CHENNAI: The evictions carried out along the Nanmangalam canal near the Keelkattalai signal have left around 40 families homeless with no arrangements being made for resettlement after they lost their homes in the last three days.
When Express contacted the Revenue department on rehabilitating the families, they blatantly claimed no residential buildings had been brought down. “We have given the families notice to vacate and will demolish buildings only after the Slum Clearance Board allocates homes after taking biometric records when they visit the site,” said Sekar, Revenue Inspector, Pallikaranai.
While this is the standard operating procedure, the Public Works Department and the Revenue Department have not adhered to this norm in this eviction drive. “Only empty houses were brought down,” Sekar said when Express highlighted the residential buildings brought down along the stretch and the homelessness that the high-handed eviction drive has caused.
However residents pointed out the line of houses which had been demolished in the last three days. Express found vessels, clothes and domestic implements buried in the debris. “We were not given time to even remove our belongings,” said Kavitha, a flower vendor who was unable to recover her saris from her house. When Express asked the PWD for the number of encroachments brought down, a senior official said, “A list of encroachments is yet to be made.”
“The problem is there are no set rules and legal mandate when it comes to evictions and it is mostly up to the discretion of the department conducting the eviction drive,” said Vanessa Peter, a policy researcher at Information and Resource Centre for Deprived Urban Communities. “Regularisation of encroachments is something the Slum Clearance Board has been shying away from. They just want to shift them to tenements.” she said.
With the JCB machines and bulldozers having brought down the houses and the workers quickly removing the debris, leaving no physical evidence of homes having existed, the families are worried about how to prove that they had homes in order to claim resettlement.
“Now that we can’t stay here, we will have to go elsewhere. How will the authorities be able to contact us regarding a resettlement,” said S Raja, a carpenter who had been living in the stretch since 1986.
Residents claim the complete demolition of houses came as a surprise to them with officials from the Kovilambakkam panchayat telling them that only the portions marked by the PWD in 2015 would be demolished.
“We could have made arrangements if we knew the entire house would be demolished,” said Kalaiarasi, as she cradled her grandson to sleep in a small temple which has been spared from demolition for now.
“With no roof over our heads, the showers in the wee hours kept him awake,” she said. When some residents who lost their homes visited the local panchayat office, they claim the Village Administrative Officer told them they would be allocated within 10 days.