Refuse relief materials, demand commitment in writing from minister for concrete houses

Victims of a fire accident that gutted about 30 huts in Mulligramapattu Colony on Friday night turned their ire and frustration on State Environment Minister M.C. Sampath who visited them on Saturday.

Refusing to accept the routine relief materials such as cash, rice and kerosene from the Minister, they wanted him to give a commitment in writing from the minister that they would be provided concrete houses on the lines of Green Houses in writing.

On Friday night, an accidental fire that occurred in one of the tenements, fanned by strong gust of wind engulfed most other dwelling units. Half-a-dozen fire tenders from places such as Cuddalore, SIPCOT Industrial Estate, Kurinjipadi, Nellikuppam, Villupuram and Muthandikuppam rushed to the Colony and the personnel battled for over an hour to put out the flames.

But by then 29 huts were fully gutted and one unit was partially damaged. Though none of the residents sustained any injuries, they lost all their belongings. A goat kept in the colony perished.

The fire was due to electrical short circuit or an unprotected earthen lamp, said fire officials. The tenements were tapping electricity illegally by hooking on to the overhead live wires.

District Collector R. Kirlosh Kumar, accompanied by District Revenue Officer T. Rajendran, Sub-Collector Lalitha and Nellikuppam Municipal Commissioner B.V. Surendra Sha arranged for temporary accommodation in the municipal school for the victims and supplied food packets immediately.

On Saturday Mr. Sampath, with a retinue of officials, visited the spot to distribute the relief materials, including Rs. 5,000 in cash, 25 kg rice bags and dhotis and saris.

But none of the residents came forward to accept the materials, and moreover, they stated that with the kind of money offered to them, they could not even buy thatches for the roof.

When the roof of their huts were blown off by cyclone ‘Thane’, they accepted whatever assistance that came their way. But now, they categorically told the Minister that they would not accept any thing less than construction of concrete houses such as Green Houses for them.

The Minister tried to reason out stating that the Green House scheme was meant for rural areas and not for urban areas as Mulligramapattu. However, he promised to consider their demands.

Unconvinced by his words, the residents insisted that the Minister put it in writing for them to trust him. To wriggle out of the embarrassing situation, the Minister took the help of officials to hand over the relief materials to the victims.

After great deal of vacillation and persuasion, one of the residents came forward to receive the rice bag from the Minister.

Soon after the Minister left, the residents reprimanded and manhandled the fellow resident who received the rice bag.

The residents were filled with rage on seeing the substandard quality of rice handed over by the Minister. Some of them scooped it up and threw it all over the place in utter disgust. They claimed that the rice would not be fit for consumption even by cattle. Police had to intervene to bring order.

Municipal officials, later, claimed that the beneficiaries received the relief materials at the municipal office a while later.

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