Evictions at slum settlement grind to a halt yet again

WRD officials said instructions to stop evictions were given as the Assembly session was set to begin.  

With the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly session set to get under way on Monday, the drive to evict people from Sathyavani Muthu Nagar on Pallavan Salai, one of the largest slum settlements in the city, has been halted temporarily.

The drive started a week ago. Of the nearly 2,000 families that face eviction, 600 were sent off to Perumbakkam. Residents said that they were willing to move after the academic year got over.

Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader Thol. Thirumavalavan visited the residents and later issued a statement claiming that Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam had assured him that the demolition drive would be temporarily stopped until the exams ended.

But, on Friday, Water Resources Department officials, who were undertaking the drive as a part of Cooum River Eco-restoration Project, began evicting families again. In protest, two men from the slum, Manikandan, 25, and Babu, 42, jumped into the Cooum.

The WRD and Greater Chennai Corporation officials claimed that instructions to stop evictions were issued as rural local body elections were being conducted. Several families were ready to move but the drive was stopped after instructions from the Deputy Chief Minister’s office, officials said. “On Friday, we were asked to resume but were told to stop again on Saturday as the Assembly session is to begin on Monday [January 6],” a senior official said.

Meanwhile, residents are irked by the false promises of politicians and the inconsistency of officials. “We trusted the Deputy Chief Minister [O. Panneerselvam], but he did not keep his word. A few families have decided to not move from this place,” a resident said.

Blocking right of way

WRD officials said houses were being cleared as they were blocking Cooum’s right of way.

The width of the river near the settlement had narrowed to 20 m. “If the exercise is completed, a stretch of 900 m and width of 50 m can be retrieved. Of the 14,250 encroached structures identified along the Cooum river, about 10,000 have been removed so far,” an official said.

Life has been tough for those who have already been evicted. On Saturday, 50-year-old Indrani stood staring at the rubble in S.M. Nagar with tears in her eyes. It was her house till a few days ago. Relocated to Perumbakkam, she now has to travel 40 km for her husband’s cancer treatment. Ms. Indrani is among the people who were evicted first from the locality. “There is no water or electricity in Block 101 [of Perumbakkam]. The lift does not work. The strain of travelling to the city for treatment is taking a toll,” she said.

The evictions violated the U.N. Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement, 2007, that mandates that evictions should not take place in inclement weather, at night, during religious holidays or festivals, prior to elections, and during or before school/college examinations, said Vanessa Peter, policy researcher, Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities.

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Printable version | May 10, 2021 9:57:56 AM |

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