CHENNAI: Almost four months after they organised a public hearing on forced evictions and resettlement woes, the Unorganised Workers Foundation (UWF) along with other non-governmental organisations in Tamil Nadu released a report earlier this week, giving a tragic account of the lives of those resettled in Kannagi Nagar in the outskirts and insights into possible solutions that experts believe can mitigate the impact.
A report said several years after the resettlement, Kannagi Nagar continues to remain a home only for the weekends to some. “There are many who come back to Kannagi Nagar only on Sundays because they work at their old places and could not travel long distances daily. Some of us reside on the pavements on weekdays and return to Kannagi Nagar on weekends,” the report quoted Manimegalai, who was shifted to Kannagi Nagar from Sathya Nagar near Chennai harbour.
People from 63 areas in the city have been resettled in Kannagi Nagar, which has 15,656 houses, and in nearby Ezhil Nagar that has 8,048 houses. Ironically, experts said several people who were resettled citing flood-proneness were actually sent to new areas that were highly prone to floods.
Quoting Sagayam from Semmenchery, the report stated, “When Cyclone Vardah hit Chennai, Semmenchery was flooded. My wife slipped and fell in the toilet that was flooded with drainage water.”
Twenty minutes later, Sagayam’s wife was found floating in the effluent and was later pronounced as brought dead at hospital due to toxic gas inhalation. However, Sagayam and his family are yet to receive the compensation of `2 lakh promised to them, the report said.
The report was rife with tales of unemployment, poverty and lack of access to emergency services in the mass resettlement townships. Parameswari, who lived along Konnur High Road, said their houses were razed down at 7 am and that they got time only to collect a few belongings.
“We were informed that our resettlement houses were ready. Tenements constructed as tsunami relief were allocated to us. No facilities were available there. So, my family came back to our original area, and now live on the streets,” the report quoted Parameswari as saying.
However, UWF adviser Geetha said finding an alternative location was not difficult. “There is a goshala with 2,500 cows right opposite the KH Road. It is located on government land and more than 3,000 houses could be built there,” the report said, quoted her.
The report was released by retired Justice D Hari Paranthaman, Madras High Court, and brought out in association with the Penn Urimai Iyakkam, League for Social Justice, Annai Illam, Coastal Community Protection Movement, Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities, and National Alliance of People’s Movement.