CHENNAI: The delay in removing encroachments along the banks of the Buckingham Canal has put top officials in a fix, with the Secretary of the State Housing Board being forced to file a counter affidavit before the Supreme Court after facing the risk of contempt of court proceedings.
The Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board has already constructed and handed over the 625 tenements at Okkium Thoraipakkam, following the directions of the apex court to evict the families from the banks of the water body to alternative locations.
However, the PWD, the owner of the land that has been encroached, had been able to convince only 366 families, with the rest 259 putting up stiff resistance from being evicted.
The PWD has returned these allotment orders, citing their inability to collect thumb impression from these families on the face of this opposition. According to sources in the slum clearance board, the people there, mostly daily wage labourers, are apprehensive of losing their livelihood if they shift from the area. Also, it would be difficult for their children to be admitted to a suitable school at the new location. These concerns are holding up the efforts by PWD, Chennai Corporation and the district revenue department, sources added.
A meeting was held with PWD officials, Chennai Corporation and the District Collector on July 2, where it was decided to issue notices to the remaining slum dwellers and also seek the services of local people’s representatives and NGOs to persuade the people to shift to the tenements at Okiyum Thoraipakkam, sources said. The encroachments on Elango Street and Raja Annamalaipuram abutting Buckingham Canal are on PWD land, and a legal tussle started from 2006 where in a private party wanted the encroachments to be removed. After the Madras High Court directed the Chennai Collector to evict them within three months and give a compliance report, the residents of Elango Nagar, represented by Selvam, filed a petition challenging the order. In 2011, the Supreme Court stated that the 625 families which have encroached on the embankments of the canal should be provided alternative housing, once the houses are constructed in Okkium Thoraipakkam by Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board.
The case came up for hearing on July 10, when the Supreme Court granted the authorities two weeks time to file the counter, sources said.