About 170 houses and huts demolished in day-long operation

The Highways Department on Saturday moved in to take possession of the lands acquired for construction of the road overbridge (RoB) at Odathurai along the right bank of the Cauvery in the city.

In a major eviction drive carried out amidst tight police security, earthmovers and large number of Highways Department employees were deployed to demolish about 170 tiled houses and huts in the locality. Compensation has already been paid with respect to about 90 houses on patta lands. In a few cases involving ownership disputes the money has been deposited with the court for the rightful owners to claim. This apart, there were houses on encroached lands, which were also dismantled during the day long operation. Those in the patta lands and the encroachers have been offered houses at Tamil Nadu Housing Board tenements at Nagamangalam and Ariyamangalam in the city.

The action also ended the hopes of displaced families of getting alternative sites within the city. The affected families have long been campaigning to get alternative sites near Chinthamani. They had been contending that the houses offered in the outskirts of the city were too far away and moving there would affect their livelihoods and education of children.

However, with the authorities rejecting their demand, most of the families had been on the look out for rented houses in the neighbourhood and some had managed to get them. Though there were no major problems during Saturday’s operation, some families sought more time to move out of the place. They were pacified by police, Revenue and Highways officials.

Construction of the road overbridge across the railway level crossing near the Oyamari burial ground had been stalled for over a year pending the acquisition of about 5,600 square metres of patta lands on the city side. The highways department had completed 90 per cent of the work on the other side, towards the Chennai Bypass Road, leaving the bridge incomplete.

The bridge was sanctioned at a cost of Rs.28.50 crore to connect the Chinthamani area of the city with Chennai Bypass Road. Construction of the bridge would resume after shifting of utilities such as drinking water and underground drains would begin. The Highways Department is expected to complete the remaining portion of the unfinished bridge within eight to 10 months.

Only after this bridge is thrown open for traffic, the Highways Department would be able to begin construction of a new bridge across the Railway line at Periyar Nagar on the Thiruvanaikovil Trunk Road already sanctioned by the government.