More than 100 houses in Tamil Nadu were demolished last week as part of the state government’s beautification drive. On December 17, the authorities, citing court orders and development work, razed 57 houses in chief minister MK Stalin’s constituency of Kolathur and another 77 at Thousand Lights, Chennai.
The evicted people in Kolathur have not been provided compensation or alternate accommodation while the residents of Thousand Lights have demanded houses within the city limits.
HOUSES IN KOLATHUR RAZED WITHIN HOURS
On December 11, a day after Stalin distributed relief materials to Kolathur residents affected by the monsoon and the subsequent inundation, the eviction process was started much to their dismay.
“The final notice for eviction was pasted on the doors by midnight on December 11 asking the residents to vacate the houses in seven days. Around 100 families living in 57 houses were shocked,” P Hemavathy, who supported the protesting residents and is also the Kolathur region secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
According to the residents, the administration is acquiring more land to construct an overbridge that will connect Kolathur to neighbouring Villivakkam. “We will benefit if the bridge comes up but demolishing our homes to build parks is unacceptable,” a protester told Newsclick. “From the initial 5 feet acquired on both sides of the road for construction, the area was increased to 14 feet. The residents supported the project since their houses were not affected. Suddenly, they were asked to vacate the area,” Hemavathy said.
When the residents protested the move, the “electricity connection to the street lights under which they were protesting was disconnected. They asked us to vacate the place or face the consequences”, another protester said.
On December 17, around 6 am, about 200 police personnel arrived at the spot and the demolition drive started by 8 am despite the strong opposition by the residents and the CPI(M).
Police personnel deployed in Kolathur to assist the demolition drive.
“Determined to demolish the houses, the officials were unmoved by the weeping women. The residents had been living in that area for more than 50 years,” Hemavathy added.
Women try to stop the demolition vehicles.
The police used force to remove the protesters, a woman said adding, “we are not against the construction of the bridge. We somehow managed to start earning something after the lockdown. We have nowhere to go now”.
CPI(M) Kolathur region secretary Hemavathy was manhandled for supporting the residents.
The authorities decided to demolish the Avvai Nagar 1st street reportedly to construct parks as part of the beautification drive. The acquired land is three times that of the requirement for the construction of the overbridge.
Another protester said, “We voted for the DMK with the belief that our problems would be solved. Now, we have lost our houses. The government is more interested in beautifying the city than solving our problems.”
The residents in front of the demolished houses.
The possibility of a massive increase in the price of the land after the construction of the bridge is very high with the residents suspecting the move to benefit real estate companies.
“The DMK government is functioning as a capitalist regime. No buildings of corporations or private housing companies are demolished even if they were constructed on water bodies. But the poor are being evicted,” Hemavathy said. The CPI(M) has demanded that the state government should adequately compensate the evicted residents.
77 HOUSES DEMOLISHED
In Valluvar Kottam, within the city limit, 77 houses were demolished on the same day. The families, who were residing there for half-a-century, are reportedly being allocated houses in far-flung areas.
G Selva, central Chennai secretary, CPI(M) said, “The eviction drives are carried out citing court orders. The evicted people should be allotted houses within the city limits, where they can find sources of living.”
The government is reportedly planning to allocate houses in Kalai Nagar, 40 km away from the present location. A local CPI(M) leader and three others, including an elderly woman, were detained for raising slogans demanding the allocation of alternate houses.
Kishorekumar, a researcher with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said, “After the implementation of the neoliberal policies, the competition for attracting foreign capital is huge. The government is interested in making the city beautiful and on par with international cities. Instead of evicting poverty, the state is interested in evicting the poor.”
Images courtesy: P Hemavathy