No ‘Maaveeran’ to save Kannagi Nagar families as TN Waqf board turns blind eye

Despite repeated complaints, no action has been taken to rectify the issues, laments Nasreen who lives with her daughter and grandson.
All 175 houses managed by the Waqf Board in Kannagi Nagar are in a pathetic state
All 175 houses managed by the Waqf Board in Kannagi Nagar are in a pathetic state(Photo | Martin Louis)

CHENNAI: While preparing food for her family, R Nasreen (59)*, who lives in a tenement maintained by the Waqf Board in Kannagi Nagar, is extra cautious. A minute of carelessness will end up in the food being spoiled as bits of the house’s ceiling keep falling down every now and then, reminding a scene from a 2023 Tamil movie Maaveeran that ends with the hero saving hundreds from a damaged apartment building with his superpower.

This is just the tip of the iceberg; despite paying Rs 500 per month as maintenance charge to the board, the family of three lives in a house with cracks on walls and stairs, broken windows and doors, damaged sewage pipeline, no direct water connection that forces them to manually carry water for everyday use, and much more.

Nasreen’s is not a one-off case. This is the condition of all 175 houses managed by the Waqf Board. Despite repeated complaints, no action has been taken to rectify the issues, laments Nasreen who lives with her daughter and grandson.

The Tamil Nadu Urban Habitat Development Board (TNUHDB) maintains around 23,500 houses in the Kannagi Nagar resettlement area. As per TNUHDB officials, 175 houses were handed over to the Waqf Board in 2010, which were allotted to Muslim families from economically weaker backgrounds.

There is a stark difference between the houses maintained by both the boards. These houses were also excluded from the refurbishment carried out by the TNUHDB in the site last year. According to residents, the TNUHDB refuses to take up maintenance work because the rent is collected by the Wakf Board that cites a lack of funds for repairs. Residents added that officials tell them to vacate the house if they raise complaints, and will then allot it to others. “There is no wall in my house and the floors are damaged. We are living in fear but we have no other option. Even elderly women carry water up two floors due to the lack of pipeline connection. While others in the area live with all facilities, we are being neglected,” said another resident.

The residents in the 175 houses, numbered from 13,282 to 13,457, are also paying higher maintenance charges. Former AIADMK councillor TC Karuna said, “The TNUHDB collects `250 per month for maintenance yet carried out a refurbishment last year, addressing all repairs and even painted the houses. However, residents under the Waqf Board pay `500 but suffer without attention.”

A TNUHDB official said that they stopped taking up maintenance works of these houses from 2023 as the Waqf Board is not paying them any money.

Meanwhile, officials from the Waqf Board said they have written to the government seeking funds to repair the houses. “The houses were given in exchange for the land that the public works department took from the board. We don’t have enough funds and we have forwarded complaints of the residents to higher authorities,” said an official.

*Name changed

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