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Migrant workers allege threat of eviction from lodge owners
Going against the direction by Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC), lodges in and around MGR Chennai Central railway station were threatening to send out migrant workers if they failed to pay rent, alleged the workers staying there.
A worker from West Bengal said that he had been staying at a lodge near the Central railway station after he arrived from Kerala on March 22 to board a train to his native. Five of them have been sharing a room, each paying Rs 150 per day. Now they have run out of all the money they had in hand.
“But the owner is insisting on the rent. Stuck here with no work, how can we pay the rent,” he asked.
Speaking to DT Next on condition of anonymity, the workers alleged that the lodge manager has restricted supply water to just an hour in the morning and evening to force them to vacate. “If the government provides us with shelter, we will move,” they said.
Chennai Citizens COVID Fund for Migrant Labour, a volunteer group, said in a statement that at least 1,000 workers who sought refuge in lodges around Central and Egmore stations were in a precarious situation with no money for rent or food.
“One cluster of 650 workers, predominantly from West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand, are stranded in 34 lodges on Kulandhai Street, Wall Tax Road and nearby streets around Central station. Hundreds more are in lodges near Egmore. Barring the diktats issued from time-to-time from Ripon Building or the Secretariat, there has been no action on the ground to care for these stranded workers,” it said.
It noted that the Corporation should take steps to move the stranded workers to liveable shelters for the remaining period of the curfew.
When asked, the owner of one of the lodges on Wall Tax Road said that they used to charge Rs 500-Rs 1,000 as rent. Due to the prevailing situation, it was slashed to Rs 100-Rs 150. Noting that most lodges were functioning from rental buildings, he said: “We have to pay monthly rent, salary and maintenance cost, including electricity and water.” Meanwhile, an official from Royapuram zone charged the activists with spreading misinformation. “We held a meeting with the lodge and mansion owners on April 16 and strictly told them not to collect rent from the workers. We also met the workers to hear their grievances. But nobody complained of eviction threat. We asked them to have food from Amma Canteens free of cost,” the official said.
Revenue officials visited every lodge on Saturday to check whether rents were being collected from the workers, he said. When asked about shifting them to a Corporation-run shelter, the official said that it would not be possible to accommodate all of them.