CHENNAI: Eviction practices in Tamil Nadu are set to change for the better with the State government acknowledging the need for a more dignified process. In the resumed eviction drive in Chennai's RK Nagar, conducted on Saturday and Sunday, houses will not be demolished until the entire settlement is relocated, and private packers and movers have been engaged to help residents move for the first time in the city.
Eight months after the first batch of 93 families from Dr Radhakrishnan Nagar in Arumbakkam were relocated to KP Park, authorities have resumed evictions to shift the remaining 439 enumerated families in the settlement.
The evictions, jointly carried out by the Greater Chennai Corporation, Water Resources department and the Tamil Nadu Urban Habitat Development Board, are now following a standard operating procedure to make evictions more dignified and convenient for residents.
However, activists have questioned why evictions were being done before the end of the academic year and sought for the SoP to be made public for feedback.
The SoP includes advance notices about the date of eviction, which was prominently displayed in the locality, packers and movers to be engaged by the Corporation and camps for facilitating student admissions, ration card, Aadhaar card and voter identification card by line departments.
Amidst criticism that families were being transported in lorries along with their belongings, authorities have now arranged a separate tempo traveller for families. "The packers and movers bring corrugated boxes and help the residents pack their belongings. The residents don’t have to hurriedly pack up their belongings and leave," said an official on the site.
Eviction norms 'friendlier', but don’t take academic year into consideration
"The structures that are vacated are marked 'Vacated as on 2-4-2022' and are not demolished immediately. Also, power supply was not disconnected. All vacated structures will be demolished only after completion of full resettlement," said TNUHDB MD M Govinda Rao, who inspected the eviction and resettlement sites.
Usually, the houses are demolished and families are evicted on the same day tokens are issued for new houses, leaving families in a state of frenzy salvaging and packing their belongings while also ensuring they are not left out of the list of allottees to new houses.
Scenes of family members picking out belongings such as toys and textbooks from the debris of hurriedly-demolished houses were common earlier. "I'm happy RK Nagar has helped bring about a friendlier and a more dignified approach towards evictions," said Karthik, whose mother is a resident of RK Nagar and has been resettled.
Evictions that began in RK Nagar last year, a few months after the DMK took charge, were called off after a social media storm kicked up against evictions. The families will now be resettled to KP Park in Pulianthope, in batches, within the next few days.
However, activists have questioned why the SoP does not talk about evictions in the middle of an academic year. "The evictions are taking place before the academic year ends, which will impact students," said Vanessa Peter of Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities.
Adding that there are processes that must be followed, Vanessa said a pre-eviction social impact assessment is necessary and a mitigation plan must be evolved based on its findings. The new SoP should be made available online for feedback since it concerns the life of many, she said.
Usually, the houses are demolished and families are evicted on the same day that tokens for new houses are issued, leaving families in a state of frenzy - salvaging and packing their belongings from the debris.