CHENNAI: Dozens of residents in Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) tenements in Perumbakkam flocked to Advocate Commissioner K Elango, who was appointed by the High Court of Madras to take stock of rehabilitation and resettlement, to register their complaints. As residents had pointed out, a TNSCB official on the field was heard telling residents who were awaiting the commissioner’s arrival that the issues were ‘all internal affairs that could be settled by TNSCB’ and ‘did not warrant complaints to the Advocate Commissioner’.
However, residents did not hold back. “We, at the tenth block, who were shifted from Medavakkam and Kovilambakkam, have not received the Rs 5,000 shifting allowance yet, even after almost six months,” said Selvi, one of the first to register a complaint.
Elango was at the tenements to audit the resettlement arrangements and receive petitions from residents. The host of complaints brought to light the discrimination in terms of benefits provided, based on the project under which they were evicted and resettled. “How is it that those resettled under a different scheme are entitled to some benefits whereas we receive none of it. Haven’t we also lost our homes and livelihood,” said Vijaya, also a resident of the tenth block in Perumbakkam.
Based on a compilation made by the petitioners, out of the 59 petitions analysed, 12 were from women-headed households. Four of the 12 have lost their employment since resettlement, the report said. A survey of 100 men in the resettlement township indicates that 90% of men in families resettled in the last six months have lost employment since relocation and have not successfully found employment yet.
Residents complained of the lack of infrastructure, including street-lights and also of haphazard electricity readings, forcing them to pay around ten times more than what they believe they have consumed. Lack of police response in the area was also brought forth to the commissioner. The Advocate Commissioner was appointed by a vacation bench of Justices V Parthiban and PD Audikesavalu to submit a detailed report on the resettlement and rehabilitation policies and arrangements in place on or before June 18.
Meanwhile, residents said that the government authorities had gone into an overdrive ahead of the commissioner’s visit.
“The officials came yesterday to clean stagnant water at the premises that has been a constant here for over a year. We can’t help but think it’s because of the official’s visit, “ said Sowmya (name changed), a resident who was evicted from Apparao Gardens.
Similarly, Saravanan (name changed), evicted from Thiruverkadu, said that the elevator in his block that had been dysfunctional for more than four days had begun working since Saturday. Slum Clearance Board officials on the field said that the residents were not advised against raising their complaints and that the maintenance was merely a regular affair.