CHENNAI: A massive 48 per cent of people who were relocated from various informal settlements of Chennai to the Perumbakkam Slum Board tenements between 2017 and 2020 have either lost their jobs or remain unemployed, according to a new survey.
The survey, conducted jointly by the Delhi-based Housing for Land Rights Network (HLRN) and Chennai-based Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC), found that among the 1,314 families who were respondents, 629 lost their jobs and only 599 were employed, which is just 46 per cent.
The surveyors sampled 1,314 of the 9,055 families relocated between 2017 and 2020. Among the respondents, 1,095 were women and 219 were men. The number of women respondents was high as field investigators found more women at home while conducting the survey. Of the 1,095 women respondents who represented their families, 243 were from women-headed households, which is 18 per cent, while 55 were persons with disabilities (PwDs).
Among the 243 from women-headed families, 106 — which is a whopping 44 per cent — lost their jobs. Of the 55 respondents who were PwDs, 40 per cent lost their jobs and remain unemployed. Almost 95 per cent of the respondents had jobs prior to the relocation. The men worked as AC mechanics, auto drivers, carpenters, housekeeping staff, construction workers and welders, among other things, while the women worked as beauticians, cooks, daily-wage labourers, domestic helps, and ice-cream, fruit, flower and vegetable vendors.
Vanessa Peter, of IRCDUC, said the unemployment rate is high because the authorities did not prepare adequately before evicting the residents. “If the resettlement action plans and social impact assessments were followed, these adverse impacts could have been avoided,” said Vanessa. She added that creating a market-based livelihood in Perumbakkam would increase job opportunities for women in the resettlement colonies.
“Presently, there are no vending spaces and the authorities must recreate the market-based livelihood. If this is done, the local economy will also thrive,” she said.
The study mentioned that the excessive travel distance from Perumbakkam to Chennai, which is 25 km away, lack of employment opportunities in the neighbourhood, and inadequate transport facilities have forced many to stay at home. The absence of markets and lack of domestic work opportunities were also reasons for unemployment. The study pointed out that of the 1,314 respondents, only eight were able to access the livelihood restoration schemes of the TN Slum Clearance Board such as tiffin shops, push carts, and sewing work.
Reacting to the report, officials with the Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust said 84,139 people have been covered under the Urban Community Development activities. Shifting allowance and subsistence allowance is also given to the residents, an official added. “Shifting allowance of Rs 5,000 after relocation, and subsistence allowance of Rs 2,500 per month is being given to the residents for 12 months. During the pandemic, subsistence allowance for three months (Rs 7,500) was paid in advance,” said the official.
TNSCB MD Kirlosh Kumar could not be reached for comment.