Moving out is not an option for many residents of Kannagi Nagar Slum Board Tenements in Thoraipakkam. Yet, a concrete roof over their head is of little use. “We have no peace of mind here. People keep squabbling and every evening there is a big crowd in front of the police station. But we have nowhere else to go,” says V. Kausalya, a resident of the area for eight years.
Like her, peanut vendor R.N. Alaguraj too wants to return to the city. “My daughter studies in Adyar and she is unable to commute to school as the buses are overcrowded most of the time. She is in class XII and needs to concentrate on her studies. We do not have the money to shift,” he says.
Over 15,500 tenements in Kannagi Nagar were constructed by the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board about ten years ago. But concerns such as bad roads, poor healthcare facilities, irregular water supply, overflowing sewage and erratic power supply remain unaddressed.
For K. Kokila, who is pregnant, not having a maternity clinic in the vicinity is a problem. Residents say that the local medical centre is open only for a few hours daily. E. Muniamma says: “There are no government hospitals… pregnant women, the elderly and children who need urgent medical help have to go all the way to Royapettah.”
However, a TNSCB official says that a maternity clinic is located inside the St. Isabel Medical Centre, which does not charge any fee for treatment. “Another maternity clinic is only five km away at Semmancheri.” He says a government hospital will come up in a year or two in Kannagi Nagar.
Erratic power supply is another concern. Though meters have been installed in most houses electricity connection has not been given. “Local rowdies steal electricity and charge residents illegally. The streetlights also do not function most of the time,” says a resident.
TANGEDCO sources say service connections had been given to over 14,000 houses and the remaining would get it soon. The TNSCB had paid for 10,400 connections a few months ago.
Pointing to stagnant sewage, K. Sambandam, a tailor, says that residents had complained to the TNSCB office but no action is taken. “By evening, mosquitoes invade the place,” he says.
Autorickshaw driver M. Bhaskar points to the collection of water pots near a bore pump and says: “There is no water today as supply is limited to alternate days.”
Though life has improved marginally for women like Queeny, many remain unemployed as they are unable to travel the distance to their previous workplaces in the city.
K. Saravanan of People's Union for Civil Liberties questioned the rationale behind relocating poor people and “dumping them in a far away place” without proper infrastructure and facilities. He says that suddenly cutting off their livelihoods led to family problems and an increase in suicide rates.
Residents say that ever since a police station was established here there are fewer incidents of crimes and people feel safer.
Police say that over 50 per cent of the cases they receive are family quarrels and their numbers increase during weekends.