CHENNAI: The members of 15 civilian families living inside the Officers Training Academy (OTA) in St Thomas Mount have alleged that they are being stopped from taking groceries or vegetables to their homes.
It is alleged that the Army personnel stationed at the main gate stopped the civilians from carrying provisions and essentials inside as they feared this could spread COVID-19. Due to this, the families lamented that they were fast running out of provisions and did not benefit from any measures taken by the government.
However, An official from OTA told Express that they were not aware of this matter and would check at the earliest.On Tuesday, after Express informed about the plight of these families, Revenue Department officials distributed 15 kg rice, palm oil, and pulses to each family. But the restrictions are still in place, making it difficult for residents to buy vegetables and milk regularly.
Restrictions put down by the army is nothing new to these 15 families who reside at Battery Lane inside the OTA premises. Since 2016, their shot at leading a normal, hassle free life has been jeopardized. Though they live on Patta land belonging to their ancestors who were ex servicemen, residents said they feel like they were living in a prison, without any freedom or benefits.
Senthil Kumari R had a harrowing time on Sunday when she tried to bring a bag of provisions past the army personnel stationed outside the side entrance to the OTA. They not only denied permission to let her carry the bags inside, but also threatened to inform the police. "I tried explaining to them many times. I even showed them rice, milk and vegetables I had bought for my family. They yelled at me and said that they will inform the police if I don't leave the bags outside. Finally I had to call a relative and gave away the things I had bought," she explained.
These families are struggling to manage with the food items they had bought 20 days ago. With the state government announcing to further extend the lockdown, these residents are worried about surviving with very limited provisions till April 30. "We do not benefit from any of the welfare schemes announced by the government. Some NGOs and political parties distribute rice and other essential items in nearby Tulasingapuram area. We can't get any of this too," said another resident, who wished to be anonymous.
The army has made it mandatory for everyone inside OTA to wear masks and has prohibited the use of hand-kerchiefs. But as the earning members of the families can't go for work, they cannot afford to buy masks. Residents were instead asked to buy provisions from the army canteen inside the OTA premises. "If we buy from shops outside, we can buy on credit. We will pay them once the lockdown is revoked. But we can't do this in the army canteen," explained another resident.
MSD Thenraja, vice president of the Cantonment Board said, “We were unaware of this problem. I will visit the location and solve the problem,” he said.