Located near the SIDCO Industrial Estate 134 labour tenements cry for attention

For an 800-plus population of working class families, it is virtually an existence in the twilight zone. Located close to the highway and the integrated bus stand and surrounded by one of the oldest industrial estates of Small Industries Development Corporation (SIDCO) of Tamil Nadu, a government industrial training institute, a higher secondary school and the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madurai-Ramanathapuram, 134 labour tenements at K. Pudur cry for attention. This colony of workers, developed in two phases since the 1960s, now houses the families of labourers who have retired on superannuation from the nearby SIDCO Industrial Estate. It is located adjacent to the estate, which has 74 sheds on an area of 56.05 acres.

The tenements are divided into two – Industrial Estate Old Colony and New Colony. While the old ones are single room houses with appendages added later, the new colony has houses in two storeys. Most of the families have been residents here for over four decades. The civic amenities also are four decades old. The houses have been constructed in rows along narrow lanes. All the lanes are flanked on both sides by storm water drains, which now serve as sewage lines. The open space on the northern side of the colony is a fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes whenever it rains. There is a long road running from the Bishop’s House to the Industrial Estate, which serves as the only link to K. Pudur, Mattuthavani and K. K. Nagar. But this stretch is full of giant holes and it was last re-laid ages ago. The inner roads have withered away and they are now mud stretches. Drinking water supply is through the Madurai Corporation’s tankers twice a week. There are also two taps provided in two corners. For other purposes, the residents have to depend on the water supplied from the Industrial Estate. “But even this has become scarce, thanks to over 16-hour power cut,” says A. Paramasamy, president of Madurai Industrial Estate Residents’ Welfare Association, who has been residing at the labour tenements from 1969. The power cut has forced the SIDCO to provide water once in 10 days.

There are 19 lamp posts in the colony but all of them are mere posts without lamps. “It is very difficult for the residents to move around in the night as the houses also do not have lights due to frequent power cut,” says R. Subramanian, secretary of the association. The government, with the objective of encouraging industrialisation, constructed the estate and the tenements in the 1960s. Initially, the occupants of the tenements were required to pay a monthly rent of Rs 150. “Over the years, we got five government orders for the transfer of the tenements to the occupants on a one-time payment,” says Mr. Paramasamy. Till then, the SIDCO was maintaining the colony. After the transfer, there has been no improvement in basic amenities, though each house pays a maintenance charge of Rs 150 per annum and Rs 32 per month for water supply.

The Industrial Estate Colony forms part of Ward 45 of Madurai Corporation. Naturally, the residents expect the civic amenities to be on par with other areas of the city. The peculiar problem here is that the colony, though a part of the Madurai Corporation, is technically under the control of the SIDCO and is deemed a part of the Industrial Estate. The SIDCO is willing to hand over the tenements to the civic body as it is not in a position to improve the amenities provided and it has written a letter to the Madurai Corporation in this regard. Among the 134 houses, owners of 87 houses have registered title deeds in their names, according to Mr. Paramasamy. The association has made representations for improved facilities to the civic body, officials, including the Collector, and people’s representatives. Residents held a demonstration in front of the SIDCO’s office at the Industrial Estate on November 5 to highlight their plight. But garbage continues to get piled up and open drains flow on to the road.

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