At Ritchie Street, eviction stares residents in the face

Residents fear they will be evicted if they do not repay their loan amount soon - Photo: R. Ravindran  

What started as a move to provide better living conditions for pavement dwellers 15 years ago has now turned out to be a burden for the beneficiaries. With a loan amount of over Rs. 70 lakh, residents of Ritchie Street, organised under the banner of the Ritchie Street Home for Homeless Cooperative Housing Society, now foresee eviction.

“If we can’t pay the sum, we will have to leave. That’s what we have been told,” said Arul Raj, a resident.

In the late 1980s, after the slum dwellers had been uprooted from Ritchie Street, Chintadripet, some years ago, the civic body and the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board approached the Community Development Information and Action Centre (CODIAC), a city-based NGO to build houses for the displaced people in the same area. In 2001, 96 families were given one-room flats with a kitchen alcove measuring 137 sq. ft. each on the 7,844 sq. ft. plot of land. Of the total amount needed, Rs. 62.5 lakhs was provided by EZE, a German missionary organisation, while CODIAC paid Rs. 7 lakh. The beneficiaries were to contribute Rs. 7.8 lakh i.e., Rs 8,000 per beneficiary and Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) offered a loan of Rs. 24 lakhs on a condition that the beneficiaries would repay via the NGO.

However, sometime later, the NGO conveyed its helplessness and transferred the fund recovery process to HUDCO.

The Corporation later filed a case against the families and the NGO which is currently pending in the Debt Recovery Tribunal.

“Whenever some of us, who could afford it, would offer to pay, the HUDCO officials would plainly refuse and demand joint payment or threaten us with consequences,” said D. Vannamayil, another resident.

The residents have now been asked to pay a sum of Rs. 44,31,000 (the amount includes the 6 per cent interest on the principal from the date of original application till the date of realisation) along with legal costs from the beneficiaries.

The total sum, according to an advocate representing the people, is over Rs. 70 lakh. A study conducted by Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC) found that most of the families comprise daily wage labourers who earn between Rs. 3,000 and Rs. 6,000 a month on an average.

“Most of us are already in debt,” said 72-year-old Rani. “We also have to pay money lenders who charge us huge interest rates. We are already struggling to make a living,” she said.

“What is needed is State intervention to help achieve a one-time settlement. If the residents are evicted, they will once again be on the streets,” said Vanessa Peter from IRCDUC.

Officials from HUDCO refused to comment, saying that the case is sub-judice.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 12:01:43 AM |

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