In this Chennai relief camp, the poor can’t escape the great divide

chennai relief

Water, they say, is a great leveller, but not at this relief camp in South Chennai’s Kotturpuram, one of the worst-hit areas in the flood-ravaged city.

Vagabond Gypsies — who belong to the Narikuravar community and live off the land and road — escaped the floods from a gypsy colony in Kottupuram on their own, and landed at a relief centre run by the city’s civic body Chennai Corporation.

Engaged as rag pickers and garbage collectors, these people complain that they have been looked down upon by the rest of the inmates at this safer location.

M Chiranjeevi, 25, escaped with his with his wife Neelima and his one-year-old girl child after water reached waist-deep levels in their hutments and sought refuge at the relief centre in a government high school in the Kotturpuam market near Amma canteen on Wednesday evening.

“We are getting food and water. There is no problem here. But we are not allowed to stay inside the classrooms,” a distressed Chiranjeevi informed Hindustan Times on Thursday night.

Fifty other people like Chiranjeevi are staying at the Kotturpuram relief centre.

Trichy resident S Vaidehi, 19, who is a literature student from the same community, asked: “Since these people are facing resistance from others, all they want is material to pitch tents at a safer place. Can you please get someone in the government to give them canvass material?”

Vaidehi, an activist with an NGO in Trichy, is trying to get the attention of the authorities to give them material to pitch tents at least.

“This is not the time to lodge complaints against discrimination, which in itself is bad even during normal times, but during crisis, people ought to respect a fellow human being,” she said.

Torrential downpour has left 300 dead and thousands homeless in Tamil Nadu. About 350,000 people have been rescued so far by defence and disaster response personnel, officials said, but thousands remain marooned in parts of the state with food and drinking water in short supply.

Feature story source: Hindustan Times

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