“I’ll sell my house if I get a decent price,” says an Anaiyur housing board resident, fed up with civic maladies

It was touted as a model neighbourhood housing scheme for the State at the time of conception in 1979 by the Tamil Nadu Housing Board (TNHB). People, who wanted to escape from the heat and dust of the city, grabbed the opportunity and invested their life’s savings in houses here.

Most of them were in government service when the houses were handed over to them from 1986. In their retired life now, residents of Tamil Nadu Housing Board Colony’s Madurai North Neighbourhood Development Scheme at Anaiyur have mixed feelings about their decision to invest in a place far removed from the city.

S. Rajkumar Rao, retired engineer of All India Radio, says, “I shall sell my house if I get a decent price. I do not want to stay here anymore.” This is the sentiment shared by many. The Anaiyur scheme, later named after Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, has been divided into six sectors and only the first two, the earliest, suffer from lack of proper amenities. On offer from 1986 in these two sectors were 97 high-income group houses, 157 middle-income group houses, 47 low-income group houses and 1,640 houses, referred to as circular houses, for people from economically weaker sections (EWS).

The colony itself presents a mixed appearance. Well-maintained high and middle income group houses along two avenues, interspersed with vacant plots and damaged houses. Vacant plots are spaces where houses once existed. The good looking houses are occupied by owners while the damaged or disappeared ones belong to absentee owners or remain unsold. The two avenues, one of them — the BSNL Road — in a damaged condition, are the latest additions.

The list of deficiencies is long. Says N. Sulaiman, the first occupant of the colony and the current president of TNHB Colony House Owners’ Welfare Association, Sector I and II, Anaiyur: “This colony has been raised without proper drainage facility. While the other sectors have underground drainage, our houses have leach pits into which waste water is let in. Percolation of used water has polluted the ground water table to a considerable extent.”

Yellowish water

It is not only the ground water that is contaminated. Even the piped drinking water is yellowish, says Mr. Rajkumar. “Sewage from the storm water drain gets into drinking water pipeline from the damaged houses. So we allow the water to drain for about 10 minutes before collecting it for drinking. This water is purified in a reverse osmosis plant in every house before consumption. Otherwise, we have to depend on packaged water.”

The contamination is worse in the circular houses. Each unit of the round houses has 24 dwellings. At the centre of the circle is a pit used as a common septic tank and also to collect waste water. The idea behind constructing circular houses was to have individual gobar gas plants at the centre. But the gobar gas plants are non-starters and the stinking pits remain. The family members of N. Susheela, who reside in a circular house, close the only window with cloth and paper waste to prevent the foul smell from getting in. “But we are used to the stench by now,” says Ms. Susheela. A section of the housing area earmarked for EWS beneficiaries now functions as a camp for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees. Falling plaster from these houses threaten the residents. “We have managed to re-plaster the ceiling,” says R. Mangayarkarasi, a refugee. Four damaged houses serve as a makeshift dispensary for them.

Air, noise pollution

Air and noise pollution caused by goods vehicles is unbearable for the residents. The proximity of the Koodal Nagar railway station and Madurai goods shed has not done any good to the colony. The road from Fatima College to the goods shed has been closed and hence goods-laden vehicles use the BSNL Road to reach their destination, points out S. Natarajan, former president of the association. “We even went to court against the movement of goods vehicles in a residential area. They are using our road, for which we have paid money to the TNHB, for commercial purpose. But we could not make the vehicles use a different route,” says Mr. Natarajan. About 200 lorries use the road, on which there is only one speed breaker near the BSNL office, daily.

Besides the dust and unbearable noise, the speeding vehicles are also responsible for frequent accidents, says S. Janakiraman, a retired PWD engineer. The BSNL road, which has developed potholes, is in contrast to the parallel road that leads to Koodal Pudur.

Residents fear more for their safety. “It is not possible to leave a house locked for more than four days. On the fifth day, you will find a window or a gate removed,” says K. Pitchai, a retired head constable. The Koodal Pudur police station is located near the goods shed. But the police strength is inadequate to man the six sectors, including the refugee camp.

The TNHB office at Anaiyur has been shifted to Ellis Nagar which has rendered the residents helpless. When asked about the absence of amenities in Sector I and II, an official of the TNHB, who did not want to be named, said that the colony, which fell under Anaiyur municipality, had been annexed with Madurai Corporation and it was the civic body that should address these issues.

The ward councillor, R. Saravanan, claimed that the situation had changed for the good now as far as fund allocation was concerned, and at the moment tenders for various works, including laying of new roads worth Rs 1.5 crore had been floated for all sectors. But new roads could not be laid in Sector I and II in the absence of underground drainage. Even if roads were laid now, they would be damaged when underground drainage work was taken up. He promised to take up road work after getting an underground drainage system in place.

Till such time underground drainage is extended, residents of Sector I and II have to live with poor roads and yellowish water. At present, a surplus water carrier running along Sector I is also used to drain used water and dump garbage. It has emerged as a fertile breeding farm for mosquitoes. Every house uses all devices to ward off mosquitoes. Owners also spend money on periodic cleaning of the leach pits. The good news for them is that the land value in the area has risen manifold.

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