CHENNAI: Even as the pandemic continues to take its toll on the city, the state government machinery on Monday resumed eviction of informal settlements at Sathyavani Muthu Nagar near Park Town. The evictions, coming after a gap of eight months, are a part of the Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust’s integrated Cooum River Eco-restoration Project.
Around 10 families were relocated to the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) tenements in Perumbakkam on Monday and the remaining 419 will be moved in batches of 20 from here on, according to officials. In Sathyavani Muthu Nagar, a total of 2,092 families had been enumerated, of which 1,663 were resettled to Perumbakkam eight months ago.
According to Chengalpattu health department officials, there have been over 300 Covid cases within the tenements in Perumbakkam so far. “We have been seeing a weekly average of five cases from there,” an official told TNIE. However, the officials overseeing the eviction process said all the norms are being adhered to, including distribution of masks. Also, families are moved in smaller batches of 20 to maintain social distancing.
Vanessa Peter, of the Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC), said mass exposure of people from one area to another may pose a risk. “Further, this will be another psychological blow to the families. There are many sections of people like domestic workers who may not have fully recovered from the loss of livelihood during the lockdown. In Perumbakkam there are already several others dealing with loss of livelihoods,” she said.
A United Nations COVID-19 guidance note issued on March 28 this year stated that forced evictions of informal settlements and encampments must be ended ‘in keeping with international human rights obligations to ensure residents of informal settlements/encampments can “stay home” and be adequately protected against the life-threatening virus.’
An official who did not want to be named, said the eviction was necessary to protect the families from flood risks. “The families here are at a risk of flooding since the upstream of the Cooum river has been widened,” he said.