The Soundarapandiyanar Angadi police station in Pondy Bazaar is perhaps the only sober-looking building in the stretch. Though the buzz of the commercial hub drowned every other possible sound, the station was a picture of calm on Tuesday.
Barring a few constables in uniform and a few other men in civilian clothes who exchanged casual salutes with the cops, there was hardly anyone. On seeing an unfamiliar visitor, a constable smiles pleasantly and asks, “Yes, madam?” The station has been receiving quite a few first-time visitors in the past 10 days, ever since the city police began its tenants' enumeration drive.
A brand new, hardbound register sitting on the table draws attention instantly. The label reads ‘Details of tenants and landlords' in Tamil. From March 3, when the police began the drive, till around 1 p.m. on March 13, as many as 24 landlords from the neighbourhood had provided details of their tenants by filling out a form and attaching other relevant documents such as copies of ration cards.
The register lists landlords' details in one column, with their name, address and phone number, and those of tenants in a column parallel to that.
The drive seems to have evoked mixed response from landlords and tenants. T.K. Parthasarathy, who has rented out his apartment on Habibullah Road to three IT professionals, says there is nothing wrong in providing details to the police. “This is to facilitate creation of a record of tenants in the city. I don't know why some people see the move as being discriminatory,” he says.
Emphasising that he has three tenants, all bachelors, he said some of them at the station said they would prefer details of each of them furnished separately, but the inspector told him that details of even one of the tenants would do. “Finally, I gave details of all three as there should be no problem if one of them is travelling or leaves.”
His tenant Ashutosh Kumar, who has come to the city from Bihar to work in a private firm, says “there is no problem with submission of details per se.” But he feels the initiative also reflects the larger issue of looking at anyone from outside the State through a lens of suspicion, or subjecting “outsiders” to surveillance.
“Otherwise, Chennai is one of the safest metros and I have never sensed any hostility here. People here are rather warm and friendly.” Observing that he fails to understand how the exercise can be a preventive measure, he says, “Why only tenants? Is no one else capable of committing a crime? But if this exercise, in some way, makes the city even safer, it's okay.”
Some landlords are finding it awkward to ask their long-time tenants for details. D. Rajasekaran, a senior citizen residing in Anna Nagar, says: “I have let out my house for the last 20 years and it is embarrassing to ask them to fill forms now.
The local constable gave him the form, but when Mr. Rajasekaran expressed his unwillingness to submit the filled form, he was asked to collect the details and keep it for his reference.
Some tenants also wonder if the details gathered will be kept confidential. “I am not comfortable giving my photograph. Contact number is fine, but will the information shared be kept confidential and how?” asked a software professional who shares an apartment with a few others in Velachery. “More clarity should be provided on how the information will be stored,” she adds.
Keywords: tenants' enumeration drive