CHENNAI: Forced to vacate their homes with promises of ‘high rise’ resettlement, the residents of the flood-hit Surya Nagar slum at Kotturpuram claim that everyday has become a struggle against eviction.
“Why stay in these slums forever when you can stay in a `20 lakh apartment?” the residents recalled being told by the Chennai Collector G Govindaraj at a public meeting on Tuesday.
“We were just being convinced to move, but no official had anything to say when we asked them why so many apartments and flats near the Buckingham Canal still remained standing but only we have to move. Some of those houses don’t even have Patta,” said an agitated Senthil M, a resident of the slum.
For the 450 and more families that remain, the decision is quite clear. “The families near the canal which has a 20 foot high bund, have been vacated already. We are simply asking them to move us further inside the slum area, and leave alone the homes that weren’t affected. We have lived here for 70 years, and were even promised a patta in 2012. But where is it?,” asks Visesh, a BE student and resident of the slum.
The first 63 families who were relocated lived right by the canal and had readily agreed to move, he said. But the remaining had their jobs around Saidapet and Adyar. “At least 20 women from here work at Anna library. Now they have to wake up by 3 am, cook and start by 5 am to cover 25km to their workplace,” he added. Since the floods, almost 500 families were moved out to the new ‘resettlement’ tenements in Perumbakkam, but the remaining in Surya Nagar claimed that dozens of relocated families lamented moving.
“We will cut power supply, dig potholes on the road, cut your water supply, and pull down the house at 2 am, call the police and evict you,” are the words another resident recalls being uttered by officials who had been frequenting the locality to raze down the vacated houses. “We have no idea if they are from the PWD or the Corporation. They show no ID cards and intimidate housewives into fleeing their homes,” said Senthil.