A total of 178 families residing along the Cooum in Sathyavani Muthu Nagar, Gandhi Nagar and Indira Gandhi Nagar, who resisted their eviction and resettlement to Perumbakkam for the past two years, were allocated houses within the city on Tuesday.
The decision to allocate houses to them in the apartments built by the Tamil Nadu Urban Habitat Development Board (TNUHDB) at K.P. Park in Pulianthope was announced during a meeting chaired by Minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department P.K. Sekarbabu at Ripon buildings on Tuesday. Necessary orders for the allocation were issued by TNUHDB Managing Director M. Govinda Rao.
In December 2020, 1,914 of the 2,092 families residing in these three areas were evicted during the middle of the pandemic. The remaining 178 families, however, strongly opposed the eviction drive, citing the loss of livelihood if they were moved outside the city to Perumbakkam.
K. Karnan, who worked as a conservancy worker in the city, said commuting daily from Perumbakkam either by bus or motorbike was unviable for the salary he earned. “My three children are also in schools here. Their education would be affected,” he said.
Though their houses were demolished, many of these 178 families erected makeshift shelters and continued living there. “These two years were terrible with no proper access to toilets and other amenities. We also had to face heavy rain during this time. Despite all these hardships, we did not want to move to Perumbakkam as that would permanently affect our lives,” said a woman from one of the families, who did not want to be named.
G. Selva, secretary, Chennai Central district unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which spearheaded the protests and petitioned the government repeatedly in support of the families, said the resolve shown by the 178 families was incredible. “Despite all odds, they stood firm in their demand for alternative housing to be provided within the city,” he said.
Blaming the previous AIADMK government for evicting the people during the pandemic and refusing to explore alternative arrangements, he thanked the present government for heeding the demand of the families.