Officials of HR&CE dept. and civic bodies claim it is difficult to get police to accompany them on drives to remove illegal structures

Residents of 30 huts who have encroached upon land belonging to the Sri Kari Varadharaja Perumal temple, in Mel Ayanambakkam near Thiruverkadu, continue to use the land despite a recent effort by government officials to remove them.

Sources said that even though a team of officials from the Hindu religious and charitable endowments (HR&CE) department as well as temple employees had gone to evict the residents and remove the huts, they could not complete their job as they did not have police back-up.

“We had written to the local police asking for protection, but on the day we were going to the site, the police said they had some other work and did not accompany us,” said an official who had visited the 2.5-acre site.

A source at the HR&CE department said this was not the first time the police had not come to their aid. Two weeks ago, illegal structures that had come up on land belonging to the Somanathanswamy temple in Kolathur, were to have been demolished. But again, the police did not accompany the officials and the structures remain.

“In most cases, the police do not cooperate with us. It is very difficult to get help from them for encroachment removal drives, especially in the city. They cite various reasons including bandobust duty for VIPs,” said an official.

It’s not just the HR&CE department that has complaints – other department officials too, had stories about the police either being unavailable or being silent spectators during the entire process.

A source at the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) said they were still waiting for police protection for an eviction drive in north Chennai.

“The police seem to be in cohorts with a few locals in the neighbourhood and are not even allowing us to enter the area,” he alleged.

“Over 200 residents have already vacated TNSCB land, but we are unable to demolish the illegal structures they have put up. The process has been considerably delayed now,” he added.

A Chennai Corporation source said that even if the situation turned violent, the police would not step in to help them. The Corporation removes encroachments along roads in the city.

“They know all the local shopkeepers and so when we initiate action, they just remain mute spectators. Once I was gheraoed by a group of locals, but even then the police did nothing,” said the source.

City police sources however said the department received many requests from several civic bodies including Chennai Metrowater, Chennai Corporation, TNSCB and Tamil Nadu Housing Board.

“We have to plan our duties ahead and only then can we accompany officials. We do not know what kind of problems we might face at these sites — there could be communal tensions and this could lead to major law and order problems. We normally take some time to study the situation in a particular area. Our resources are also limited,” the official said.

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