CHENNAI: For the last five months, fever surveillance worker Saravanan, carrying his notepad and pen, has visited 75-year-old Jagadambal’s house every day. Jagadambal knew what to expect -- from his usual ‘eppdi irukeenga paati’ (how are you, grandma) to more serious questions like if she had a cough, cold or breathlessness.
Now, Jagadambal does not have a house to call her own. It’s been four days since her house at Kuppaimedu in Mandaveli was demolished by the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board to make way for a new structure.
She and her family of four have set up a tarpaulin tent on the road, near the debris of their erstwhile homes, having no money to pay the deposit for a rental house. Saravanan still came.
For the last four days, he has been bringing food for Jagadambal’s family. “How could I not? They are like family. I’ve been going to their house (for fever survey) for more than five months,” Saravanan said.
The 32-year-old was recruited as a temporary worker for door-to-door surveys after being laid off by a BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) firm. He lives in Thiruvanmiyur with his wife and child.
With government officials turning a blind eye to the families camping outside with nowhere to go, Saravanan saw that it wasn’t enough to help just Jagadambal and her family.
“There are many people here, around 500. If it's just for them (Jagadambal’s family), I can bring food. I didn’t know what to do for all the others,” he said.
A committed Dhanush fan, he approached the actor’s fan club in the city, which in turn helped him arrange a few more packets of food.
“So, I pick up the food packets from the association office and distribute them here. I don’t see this as an extraordinary favour, I feel responsible (for their well-being). I feel like I should do more,” he said.
As reported earlier by The New Indian Express, there were 344 houses at the tenements in Mandaveli. The Slum Board, with the help of police, is in the process of demolishing these houses in order to rebuild a new structure with 500 houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. The residents are then expected to be accommodated in the new buildings if they pay Rs 1.5 lakh per house in instalments over a period of 20 years.
For the fifth day on Saturday, officials are continuing to bring down the last of the houses. While some have found lodgings in their relatives’ houses, others are camping alongside the debris.
“Even today, I went and saw a house for rent. They are asking for a deposit of Rs 40,000. So, I returned silently,” said Prema, a former resident of the Kuppaimedu tenements.
She has now asked a moneylender for help. “He has promised to lend us Rs 20,000 for a monthly interest of Rs 2,000. If that comes through, we will get a house on rent,” she said.