CHENNAI: Last week, about 650 families from the banks of Cooum River in Chennai were relocated to tenements of the Slum board about 30 kilometers away from their earlier residences. The families have picked up what remained of their lives from the city to the Perumbakkam resettlement colony which is located in the city's outskirts. However, the resettlement has deprived their livelihoods.
Most of them so far earned a living in the city as coolies, auto drivers, maids, labourers, construction workers, and streetside vendors. Now, they find themselves to be in the middle of nowhere as employment opportunities in Perumbakkam, an isolated locality, are very minimal. To keep their existing jobs, they have to travel 60 kms every day, which is also not a viable option said residents who have been relocated.
P Srinivasan, an auto driver, said he earned about Rs 1,000 a day as autos were preferred by many to ply on small streets in the city. ‘‘As OMR is the only main highway, people usually prefer to travel by Uber and Ola than autos since they are faster and comfortable. From Taramani, there is also the MRTS facility,’’ said Srinivasan.
Srinivasan now finds himself in a quagmire as for the past four-days he has not earned anything. ‘‘Driving all the way to the city will not be viable as all the money I earn will be spent on fuel for returning home. There won’t be any profit,’’ he said.
G Gajendari, another resident finds herself helpless too. Working as a housekeeper in the Egmore Museum, she had a steady income of Rs 8,000 per month. But now she mulls over whether she should go to work at all, not just because of the distance but there’s no one to take care of her two-year-old child. The anganwadis too have no space to accommodate more children.
‘‘In Chindradripet, relatives and family friends lived next to each other. So, we asked them to look after them while we were away for work. Now, they have put us in far away blocks and I don’t know my neighbours. How can I now strangers with my child and go to work every day?’’ she questions.
Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board Officials have told the dwellers not to raise shops outside their buildings. Because of this restriction, many people in desperation for money set up stalls selling chips, cigarettes, biscuits and tea inside their building itself, but this is of little help.
‘‘In the city, we earned at least Rs 500 daily through tea shops and selling provision items. Here, they have restricted us from that also,’’ said R Bhuvaneshwari, a resident. ‘‘If we set stalls outside also, who will buy from us? This is an isolated area.’’
Though the government has given Rs. 5000 as an allowance for the dwellers, the money is already running out. ‘‘We have been buying food and water costing about Rs 500 a day. Next, since there are no elevators, porters charge from Rs 200 to 500 to carry our household goods to as high as the eighth floor,’’ added Bhuvaneshwari.
Though nothing has changed even after five-days of shifting, the residents continue to hope against hope to somehow restart their lives again.
When queried about the issue, officials of the Tamilnadu Skill Development Corporation said they have planned a series of skill development programs for the resettled people to get new employment opportunities.