Nationwide Support to Ongoing struggle of Urban Poor in Chennai
The urban poor across the country are facing brutal eviction as well as destitution in the name of development with various parameters. May it be infrastructure, beautification or Smart cities, decades and generation old communities of the poor who are in fact the primary producers serving the city dwellers through various services as well as unskilled labour are the ones who face the front of displacement rooting their residential hutments they are also made to face the economic deprivation. They are therefore crying HALT, asserting their right to life and livelihood.
The slum dwellers in Chennai forming 25% of the city’s population have been in the struggle since last many years and have checked the impeachment/ impingements upon their lives not just by bulldozers but the beneficiaries of ‘development’ at their cost. The major reasoning in behind eviction in Chennai has been the construction, lining, widening and development of waterways affecting the poor yet working population, the struggle has proved and exposed the western interest behind who also desire to grab land and have no concern for water. Just as fish workers near seashore in Chennai and Marina Sea Shore in Chennai have been under threat. The communities of the poor living on the banks of the rivers within Chennai, Rivers including Cooum, Adayar etc. have survived only through long-term non- violent struggles. This time again using the last flood in Chennai as the main reason, the same families of the poor are facing hell, with evictions to arrest.
The Tamil Nadu Slum Areas Act 1971 was the first law in India to confer rights on the urban poor followed by Survey of Slums with recognition of their labour, Notification of slum areas and in situ tenements in the first phase as well as regularisation of slum areas in the 2nd phase. But now, the subversion of these principles, displacements causing workers in the unorganised sector - Construction, Domestic etc, to lose their employment and their children to become dropouts, lack of security to young girls, etc, Ghettos being created in the name of Resettlement, the process could be termed Neo Untouchability, is shocking. Moreover the Social Assessment Report for River Restoration talks of 3 options, first being in situ housing and up-gradation, second being in situ tenements and third being the dislocation. But the State Government has chosen the third and a negative path for the urban poor.
Hence NAPM along with Unorganised Workers’ Organisations and Women’s Rights - Pennurimai Iyakkam, demand a stop to Slum Evictions and a Consultation with Slum Dwellers regarding In situ Development or within 3 km with the security of tenure, basic amenities, brick houses (either individual or storied buildings), without affecting the livelihoods or disrupting children’s education, and river/ canal flow to be streamlined and disallowing sewage or effluents to pollute the water. The Demonstration held on 29th at Chepauk has raised a voice against the Displacement and demanding that Pavement Dwellers be given shelters and homeless be given space on surplus lands acquired under ULC Act in Chennai. The Corporation of Chennai is carrying out Forced Evictions without notice in Dideer Nagar, KH Road, MGR Colony and Pozhichalur .
We protest against Forced evictions which must be stopped forthwith and Public Consultation on the Chennai River Restoration Project.
Geeta Ramakrishnan, Gabriele Dietrich, Arul Doss