Promised homes 20 years ago, 128 families stuck in Kannappar Thidal

Residents urge Corporation to provide permanent housing at Jatkapuram on Wall Tax Road
Privacy, safety and toilets are a luxury for 400 residents of Kannappar Thidal  | r satish babu
Privacy, safety and toilets are a luxury for 400 residents of Kannappar Thidal | r satish babu

CHENNAI: The 128 displaced families in Kannappar Thidal seek permanent housing and not another temporary solution from the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) amid the risk of collapse of their current shelter during the monsoon.

The families that occupied the platforms near Ripon Building in Chennai Park for 30 years, were relocated to the shelter home in 2002 and promised permanent homes in three months. “Our area representatives and municipal officials assured us that housing will be provided in the Jatkapuram area on Wall Tax Road on behalf of the Urban Habitat Development Board (UHDB), but we haven’t received dwellings even after 20 years,” D Selvam, who currently shares the space with 127 families, told TNIE.

TNIE visited Kannappar Thidal neighbourhood recently and found over 400 people residing on the ground floor, the first floor, and the terrace. With no rooms but just halls for shelter, families carved out spaces for themselves with plywood and other materials to afford privacy. What started with 68 families rose to 128 over the years, resulting in families creating makeshift spaces outside the building as well. The damp environment due to lack of ventilation has resulted in the young and elderly developing breathing problems.

The plight of women is even worse. T Amul Rani (36) highlighted that the shelter has one public toilet, which is not maintained, for all the 128 families. She added, “I have lived in this area for 13 years. I do not feel safe here. While we take bath, men enter without knocking and it is very scary.

How can we all shower in one bathroom? We can’t cook properly and can’t change clothes in this tiny space either. It is difficult for elderly women to come downstairs and use the public toilet.” To add to their woes, the rains have led to the development of cracks in the walls owing to water seepage, and a consequent stench has left the vulnerable wheezing.

Selvam added, “Since it is raining now we are scared that the walls, stairs, and other structures could collapse because they are all water-soaked.” One month ago, the UHDB conducted a biometric enumeration survey for these 128 families, but the residents said they never heard back. When contacted, a corporation official said,

“Due to the rains, we offered them accommodation in a GCC hall nearby, but they are refusing to shift saying that they should be provided with permanent housing. Currently, our team is trying to convince them.” Selvam, who has been living the life of a displaced for 58 years now said, “We should all be given homes rather than be taken to marriage halls.”

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