CHENNAI: Officials are fearing a domino effect in Perumbakkam, one of the largest slum ‘rehabilitation’ projects in the world. After a 26-year-old Corporation sanitary worker living there tested positive for COVID-19, the district administration of Chengalpattu has sealed the block of the TNSCB tenements in which he stayed.
Officials are now mulling the possibility of sealing off the entire tenements, keeping its residents from going to Chennai for work. So far, samples have been taken from 42 residents of these tenements. Based on the results, we will take a decision on sealing off the area, said the officials. By then, they are hoping relief measures to aid the now-jobless workers would be in place.
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“We have enumerated over 500 workers who usually go into the city for work, mainly in four zones of the city corporation. The Collector will take the final call. We will also make sure relief measures are in place for those who won’t be able to go to work in case of taking a decision (to seal off the site)” said an official who did not want to be named.
Early containment in Perumbakkam could be crucial due to the sheer population living at the site that houses over 13,000 families, at an arm’s length from each other. According to the 2014 Comptroller and Auditor General report, the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board tenements in Perumbakkam did not adhere to the National Building Code of India (NBC) norms with regard to density. While the permitted norm is 150 houses per hectare, here there are a whopping 251 units.
When asked if the district administration is planning to seal off the Perumbakkam site, the Chengalpattu district collector John Louis told Express: “The opinion of the Block Medical Officer will be taken after the results of 40 samples of contacts of the positive patients are received.” Meanwhile, a few residents of the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board resettlement site at Navalur gathered in protest, throwing social distancing norms to the wind, due to the uneven distribution of relief. Residents claimed that fair price shops open and close at their own will, leaving many without the `1,000 relief and free rice announced by the State Government.