PG owners are forced to take such decisions as we have to cut costs, on building rent, electricity and water bills. Also, since the maids are unable to come to all PGs due to the lockdown, we can run only those with resident maids to service the consumers. Nobody from outside is allowed to come in.” For Rajesh Kumar, who runs 7 PGs in Bommanahalli, the doubling of prices of vegetables and groceries makes it very difficult to run multiple PGs.
When the occupants of Ankitha’s PG opposed the shifting on grounds of overcrowding, the owner threatened to cut power and water supply. While that has been declared illegal by the central and state governments, PG owners are now demanding some relief from the government. They are asking for concessions in electricity and water bills.
What does the government say?
Dr Ravi Kumar Surpur, BBMP Special Commissioner (Projects & Health), said it was absolutely ridiculous to ask the occupants to move out or shift. The Commissioner said nobody had the right to forcefully evict someone; be it a PG occupant, migrant labourer or a medical professional. He further added that if somebody was facing a similar situation they must approach the nearest police station. Dr Ravi Kumar said that action would be taken against such PG owners under IPC Section 188, which prosecutes people for failing to obey an order promulgated by a public authority.
Co-living spaces see the positive side of lockdown
In co-living spaces in the city, only 30% of tenants have moved to their hometowns. Currently Colive is still operating 12,000 beds across over 100 properties in Bengaluru. The problems here are different.
“With so many residents to cater to in multiple facilities, the challenge is in availability of housekeeping staff, providing uninterrupted food service and ensuring an additional internet bandwidth to people who are Working From Home (WFH),” says Suresh Rangarajan, founder and CEO of Colive.