CHENNAI: As night approaches, they carry their mats, blankets and mosquito nets to sleep in corridors outside their apartments in Block 132 of Perumbakkam Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) settlement. They chit-chat in the little light that seeps through a window at the corridor’s end, until their weariness takes over and they fall asleep.
Hundreds of families have been evicted from Sathyavani Muthu Nagar in Park Town in the last few weeks and relocated to TNSCB resettlement houses at Perumbakkam, over 30 km away. Evictions, which began late in December, have picked up pace recently.
However, the houses they were relocated to is devoid of electricity, leaving them to battle nights in darkness. Though the construction of apartments in Blocks 131,133, 134 and 110 was completed many months ago, only a few of them have received electricity connections.
Speaking to TNIE, a senior official from the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board said that five months ago, the TNSCB had asked them to supply electricity to around 520 houses recently. "However, they completed the payment only last week and relocated the people before we could complete the work," the official added.
Ramesh (name changed), a daily-wage labourer who was evicted from Sathyavani Muthu Nagar on January 6, said that he has to now travel two hours daily to reach work site. "I work as a load man and leave my house at 6:30 am to catch bus to Chindadripet daily. By the time I finish work and return, it gets very dark and with no electricity at home it stay that way," he added.
His wife says Ramesh does not like staying in dark rooms and therefore leaves to drink booze with his friends in common spaces, soon after dinner. "This has become a daily affair after we moved here. Earlier, he used to drink only once a week," she added.
Muniyamma, a senior citizen, who lives on the first floor of Block 132 said that it was a gruelling task to handle the mosquito bites in the night. "We have no fans or lights. The only defense we have are the mosquito nets," she said.
Even as the apartment complex has nine floors, the lift is not yet operational. "We do not have water supply in our house. I climbed to the fourth floor, to fill water from my friend’s house day-before-yesterday. My knees are still hurting from carrying water and climbing down the steps," she rued.
Her neighbour, another woman in her sixties, said, "Even to charge my phone, I have to beg people living in other Blocks. I used to be a domestic worker in Park Town, but I am not able to travel that far now. I can not even watch television as there is no electricity and so I just sit here bored the whole day."
Amudha (name changed), a 15-year-old girl who lives in the fourth floor of one of the buildings, where electricity connections are not finished, said that her family now forces her to return home by 6 pm, no matter what. "I used to sit outside and study, play or talk with my friends all evening in Sathyavani Muthu Nagar. But my parents do not allow me to do that anymore because they are scared that something will happen to me in the darkness," she said.
The residents lamented that the TNSCB hurriedly evicted them without any mercy only to drop them in a place far from their work places with no electricity. They demanded the State government to take steps to make the elevators functional and supply electricity to their houses at the earliest.
Life full of hardship for the residents
TNSCB hurriedly evicted them without any mercy only to drop them in a place far from their work places with no electricity. Residents face problems like travelling two hours to work, husband drinking every day in order to stay away from the new house where there is no electrcity, tremendous mosquito bites at night, non functional elevators for an apartments with nine floors, lack of electricity. The residents demanded the government to take steps to make the elevators functional and supply electricity