Neil Abishai Cornelius and Megha Mallick
The Police station is empty but for the four policemen inside and the two detainees sitting on the floor. A middle aged woman rushes inside wailing and pleads the Sub-Inspector to not hurt her son. The Policeman assures the mother of the 26-year-old that her son wouldn’t be harmed and to wait outside.
The woman’s son picked up a fight while being drunk with the locals and was arrested by the police. Alcohol has been the biggest issue that has haunted S.N. Nagar the most for many years.
The S.N.Nagar slum falls under the jurisdiction of the Triplicane Police Station. 73 police officers work in this station, in different shifts. Constable G.Suresh says that there are at least 5000 houses, and 25000 people in total. He says that there is no predominant profession in the area but all sorts of labourers could be found in these slums.
Most cases from the slum that are reported at the police station are of petty fights that escalate into big ones. According to the police, 95% of the people in the slum drink alcohol. Four to five years ago there were a few illicit alcohol stores, which have since been shut down by the police. Constable Raj Kumar says many of the men in the slums are unemployed drunks and depend upon their wives salaries for their drinking.
Due to the area’s conflict prone nature many of the children end up orphaned because their parents get killed in disputes. These kids then form groups and rob passengers at the Central Railway Station for a living. The police station has launched welfare clubs for these children, where books are provided and sports tournaments are conducted for their wellbeing. Constable Jegan Sasikumar said that a cricket tournament was organised between the kids of the slums and a police team a little before Diwali this year.
Like most other slums, the people have been asked to relocate and have been provided with housing at Perumbakkam and Kannagi Nagar, but they do not want to be displaced by the slum clearance board. The people have been asked to move out due to the Cooum River Restoration Project as the slum chokes the river and has hindered the restoration works. Sub-Inspector Srinivasan.G says that the people are right in a way to not move as they have no means of livelihood in the new place.