Urging the government to recognise undeclared slums and provide basic amenities to those that are already registered, the Right to City movement held a protest outside the Memorial Hall on Saturday.

The gathering saw a coalition of slum dwellers, students, slum-based organisations, researchers and activists from the city.

N. Subramaniam, a resident of Gandhi Nagar in Sholinganallur, said that despite holding a ration card and voters’ identity card. he lives in a hut, deprived of bare minimum necessities.

“We walk nearly a kilometre every day to fetch well water or tap water. Water tankers refuse to enter since no roads have been laid. Though we have made representations on many occasions, nothing has changed,” he said.

The other demands of the movement include preventing large-scale relocation of people to the outskirts, access to everyday services, recognition of all slums under Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Act, 1971 and rehabilitation of the urban poor within the city.

Perpetuation of poverty

In the west, clustering the poor in large-scale colonies has led to the perpetuation of poverty, said Nithya V. Raman, project director of Transparent Chennai.

“Any policy on ghettos has miserably failed in the west. Instead of learning from their mistakes, we are replicating them. The way to move forward is to rehabilitate the people in smaller colonies and in mixed income colonies which will offer them more opportunities,” she said.

Although the norm for a public toilet is one per 30 persons, a study by the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board shows that in the unrecognised slums, the ratio is one per 1067 persons, she added.

“Funds allocated under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and the Rajiv Awas Yojana are being used by the State government to rehabilitate people to the outskirts. This should not be the case. The urban poor need a replacement within the city limits itself,” said Priti Narayan of Right to City movement.

The movement plans to rope in the student community to collect data about the access to basic amenities in the slums and present the data at a conference to be held in October.

Students from D.G. Vaishnav College and Madras School of Social Work also participated in the protest. This followed campaigns organised by the Right to City movement in these colleges.

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