Since the 1970s, the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) has been constructing houses for deprived urban communities. However, residents in many of them do not have adequate civic infrastructure facilities till date.
The TNSCB has constructed over 2.65 lakh tenements/houses and provided developed plots to 1.31 lakh families in 504 settlements across the State since the 1970s. In Chennai alone, over 1.6 lakh tenements/houses have been constructed. To make the cities in the State slum-free by 2023, the government identified the need to provide houses to 13.91 lakh families. But residents of many existing tenements complain that the Board has turned a deaf ear to their long-pending complaints.
There are a total of 960 families living in HUL Nagar near Tondiarpet since 2007. Residents say they have been facing a problem with water supply for decades. “We get water supply once in three days through lorries. The water that is sometimes supplied through pipes is mixed with sewage,” said V. Parvathi of the Puratchi Pengal Narpani Sangam formed by women in the tenements.
Due to the fight put up by women, the sale of ganja and other intoxicants inside the tenements has stopped. “But youngsters purchase it from outside and use it. This is creating an unsafe atmosphere inside,” she said.
Residents said that TNSCB had not bothered about installing CCTV cameras. “We met some local politicians and took their help in fixing 36 cameras. The TNSCB officials claim that we have to take care of the basic facilities,” added M. Murugan, a resident.
Ms. Parvathy added that a community hall has been occupied by the TNSCB office. “Residents are not able to use it. Hence, we are forced to shell out huge sums on halls outside to hold functions,” said Murugan, another resident.
Residents of the TNSCB tenements in Seeniamman Koil Street and nearby Tilakar Nagar said that they had been facing sewage overflow issues for the past many months. “There are over 1,200 families in the both the localities put together. Though we pay monthly maintenance charges, the locality is not taken care of properly. There is acute water shortage in the locality,” said R. Boopalan, joint secretary of the association.
Many tenements complain that neither the Greater Chennai Corporation nor the TNSCB has taken any steps to ensure a healthy neighbourhood. “Due to the constant sewage problem, many in our locality have been admitted to hospitals with fever,” said a resident of the AIR Site tenements.
In the Semmenchery TNSCB tenements, which have over 6,754 families, transport, water and access to healthcare is a major problem. “Bus frequency is very poor and we have been demanding more ‘ladies special’ buses to the city. Apart from this, we do not have overhead tanks for water supply. The piped water supply is very erratic,” said K. Kanchana of the Young Urban Women Association.
There is also a plethora of social issues. “Residents in most sites have been complaining of poor access to anganwadi schools and healthcare facilities,” said an activist working closely with the families living in settlements.