Residents of Mylai Balaji Nagar in Pallikaranai say they have adequate reasons for feeling marginalised and ignored by the government — roads are bad, sanitation facilities are extremely poor and water supply has never been enough to meet their needs. What is worse, such conditions have been prevailing for nearly 15 long years.
Patchayapathy is among several hundred women who moved into Mylai Balaji Nagar along Velachery Main Road opposite Pallikaranai Marshland around that time. Hers was among the families that once lived along the Buckingham Canal and were evicted in 1996 to make way for the Mass Rapid Transit Project (MRTS).
These days, Patchayapathy and other women in the community can be seen standing in concrete pits through which the underground drinking water pipelines travel from one area to another. Whenever there is a leakage, women take turns in collecting the water from the pit, filter it and take them home in plastic pots.
A tanker does visit the area but only once a week. On such days, huge bright blue plastic drums dot the entire area. “This is all we get for an entire week. The drums cannot hold more than 220 litres of water. This is equal to about 10-12 big plastic pots,” explains Sahaya Mary, wondering “how can an entire family survive on just this meagre quantity of water?” The water is also impure and gives off a pungent smell, she said.
Drinking water is also supplied through street taps but only once a month and when it does arrive, the women manage to store enough for a week or 10 days. There are about 3,000 families in Mylai Balaji Nagar. The beneficiary families were each given plots measuring about 1,000 square feet of land. When the families came here from Mylapore, they spent what little they had on building houses.
Sanitation is another important issue here. There are a few public toilets in the far corner of the area, but they have been unused for a long while due to want of water. Now, steps are being taken to spruce them up and make them operational again.
The women said they had resorted to spontaneous protests, including assembling on the arterial Velachery Main Road to express their anger but to no avail. They expressed resentment over the fact that while areas in the vicinity had well-maintained roads, their's was neglected.