Issai Vani was among those who were evicted from Thousand Lights to Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board tenements in Perumbakkam earlier this year. A domestic worker when she was at Thousand Lights, she is now struggling to make ends meet as the new neighbourhood does not have any such employment opportunity.
“We get about Rs 2,000 from each house we work, but need at least Rs 1,000 to travel to the city by bus. Many of us lost the job during lockdown because there was no transportation available. Now there are no jobs as people are afraid that we might be carrying the infection,” she said.
Not just domestic workers, even those who used to work in factories are now jobless because the new residential area does not have many industries.
“We were employed in our old locality but this place has very few options. The housekeeping workers have to work for more than 8-9 hours a shift and then travel for about two hours, all for a meagre salary of Rs 5,000. After being relocated, we were not given any travel passes or other assistance to resume our life,” said K Anuradha, another domestic worker.
According to her, their area was declared a containment zone due to which they were not able to get any welfare measures. Now, there are no jobs either.
The most recent eviction drive was in last month, when about a dozen families were evicted from Sathyavani Muthu Nagar to Perumbakkam despite the pandemic. Many of these families said they had to pull out their children from the private schools they were enroled. Most of the children from such localities were not able attend online classes, as their parents could not afford a smartphone, especially after job loss.
Sister Valarmathi, the State coordinator of National Domestic Workers Movement, said they have been urging the government authorities to grant free bus passes and other such support to these workers who have been relocated to suburbs and neighbouring districts. There should be a separate body to oversee the grant and distribution of welfare schemes, and also streamline employment opportunities for the evictees, she added.