CHENNAI: Four Greater Chennai Corporation staff, a front-loader and five lorries were at work on Thursday, clearing the waste from one woman’s front yard - garbage she had quietly collected over 12 years. While collecting dolls, buttons or even soaps may feature in one’s list of run-of-the-mill hobbies, a 40-year-old woman in Jai Nagar, near Koyambedu, said to be mentally unstable, had gone out every night for the last decade to bring back anything she could find in dustbins and roadsides, stashing it in her front yard, said her neighbours.
Over the years, her collection has grown enough to fill five corporation tipper lorries, much to the chagrin of civic body officials on duty, on Thursday. “Five trucks have been loaded so far, each with the capacity of three-four tonnes. Our men are at work since morning and we are expecting to clear it fully only by evening,” said an official.
The yard was cleared as part of the Greater Chennai Corporation’s anti-dengue campaign across the city.
“We have been residing here for over 30 years. Every night, the woman goes out and brings back anything that she can find - sometimes in carry bags, sometimes with her bare hands. We tried confronting her several times, but she doesn’t stop,” said Savithri B, a resident. Residents said they decided to take the matter up with Corporation officials after three children in the neighbourhood were diagnosed with dengue.
With every move of the civic body’s front-loader, hundreds of cockroaches along with rats and bandicoots crawled out of her stash, made up of torn stuffed toys, rags, slippers and hundreds of beer bottles.
“I exchange the beer bottles for cash sometimes, since I live alone and don’t work. The rest I’ve collected in case I have use for it in future,” said the woman, appearing concerned.
She agreed to let officials to clear the yard after they gave her permission to pick out the things that were most precious to her. “They don’t understand the value of waste, scrap dealers make so much money,” she said.
Corporation officials said they were talking to the woman’s relatives in Chidambaram for her treatment and rehabilitation.
“We had issued a notice to her, asking her to clear the area. Since, she didn’t, we had to intervene,” said an official. Corporation officials during their anti-dengue drive, cleared unused material in front of houses and shops, if owners failed to clear them after notices were issued.
Five- member Central team to arrive today to access severity
Meanwhile, the Central government is sending a five-member team to Tamil Nadu to access the severity of dengue in Tamil Nadu. The team will reach Chennai on Friday. A senior health official told Express that Ashutosh Viswas, professor of medicine, AIIMS, Kalpana Baruah and Kaushal Kumar from National Vector-Borne Disease Control Programme and Vijay Garg and Swati Dublish, co-ordinators, are in the team. Till October 9, there were 40 dengue deaths. A total of 11,744 dengue cases have been recorded in Tamil Nadu, a report submitted by the Public Health Department to the Chief Minister on Wednesday showed.