Members of the Tamil Nadu Tribal Association (TN Malai Vaazh Makkal Sangam) staged a demonstration at the Tambaram municipality office on Wednesday, demanding housing rights for a section of families belonging to the Irula community.
The houses of 14 families in Mannoorankulam, Kannadapalayam, were demolished last month to make for way for a pumping station – part of the municipality’s underground drainage project.
Members of the association, led by P. Shanmugham, its State president, said the 14 families had been living at the same site in Mannoorankulam for four generations and demolishing their houses overnight reflected the attitude of the State government agencies towards marginalised and downtrodden communities.
Mr. Shanmugham said that for several years, these families had been appealing to the State government to issue pattas to them for their houses, but in vain.
“These families have been living here long before Tambaram was made a municipality. The least the government can do is provide housing rights to them,” Mr. Shanmugham said.
R. Krishnamurthy, CPI (M) member, said that in the name of development, several families, especially those belonging to downtrodden communities, were being uprooted from their homes that had been theirs for several generations. “We have never opposed development, but it is completely unjust and unfair to drive these people out of their homes,” he said.
Low-income groups were the worst affected in displacement drives conducted during infrastructure projects, the Irula community in Mannoorankulam being the latest example, Mr. Krishnamurthy said.
Municipal authorities said the drainage project was being executed by Chennai Metrowater and the houses were demolished in the presence of revenue department officials. The plot of land on which the families had been living was classified as poramboke, and so the displaced families were not eligible for pattas.
However, 7 of the 14 families, who had ration cards, were provided alternative housing facilities at the slum board tenements in Peerkankaranai.
CPI (M) members however were not convinced and said it was impossible for the families to live on a 100 sq. ft. plot. They alleged that the houses had been demolished in order to give realtors with political connections access to the land to built apartment complexes.