Chennai

Hostels remain unregulated and in bad shape, 15 months on

A little over a year after an announcement was made to the effect that hostels without registration would be shut down, little has changed on the ground in Chennai.

Hundreds of hostels continue to operate without proper licences. Till date, only 19 hostels in the city have been issued a licence to operate while 1,058 have applied for registration and are awaiting approval from the Collectorate.

Fifteen months ago, a complaint was lodged about cameras being found in a women’s hostel in Adambakkam.

The State government immediately mandated that all hostels should be registered under the Tamil Nadu Hostels and Homes for Women and Children (Regulations) Rules, 2015.

Hostels began queuing up for registration and, in June 2019, the then Collector A. Shanmuga Sundram said that 227 hostels in the city were under the scanner for operating without licences. He also said that special teams had been formed to look into these cases.

Now, things are back to what they used to be two years ago and working women continue to live in unhygienic spaces and eating poor quality food, despite paying exorbitant rent.

Tedious process

“I applied for registration and was asked to submit a few more documents. By then the concerned officials were transferred and after that I haven’t followed up on the status of the application. The Collector was also transfered. Whenever there is a problem, the government comes up with some rules, but after few months people forget it,” said a hostel owner in Thyagaraya Nagar, who has over 60 working women staying at his premises.

Three different hostel owners had the same response. “The last time I met an official regarding registration he told me that women staying at my premises should be given a minimum of 120 sq. ft. of space (per person). There are thousands of women coming to Chennai in search of jobs every week and all they need is a space to stay. Since there was no noise on this issue, I'm running my business without any hassle,” another hostel owner said. His hostel on Velachery Main Road has bunk beds in a room which is less than 80 sq. ft. and charges ₹7,500 per bed (without food) a month.

Crowded space

Ball park estimates show that there are over 4,200 hostels in Chennai and the industry is worth over ₹1,300 crore. On an average, 10 new hostels open each month in the city in places like Guindy, OMR, T. Nagar and Anna Nagar. According to online classifieds platform Sulekha, there are over 2,200 hostels listed in its database and 100 more are getting added every month. Fearing closure, many hostels are now running as paying guest accommodation.

Some hostels which are run in apartments have advised inmates to tell neighbours that they are family members. Amala (name changed), who has been living in various hostels in Chennai over the last four years, said, “I stay in a hostel which is inside an apartment. The owners have picked up three flats on lease. We have strictly been instructed not to speak to neighbours and if asked, to say that we are techie friends who are staying on rent.”

Need for regulation

Nine other girls whom The Hindu spoke to said that the State government should do something to regulate the industry which is unorganised, and running without providing amenities and following safety measures.

The girls suggested that the government should even put names of blacklisted hostels on its website so that its easier for women coming to the city for the first time.

“In the last two years, our room rents have been hiked twice citing water crisis. But till date, water is a challenge and we continue to stay without basic amenities,” said Shanthi (name changed), who resides in a hostel in Guindy.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2020 5:47:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/hostels-remain-unregulated-and-in-bad-shape-15-months-on/article30994603.ece

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