More than 200 residents from Thideer Nagar blocked Greams Road in Chennai for an hour on Monday protesting against the government for relocating them to Perumbakkam. The residents were told that their houses were near the Cooum river so they need to be shifted from there.
The protest, which took place around 5 pm on Monday, brought traffic to a standstill. Police personnel were deployed to remove the protesters and clear the traffic.
The protesting residents are in shock after the Chennai Corporation asked them to move to Perumbakkam a week ago. About 3,000 families live in Thideer Nagar and the residents claim that it was constructed by the government in 1965.
Stella (57), who works at a restaurant, says, “We have been living here for generations. We were told last week that we will have to shift from this place and the corporation will be pulling down our houses on Tuesday. What will we do now? We want the government to build houses for us here.”
The corporation has told the residents that as their houses are near the river, they want to move them to another area. “The water that came into our houses here could also come there in Perumbakkam,” says Stella.
Another resident, Murali (29), a daily wage labourer, said that water enters their houses only during rains.
Most people living here work as domestic help in nearby houses, says Raj (45). “Our children go to nearby schools, and most of us are working as domestic help and daily wage labourers. How will we travel from Perumbakkam for our jobs? They have given us just one week’s time, how will we shift so quickly?” he asks.
When asked about the floods in 2015, he says that usually during rains water enters about three streets. “During the 2015 floods, water entered all our houses. The government removed a few houses near the river and let the others remain just like they did in Saidapet,” says Raj.
Another resident, Muthulakshmi claims that the houses offered in Perumbakkam do not have too many facilities. “We heard that there are not many facilities in the houses being given to us there. The government should provide us with houses here. They only built these houses for us, how can they now remove us from here?” she questions.
She adds that they have submitted petitions to the Chennai Collector twice but have not got any response.
However, the residents state that they will continue their protests till the government allows them to live in the same place or builds new houses for them near
Deccan Chronicle reported that the Greater Chennai Corporation officials have been removing encroachments along the Cooum river. On Saturday, about 130 families from Om Sakthi Nagar in Maduravoyal and 275 families from Rangoon Street near Greams Road were evicted.
In September, the Madras High Court asked authorities to use ‘reasonable force’ to remove encroachers near water bodies and stated that it is justifiable as it is important to preserve and conserve such resources for the future generations, reported The Times of India.
In the earlier hearings, the court had asked all the districts to submit reports regarding removal of encroachments near water bodies.