As the eviction process began in West Cooum Road, Chintadripet, a few women from the locality were seen desperately seeking help from every official. They were requesting them to verify their documents and allot a house. “You do not have the calamity certificate and are not eligible for allottment. Find a place nearby,” said a senior official from the Public Works Department.
Hearing this, Revathy Ganesan, a widow with two young children, burst out crying. “Every time I went to the Tahsildar, there was a delay. You can help me with this... I have all the other documents in place, please check them at least,” she requested.
The official retorted: “How can we be sure if your cases are genuine? We need time to check.” Devastated, Vijayalakshmi responded: “If you find any other property in our names, sue us. But please don’t be unfair.”
The women lived on the banks of the river in a one-room dilapidated shanty. After the Greater Chennai Corporation numbered their houses for eviction, they had bundled up their belongings and were waiting to be moved. But on Friday morning when the officials arrived, their names were allegedly struck off the list of allottees.
The altercation between the officials and the families went on till they were promised help with the certificates. “We will help in getting the documents in due course,” said an official from the Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust (CRRT).
Of the 410 families enumerated in the locality, 117 have been sent to the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board tenements in Perumbakkam. Those owning shops in the area have been asked to be prepared to shift to Auto Nagar in Singaperumal Koil-Oragadam Road, around 50 km from the city. “We don’t know how we will manage there,” said Rajasekar, who owns an automobile spare parts store in the locality.
A few school students from Chintadripet also protested near the Post Office in Anna Salai and sent postcards to the Chief Minister requesting him to stall evictions and relocate them nearby so they can continue in the same school.
Activists slammed the officials for not following due processes before eviction. "These incidents have absence of transparent and accountable mechanisms, which has resulted in violation of the basic human rights of the deprived communities.
Housing is not a charity but a right which has sadly been overlooked," said Vanessa Peter, policy researcher, Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities.