Education is often touted as a route out of poverty, the means to a better life. For the children of Perumbakkam—a resettlement colony 25 km from Chennai—the state, instead of facilitating their right to education, has made it harder for them to obtain it. Perumbakkam is now home to at least 13,000 families, people forcefully evicted from the heart of the city for one ‘development’ project or the other. In their new homes, they feel the effects of a development they are excluded from.
People who had jobs have now lost them to the 25 km yawning divide between them and their places of employment. People who had easy access to some of Tamil Nadu’s best government hospitals now are forced to rely on a single Primary Health Centre that functions for about three hours a day. Children who once went to well-run corporation or private schools either have to travel cruel distances in overcrowded government buses or—as many do—drop out.
This, as the state’s education department has yet to take over and run three of the five school buildings constructed for children there. Similarly, working mothers who could rely on neighbours or the local anganwadis in the city to watch their children and feed them the nutrition supplements to which they are entitled, have had to lose jobs as only 11 of the 58 anganwadis in the colony are functional and their new neighbours are strangers to them.
A city’s slum dwellers are the life force who keep it running. Yet planners, politicians and even some well-heeled residents view slums as eyesores, impediments to ‘development’. So thousands across the country are forcefully evicted from their homes and livelihoods every year, and pushed towards poverty even as they attempt to pull themselves out of it. That planners lack the imagination to develop cities that are inclusive of their working class populations is an egregious enough offence.
That states forcefully remove from their citizens access to a better life and put them in situations that create more unemployment, illiteracy, malnutrition—more inequity—is unforgivable.