Houses razed, yet Surya Nagar residents refuse to move out

The shifting of dwellers of Surya Nagar off Ferry road in Kotturpuram to Thoraipakkam may turn out to be a big headache for the state government.
Houses razed, yet Surya Nagar residents refuse to move out
Women residents looking for domestic articles amid the rubble (Photo: Justin George)

Chennai

Officials of the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB), revenue, police, highways and corporation, citing HC orders, issued tokens to nearly 400 dwellers to shift them to new tenements at Thoraipakkam, a fact contested by dwellers, who said only 65 families whose houses were inundated by floods last month, had opted to move out. Officials who arrived at the spot last week, used a “carrot and stick” policy threatening to demolish the 1050 houses ‘following orders.’ 
They also reportedly threatened residents stating that they would lose “government facilities” if they remained stubborn, Yesaiah (67) said 900 women work as housemaids in nearby houses while another 40 are employed by the Anna Central Library and 40 more by Anna University as housekeeping staff. “What will we do if we are shifted to Thoraipakkam where we have no chance of a livelihood?” they asked. 
Gopinath (23) said students would be psychologically affected if they were shifted as they would be unable to come to schools in the city. The government had also provided the area with hand pumps, power, toilet facilities and concrete roads in the colony. 
What irked the locals was that officials had also issued tokens to “many outsiders” who none of the residents recognised, said Sumathi (40). 
The men who work as carpenters, plumbers and electricians and daily wage earners said they would be unable to make ends meet if their womenfolk did not work. 
Visesh (27) said “families will flounder as the new location cannot generate jobs for couples.” 
Many residents visited the Thoraipakkam location. “Those who shifted from Saidapaet regretted having moved there” said Senthilkumar (34). When asked for their house numbers, the new residents prefixed it with the word ‘jail’ he added. But Suryanagar residents’ anger was directed at officials’ ‘double standards’ said Yesaiah as officials were unable to explain what they planned to do with the Surya Nagar after it was cleared of encroachments. 
With a lot of vacant space around, “why should not the government build us tenements at this spot itself” demanded Krishnan (70) a former Corporation employee.
“Officials repeatedly promised that our area would be earmarked for us alone” he said and wondered at their alacrity to clear the location which was recently provided with a brand new multi-purpose building which was not even inaugurated. 
Residents have paid house tax from 1966 onwards as also water tax and electricity bills. Most houses have telephone connections. They have petitioned the CM’s cell against the eviction.

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