Successive State governments have relocated urban poor from slums within prime locations in the city to little colonies in outskirts. The number of people being moved out has seen a sharp rise since 2009.
Satellite colonies have mushroomed in Kannagi Nagar in Okkiyam Thuraipakkam and Ezhil Nagar in Perumbakkam. Apart from woefully inadequate infrastructure, the biggest problem haunting residents is lack of livelihood opportunities near new settlements.
Kannagi Nagar and Ezhil Nagar are now sitting in the heart of the IT corridor. Still, most relocated workers continue to commute to places near their old settlements for work, spending a big chunk of their earnings for transport.
When the TN Slum Clearance Board officials asked hundreds of families living along banks of Cooum River near Mount Road Dargah to move to its tenements in Kannagi Nagar, they refused.
For, they had heard enough about the high rate of criminal activities in Kannagi Nagar. They sought to be relocated elsewhere and were accommodated at Ezhil Nagar in Perumbakkam, a good 20 km from where they lived.
Among those hundred-odd families relocated was that of Sayona’s.
Though she appreciates the fact that they now have access to toilets and a relatively more hygienic environment, Sayona feels insecure in their new neighbourhood.
Policy researcher Vanessa Peter says this is because people who used to live as a community have been split up and made to live in tenements.
“The evacuation of 14,000 families from the centre of the city and relocation in peripheral areas following the 2015 floods was unprecedented,” she says.
“People came here believing the government, expecting a more dignified life. When will the government be able to ensure that?” asks Vanessa Peter.