June 14, 2009

Expressways for the City, anger among the poor

Is the state creating social tensions in our neighbourhoods by displacing the poor?
I think it is.
And I think we will witness increasing violence if the state continues to treat these people like vermin.
Last week I had a chat with Sister Irudhaya Mary who has taken charge as the Headmistress of a Middle School in Mylapore.
We support this school in small ways since a large number of its students are from poor families.
Sister Mary was feeling discouraged. A number of students did not turn up on Re-opening Day for the new academic year.
These students are residents of colonies on the southern outskirts of the city. They and their families have been 'rehabilitated' in these colonies after they and hundreds of others were cleared from areas like the Buckingham Canal banks and the seashore following the tsunami.
The children continued to attend their 'old' school despite the long, tiresome bus journeys. But they couldn't take it any longer and have decided to give up. Some may attend the suburban state-run school, some may go on to work.
Sister Mary wondered if she could convince the state-run MTC to run a special bus for these children, some 100 of them to ensure they got a good education.
I am pessimistic.
The state continues to 'rehabilitate' people who live in the city and have encroached on state land. The 'rehab nagars', located off Old Mahabalipuram Road (Rajiv Gandhi Salai) are yet to be fitted with everything that is essential for displaced people.
Thus we have unhappy communities.
You may have experienced this with your maid, watchman, autodriver or electrician who once used to live close to home but are now banished to the outskirts.
The frustration has grown as suburban employment is scarce and living off work in the city weakens them physically and increases their daily expenses.
Add to this is the disappointment of their teenage wards and waywardness of elders.
Anger, discontent, depression. It is now spilling over.
As the state plans expressways, flyovers and Metro Rails and seeks to displace the poor, the tensions are bound to rise.

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