Karthik Madhavan

Concrete chips and portions of plastered walls fall almost every night in the 1,248-house-strong colony

PALLIPALAYAM: Every morning residents of Annai Sathya Nagar in Pallipalayam greet each other in a rather peculiar way. “Did it rain last night,” is how it goes.

The Tamil Nadu Housing Board colony is definitely not a Cherrapunji and the rain refers to concrete chips and portions of plastered walls. For, almost every night in the colony it ‘rains’. It has been so for the last six or seven years for the 1,248-house-strong colony residents. “Not a single day goes without something or the other falling in the colony,” says the president of the residents’ welfare association, T. Madhu.

On Monday it rained again. Roof over the flight of stairs on the second floor of the apartment block with house nos. 109 to 120 caved in in the small hours of Monday morning. T. Dhanapackiyam, who lives on the first floor says, “I woke up to a loud ‘thud’ sometime between three and four this morning; it was as if the apartment had been bombed.”

The sound, however, did not surprise her, for she knew what had caused it. As the day began, she and a few others removed the debris and it was life as usual for the residents.

For M. Santhanam, Ms. Dhanapackiyam’s neighbour in the apartment block opposite, the morning’s development means nothing. It is because his is worse. Only he and another elderly person live in the opposite houses on the ground floor of the apartment, the first and second floor houses of which are vacant for the last six years. The occupants left in fear, he says.

In Mr. Santhanam’s apartment, the first few steps on stairs that take one to the first and second floors are completely absent. On the first and second floors, conditions of houses tell it all. Walls have developed cracks and in a couple of instances the gap between cracked walls is at least five inches wide.

House No. 382 is perhaps best example of the ‘raining’ in the Nagar. The concrete roof has completely caved in and rusted iron rods such as the tentacles of an octopus reach out to one’s head and eyes.

Mr. Madhu says more than 400 such houses are unoccupied in the Nagar, which were constructed in 1984. The residents had paid Rs. 45, Rs. 40 and Rs. 35 as rent for occupation of houses on ground, first and second floors respectively. They had also paid an additional Rs. 10 as maintenance charge.

Mr. Madhu wonders of what use was the maintenance charge. He has petitioned various Government officials and politicians to no avail.

In response to one of his letters, a senior official of TNHB, Salem Division, has said in writing that the responsibility of maintenance of the flats rests with the occupants and that for any untoward incident, neither the Board nor its officials will be responsible. Efforts to reach the officers proved futile.