Perumbakkam: a systemic failure

Police assistance booth situated on Perumbakkam Main road

It has been three to four years since the Pallikaranai police station has asked to be released of the responsibility of Perumbakkam district. The police, with its strength of nearly 54 personnel, work over-time as cases from within a six-kilometre radius reported to them.

According to Sub-Inspector (SI) B Ranganathan, “We get four complaints from Perumbakkam per day regarding thefts, harassment. Most of the time, the instigators can be sourced back to the migrant colony there.”

By migrant colony, the police refer to the slum area consisting of nearly 20,000 evicted families brought from various parts of Chennai city. Officially, the slum is called Yeddilnagar meaning “Beautiful town”, however as per the police, the place is neither beautiful nor a slum.

“60 percent of the people there are labourers. The rest simply drink all day. We had sent a letter to the Slum Clearance Board (SCB) long back asking for a separate station. For now, we only have a police booth near the Village office,” said SI Ranganathan.

K Sarangadass, Convenor of the Federation of Civic and Welfare Association, Perumbakkam said, “The police are more afraid of these people rather than the other way around.”

A Times of India article, on April 4, 2018, said the SCB had allotted 2 acres of land near its office to build a police station. The Federation personnel were informed of this in August. Further information is unknown to both them and the police.

On the other hand, people of Yeddilnagar seem to have given up on the local government bodies.

Vishu (67), a tea-seller who was relocated to Perumbakkamfrom Konnur High Road, Otteri by the Madras High Court on June 10, 2018 said, “The police are very ignorant about the slum. They don’t care about us.”

Instead of relying on the government, Vishu decided to break the shackles and live life on his own terms. Along with his wife Jaya (65) who has employed herself in pottery, the two earn their daily bread working for nearly 12 hours every day, starting from 8.30 a.m.

Similarly, Kaali Amma (55) who owns a small shop near the government high school said, “Engale inge thookkipottu saaka vechirukkaange (They have dumped us here to die),” she said.

Earlier, in Chintadripet, she used to earn Rs. 1500 by doing minimal jobs of cleaning road or houses. Now her livelihood depends on the school kids who buy things from her shop. If the school is closed, she doesn’t know what she would eat that day.

Adjacent to Amma’s shop, is the Perumbakkam Government High School (PGHS), set up four years ago, when the government started relocating people after the flood disaster of 2015.

The students talk about the school infrastructure that suffers glaring disparities like inadequate desks and benches but half a dozen computers which are never used by the children.

The other concern is hygiene. The school claimed to clean the toilets every day. However, the girls’ toilet cubicles were covered with mud. There was no bucket or mug below the pipe. The girls preferred to urinate in a bathroom attached to the toilets, although it had no water.

The Perumbakkam series of stories have been reported and written by Group E of the ACJ Print batch of 2020.