Cooum Restoration: Are Koyambedu evictions as per UN standards?

Despite the monsoon, the city corporation began to resettle 222 families to Perumbakkam
The residents of Satyasai Nagar, Koyambedu being evicted by the corporation authorities on Wednesday, in Chennai | P Jawahar
The residents of Satyasai Nagar, Koyambedu being evicted by the corporation authorities on Wednesday, in Chennai | P Jawahar

CHENNAI: When 17-year-old Surya Kumar returned to his house in Koyambedu, little did he expect to see it razed to the ground. Within no time, he had to pack what was left and leave for Perumbakkam, the largest resettlement colony in the suburbs of Chennai, for those evicted from the banks of Cooum.
As part of the Cooum Restoration, the city corporation on Wednesday began eviction of 222 families from Sathya Sai Nagar near Koyambedu. This comes in the wake of heavy inundation in Perumbakkam for the last few days because of the rains.

The circumstances under which the civic body conducted the eviction process, in many ways,  is in violation of United Nations’ norms for evictions and displacements, 2007.

Para 45-51 of the UN norms state that, during an eviction, authorities responsible for eviction ‘must ensure that evictions do not take place in inclement weather...during or before school and college examinations.’’
However, here, evictions have taken place right in the middle of the monsoon with the city suburbs just limping back to recovery from flooding. The UN norms also state that the authorities must ensure productive land with all civic amenities in place for the evicted people. However, many residents lamented that they were being forcefully evicted despite Perumbakkam lacking basic amenities.

“I have collected about 30 newspaper reports which highlight the unsafe conditions of Perumbakkam. How can they send us there? How is it an ideal place for relocation?’’ questioned M Manohar, a resident.
He said that Perumbakkam tenements suffer from leaky roof, lack of water supply and broken toilets, among dozens of other issues. The area faced the worst flooding only a few days ago. TNIE had also reported about the conditions of the resettlement colony during the recent evictions, which highlighted that the tenements in no way met the standards of UN. Para 52-58 of the UN norms state that the authorities must ensure full participation of the affected person but residents alleged the cops randomly barged in on Wednesday and started pushing them out.

“The officials verbally promise that houses have been allotted in Perumbakkam. But our relations relocated there in the morning said they are homeless. They have not been allotted houses yet but were relocated,’’ said Varadarajan G, a resident. Policy researcher Vanessa Peter of Information and Resource Centre for Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUS) said that there was no community consultation before or during evictions.

Meanwhile, when TNIE queried about the UN norms with the corporation officials, they did not seem to have much knowledge about it.

“Summer or monsoon, thousands of families are evicted throughout the year. The  corporation will ensure the resettled people get all basic facilities,’’ said a corporation official. The official added that 50 families will be evicted and will continue till Friday.

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