Poongavanam, 70, had spent a year on the corridors and footpaths of the resettlement tenements in Gudapakkam waiting for the home promised to her by the Greater Corporation officials. But the promise was not kept. Poongavanam, who was left out in the house allotments after the last year’s eviction drive, died last Saturday.
“She had a heart attack,” said Mallika, a distant relative and friend of Poongavanam. “She fell ill on Deepavali day and we took her to a doctor. He said she was becoming weak and asked us to look after her, but she would not cooperate. She had stopped eating or drinking,” Mallika said.
On Saturday evening, Mallika found Poongavanam sleeping on the corridor outside her flat. “She didn’t respond when I tried waking her up and then I found that she wasn’t breathing,” she said holding back her tears. Poongavanam’s body was later buried in a nearby cemetery.
Poongavanam, who had eked out a living by selling fish near the Marina Beach lived with her late husband in a single room shanty at Vallalar Street, Aminjikarai. Her daughter lived in Kancheepuram district.
Poongavanam, along with 100 other families were shifted to the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board tenements in Gudapakkam, near Thirumazhisai.
Around October last year, officials from the Greater Chennai Corporation had bulldozed the houses after evicting its occupants as part of the Cooum River Eco-Restoration Project in Aminjikarai. Poongavanam and others were carted to the tenements in Gudapakkam. While others were allotted an accommodation, Poongavanam was left out.
In a report published in The Hindu , Poongavanam claimed that she had submitted all the required documents to the Corporation officials concerned and was assured that she would soon be allotted a house. Poongavanam was forced to stay on the cold corridors of the tenements and was sometimes offered a place inside one of the homes.
‘She was disappointed’
“This remained her biggest disappointment. She kept complaining but hoped that one day she would get to stay in her own house. But now she is gone,” an emotional Mallika said.
Senior officials from TNSCB said that an allotment order was already given to the Executive Engineer of the zone over a month ago, and that a house within the tenements was allotted separately for her. “The Corporation officials had said that they would be shifting her and the left out families while they relocated residents from MSP Nagar to the tenements. We do not know what went wrong where,” an official said.
Officials added that they had also given house allotment orders for around 16 families who were left out during eviction drive and were waiting for the officials concerned to initiate further action.
“Delay in providing permanent house for an elderly person is a gross violation and denial of the person’s rights. This matter must be seriously looked into,” said Vanessa Peter, policy researcher, Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities.
Officials from the Corporation were unavailable for comment.