“I was a teenager when my mother and three brothers lived in a small shanty here. A few political leaders saw our plight and before we knew, we were moved to better houses. But, now we are asked to leave,” said M. Velu, who along with 50 other families lives in Pillaiyar Koil Street, Naduvankarai, and are allegedly on the brink of eviction.
The families pointed out to the bright yellow numbers written on their doors — one of the procedures carried out before eviction.
Residents claim that officials from the Greater Chennai Corporation had come to their locality a week ago for enumeration and survey. While residents resisted initially, they later cooperated when they were assured that only those built illegally would be demolished.
“Then why did they enumerate us and mark our houses. We are not encroachers, we have the allotment letter,” said R. Nagappan.
The 50-odd houses in Pillaiyar Koil Street were provided by the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) under the Madras Urban development Project in the year 1989. Following allotment, the families who earlier lived in huts and shanties moved to the brick houses.
Nagappan later read out loud his allotment document, which stated that he was given the rightful ownership of the house in the street for a sum of ₹860, which he will have to pay in a monthly instalment of ₹9 to the TNSCB and in case he defaults, he will have to pay a penalty interest of 8%. The document also stated that all residents will be duly provided electricity supply, but expenses will be borne by them. Also in case any resident wants to vacate, no compensation will be provided for it.
“We do not want to leave, but we are asked to, with no further information as to when and where,” said S. Gnanasundari, a domestic worker and resident. “We have no idea when the officials will come and demolish our houses. It’s caused our family immense stress,” she said holding back her tears.
Senior officials from TNSCB said that the boundaries of the locality is yet to be ascertained by the Public Works Department, Chennai Collectorate and the Revenue Department, after which they will take a decision on demolition and eviction. The eviction drive is currently being carried out by the State as part of the Cooum River Eco-Restoration Project.
“Why were residents with land titles marked. They were allotted houses by the State,” asked Vanessa Peter, policy researcher, Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities.
“There is absolutely no transparency or community involvement in the entire process. If these residents are evicted, they must be compensated based on the market rate,” she said.