Chennai: Pavement dwellers in Egmore defy eviction
On Saturday, the police forcefully moved the luggage of pavement dwellers to a government shelter, but the residents refused to vacate, although some visited the shelter and returned.
CHENNAI: About 50 pavement-dweller families living near the Egmore railway station have refused to vacate, fearing officials’ verbal promises to provide them permanent housing would go unfulfilled. A day after their makeshift-shanties on the platform were razed without any notice, the families continued to protest on the pavement, despite the rains. On Saturday, the police forcefully moved their luggage to shelter, but the residents refused to vacate, although some visited the shelter and returned.
On Sunday, they said they would not go to the nearby Chennai Corporation shelter until they get documentary proof of housing. “When slum-dwellers near the Cooum are evicted, officials give them tokens for house allotment. We didn’t get anything like that. How can we believe that we will be given houses?” asked Vinodh, a pavement dweller.
For now, the civic body has allotted them its shelter for the homeless three km away from Egmore, in Kannappar Thidal, Periyamet. While the shelter looked clean and hygienic, with amenities for the disabled as well, the people refused to move there, fearing they would be made to live there permanently. They also complained about the lack of space and privacy, saying the Corporation shelter is just a common hall.
“We have been living here for 50 years under both governments (DMK and AIADMK). What’s the sudden need to evict us? Why can’t they first allot us houses?” asked Karrupaayee, a 45-year-old woman whose children attend a nearby school. On Saturday, police officials forcefully moved all the pavement-dwellers’ luggage and belongings to the shelter, even as the people refused to shift. Due to this, many women and children had to sit on the pavements, even without a change of clothes.
Speaking about the Corporation shelter, Muthulakshmi, a pavement dweller, complained, “One floor is allocated for men and women. We can’t live there as families.” Vanessa Peter, founder of the Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities, in a petition to Chennai Corporation Commissioner Gagandeep Singh Bedi, urged the civic body to provide housing for the evicted families in the vicinity at the earliest.
She also urged the State government to frame a policy for the urban homeless to also address specific issues of such families and safeguard them from arbitrary evictions. “The arbitrary evictions carried out by the GCC are against the principles of natural justice, violate the dignity of the community, and are inhuman, contrary to the spirit of the Draft Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy which has been drafted by the government and circulated for public inputs,” the petition read.
On the other hand, Corporation officials told TNIE, “We have only told them to stay in the shelter for 10 days. Measures are being taken to provide them housing. The KP Park tenement in Pulianthope is one of the options.”
No promises on paper
“When slum-dwellers near the Cooum are evicted, officials give them tokens for house allotment. We didn’t get anything like that. How can we believe that we will be given houses?” asked Vinodh, a pavement dweller from Egmore