Chennai: Kannappar Thidal residents to boycott LS elections, hoist black flags

The residents of the shelter, located in Chennai Central constituency, alleged that sitting MP Dhayanidhi Maran, who is contesting from the same seat in the upcoming elections, has never visited the shelter even while campaigning.
Kannappar Thidal residents to boycott LS elections
Kannappar Thidal residents to boycott LS elections
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Around 250 voters from Kannappar Thidal, a shelter that was constructed more than 22 years ago in Chennai Central Lok Sabha constituency, will boycott the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The residents, who mostly belong to Scheduled Caste (SC) communities, have been living in the cramped shelter for over two decades, with the promise of being awarded permanent housing by successive governments.

Selvam, a resident in the shelter, told TNM, “It has been 22 years and three months. All the politicians have promised us homes at different points in time, but to no effect. MP Dhayanidhi Maran, who won from here in 2019, has never visited this shelter. He has not stepped into our cramped shelter to even ask for votes. We are neglected, so why should we vote? We won’t.” 

He added that even if the sitting MP tried to enter the shelter for campaigning now, the residents would mark their protest. TNM contacted Dhayanidhi Maran for a comment but didn’t receive a response. This article will be updated when he responds.

It was in 2001 that the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government evicted 64 families living on the streets near the Ripon Building in Egmore constituency and housed them in a building near Kannappar Thidal. The building was not only small, but it also lacked basic amenities like toilets and sewage facilities. The shelter continued to be ignored by successive governments and the promised housing has not yet been provided. Currently, 128 families live in the shelter. 

In April 2023, the state Minister of Urban Habitat Development Board TM Anbarasan told the Tamil Nadu Assembly that houses will be built in the derelict commercial complex in the same constituency under the in-situ programme. This land belongs to the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC). 

Joel Shelton, a social activist who has been working with the community at Kannappar Thidal told TNM that the GCC is now saying that the land which has been classified as a park or playground cannot be used for constructing houses.

Joel said, “In-situ housing programme would considerably reduce the beneficiary contribution cost, but it wouldn't be free. So, the government of Tamil Nadu should look for provisions in Tamil Nadu Shelter Funds, Special Component Plan (SPC) or Tamil Nadu Adi Dravidar Housing Development Corporation (TAHDCO) to help them avail houses for free.”

In February 2024, the GCC asked the residents to submit their employer authorisation forms to IIFL Home Loan, a private finance company, to avail loans to cover their share of the cost under the in-situ programme. However, the residents alleged that many of them were not aware of this requirement. Selvam asked, “Even if we knew about it, how would we pay back the loan with interest rate of 8.90%?”  

“Many of the residents are begging on the streets for a living, so they can’t get the form filled,” Joel pointed out.

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