May 03, 2008

Homeless in Chennai

This happened in January this year.
The annual Mylapore festival was on on the Mada Streets and I was taking a short break between the folk performances on the main stage.
A middle aged woman came up to me and introduced herself.
She said she had met me a long time ago and was aware that I was a journalist.
But now she wondered if I had a few minutes to spare.
She quickly told me about the serious problems that people like her had to face in Mylapore.
Families who lived in rented houses or apartments were being asked to vacate the place the moment the contracts expired.
Or, if they wished to stay on, then they would have to pay double the rent.
She said she was paying a rent of two thousand five hundred for a small place off the crowded streets of Mylapore.
Now, the house owner had found people who were willing to pay four thousand.
Hers was not a rare case, she said. Lots of middle class families faced the prospect of moving out of the core city areas where they had resided for decades and seek a roof in the suburbs.
Because house rentals had shot up.
I let that story pass.
But over the past few months, this story has been coming back. Only, the voices are different. The people though are from the same background.
A serious social churning is going on in our city.
Middle class families who cannot afford their own hearths and have resided for years on the streets and lanes of Triplicane and Mylapore, Royapettah and Mambalam, Nungambakkam and Alwarpet are told to get out.
For, a new set of people can now afford to pay fancy rents for accommodation in the city centre. And these are people who enjoy the fruits of the new economy.
Are there public platforms for 'deprived' communities to discuss such issues?
Are there forums where urban matters are seriously considered?
This past week, an NGO - Nandini Voice for the Deprived - hosted a meeting for families who have been severely affected by shooting rentals.
Is this a voice in the wilderness?


யாத்ரீகன் said...

How much is the awareness of Rental Laws among the public ?! can't they help ? (yeah, the court formalities does take tons of time.. but just curious to know)

Vincent D' Souza said...

Nandini, the NGO, has drawn up a list of issues that the state should look at - the NGO did it after the meeting.
You can contact them for more details and guidance/relief if you need help.