CPDR-TN Statement against evictions following Chennai floods

December 31, 2015


Press Note :: December 24, 2015

Upholding the legacy of late Advocate P.A. Sebastian of Mumbai High Court and founder General Secretary of Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) in Maharashtra, which has led the fight for protecting the basic democratic rights of the people as enshrined in the constitution of the Republic of India, we, a group of intellectuals, activists, and trade unionists, including Dr. Nandi Joseph, Scientist Gopal, Prof. Karunanandan, Prof. Thirumavaalavan, Dr. Thangaraj, Dr. Lakshmanan, Adv. Shanmuganathan, Dr. Dhiman, Sugumaran, Adv. Gurunathan, Ms.Revathi and others, came together on December 21, to form the democratic rights organisation “Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights — Tamil Nadu” (CPDR-TN). We thus envisage to continue with the vision put forth by CPDR, Maharashtra, that was formed during the repressive emergency of 1975, in the contemporary context of rising violations of democratic rights by the state machinery and an undeclared emergency-like situation prevailing in the country.

As an immediate concern, CPDR-TN is alarmed at the plight of a huge number of people affected by the recent devastating floods in Chennai, Tiruvallur, Kanchipuram and Cuddalore. In this context, CPDR-TN considers the efforts by the government, in the name of restoring water bodies, to evict the flood-affected people from their original meagre dwellings on river-banks and similar locations, after the rains ended and the floods receded, as an act of irresponsibility.

CPDR-TN strongly feels that the government is unjust in penalising the targeted evictees, who are allegedly encroaching on water bodies. They have already suffered, defrauded by the unholy collusion between political parties, realtors and developers. In fact, these “occupations” have been regularised continuously by successive DMK or AIADMK governments, at the payment of a premium. CPDR-TN insists that government should immediately end all attempts to evict them away from their habitation. The attempted eviction, in the pretext of a newly found love for saving waterbodies and natural resources, is nothing but an illegal expropriation by the government.

CPDR-TN feels that the urban ecology has been mainly threatened by the sustained encroachments due to institutional developers like airport, engineering colleges, medical colleges, public schools, hospitals etc, occupying hundreds of acres of water bodies like lake-beds, eri, river banks of Adyar, Cooum and Buckingham canal.

CPDR-TN also insists that the government should halt all attempts to evict the slum dwellers from the river banks of Adyar, Cooum and Buckingham canal. They have been living there for decades and the government’s efforts to house them via the slum clearance board have not yet provided any safe shelter.

Eviction of marginals living in slums is not a new phenomena, neither in the country nor in Chennai. For example, the previous DMK government colluded with Dato S. Samivellu, the then Malaysian cabinet minister of works, to evict the marginal people in the name of Singara Chennai. Subsequent AIADMK government also tried to evict the fisherfolks and marginals from their 11 hamlets between Marina Beach and Olcot Kuppam, Besant Nagar to provide real estate for embassies, star hotels and to create high security zones. The current attempt along Adyar, Cooum and Buckingham canal, is a continuation of this process, in the projected objective of beautifying urban spaces.

CPDR-TN reminds the government and the judiciary that Article 38(1) of Directive principles of State policy, part (IV) states, ‘‘Social justice means abolition/removal of all sorts of inequalities, which may result from inequalities of wealth, opportunity, status, race, religion, caste and the like”. Therefore, the approach of the Supreme Court or High Court to work together in putting the lives of marginals at peril is a violation of the social justice enshrined in the constitution. It is the deep concern of CPDR-TN that the custodians of the fundamental rights in the country have placed concerns of ecology ahead, leaving behind the lives of the marginals.

CPDR-TN considers that the government’s incoherent and unplanned urban development, in collusion with real estate developers, as well as the failure to develop and maintain proper drainage system across the city are the primary causes for the large scale devastation via extensive flooding during the recent rains. CPDR-TN contends that saving waterbodies cannot take priority over the life and safety of citizens and calamities cannot become an occasion for attacking the weakest sections of society. CPDR-TN condemns the attempt by Singara Chennai to get rid of the marginals who actually maintain the beauty of the landscape by cleansing the garbage of the powerful.

Dr.Nandi Joseph (President)
S. Gopal (General Secretary)