For about 75 to 100 low-income group families at Odathurai in Keezha Devadhanam, who would be displaced on account of the land acquisition for the road overbridge, the past couple of years have been an excruciating period of uncertainty and angst.
The families, most of them daily wage labourers in the unorganised sector, have for the past few years been hoping fervently that they would be given alternative lands in lieu of the their houses on the banks of the Cauvery river. The families say that they have been living at the colony, despite the rather poor civic amenities, for two or three generations. Most of them claim to have pattas for their lands. Some say that they have been issued pattas by the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board.
For most of the families it is a question of their livelihood and education of their children, who study in schools in and around the Chathram bus stand.
Over the past couple of years, ever since the talk of land acquisition surfaced, these families have been representing to the official machinery seeking alternative house sites. The district administration had offered to provide them houses at tenements at Nagamangalam on the outskirts of the city.
But the families reject the offer saying that all these years they have been living in the heart of the city and their livelihood would be affected as the houses offered were about 15 to 20 km away.
“We have been living here for 50 to 70 years. Most of the men and women folk work in the city and their children are all studying here. How can we go there?” wonders Kalyani, a widow who ekes out a living running a petty shop close to the railway crossing. “I know no other work. I do not know what I will do if pushed out of here,” she ruminates.
The families say that they have grown tired of making representations.
“We have even sent representation to the Chief Minister's Special Cell and got replies referring the matter to the district authorities. But we have got no response from the district officials on our plea for alternative lands within the city,” says Vadivelu, who sells seasonal fruits on a handcart.
The silence from the official machinery in recent months has also been worrying them. “Officials come off and on to make measurements.
But there is no response to our pleas,” he says.
With most of the houses being small in size, many of them 10x15 square feet shacks, the families fear that the compensation that they would get may not be much. “Only if alternative lands are given in the city, we can manage,” says Vadivelu suggesting the allotment of house sites to the affected families in a piece of land near the Ayyalamman Padithurai which he claims belongs to the corporation.