TNSCPCR to take actions against the violations of rights of the resettled children

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Since 30 November 2016, Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) has been evicting the marginalised families residing in the banks of River Cooum as part of the Integrated Cooum River Eco-Restoration Project of the Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust (CRRT). Till date, 1962 families from 13 settlements have been resettled to the settlements of Perumbakkam and Navalur in Kanchipuram District, AIR Site in Chennai District and Gudapakkam located in Thiruvallur District.  Of the 1962 families relocated 981 families were relocated to Perumbakkam 231 families to Navalur 601 families to Gudapakkam and 149 to AIR Site.

The rights of the children are violated in the process of eviction and resettlement. While the entire communities suffer innumerable material and non-material losses as a result of evictions, children are among the worst affected.Evictions carried out without adequate notice period and the existing gaps in the rehabilitation has a severe impact on the children of the resettled families in many ways. Some of the impacts of the eviction and resettlement on children are as follows:

  1. Trauma: The process of eviction is traumatic for children as most of them are unable to understand and gauge the full implications of the sudden appearance of police personnel and bulldozers around their homes. The experience of having one’s home torn down, which is often accompanied with an increased vulnerability of the family, can leave an indelible mark on the psychological health of the child. In the evictions that were carried out in the settlements of Rangoon Street and ­­­­­Om Shakthi Nagar the GCC officials had informed the date of eviction only the previous night; therefore there was no ample time to prepare the children about what was to happen to their homes and their area of habitation. It is also to be noted in EVR Periyar Salai, the families were misinformed about the resettlement site and they availed information about the actual resettlement site only when they were loading their belongings in the trucks.[1] The children were completely in a confused state not sure of where they are to be moved and such acts of negligence further traumatizes the children.
  2. Homelessness: In the immediate aftermath of an eviction, some families are rendered homeless. The sudden loss of security of home, community and exposure to harsh weather conditions often has a severe impact on children’s health. After the eviction of the settlement of West Namashivayapuram on 18 October 2017, 33 families in the locality have been left homeless. Because of the heavy rains the left-out families had to seek refuge in a chapel nearby[2]. The health and education of the children was affected, as the children had no shelter to protect them from the heavy rains. Perumal Koil Street was evicted on 23 November 2016; two families were forced to reside in partly demolished houses without electricity for over a year before they could access permanent houses.[3] The children in these families were living in precarious living conditions for about a year before they availed houses. Though GCC has provided shelters for those whose houses are demolished and are not provided with permanent houses, the transition from the demolished house to the shelter and then to the permanent houses has a drastic impact on the health and education of the children.
  3. Loss of livelihood and the impact on children: The Government of Tamil Nadu has failed to conduct processes like Social Impact Assessments and Resettlement Action Plan to mitigate the adverse impact of resettlement, especially when the families are moved to sites that are over 35 kilometers from their area of habitation. As the livelihoods of the families are location centric, people lose their livelihood options immediately after resettlement. Loss of family income results in increased vulnerability of the family and in many cases the parents are unable to meet the nutritional needs of the children. Though sustenance amount of Rs. 2,500/- is paid, most of it is spent on travel  (for livelihood and education back to their previous place of habitation) and health care, as these services are inadequate in these sites. 
  4. Loss of Access to Nutrition, Education, Health Care Facilities: Lack of adequate anganwadi centres and primary health care centres have resulted in children unable to access adequate nutrition, education and health care facilities.
  • The primary school in Perumbakkam is continuing to function in the tenements for over 2 years violating various provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act). The makeshift arrangement of establishing the primary school in the tenements meant for residential purpose continues for over 2 years and children do hot have access to playground, adequate teaching staff, inadequate and poorly maintained toilets violating the various mandates of the RTE Act. Children in this school are forced to urinate in the public places due to absence of toilet facilities. Lack of fire safety clearance and the school functioning in a place, which is not appropriate (not constructed for education purpose) for functioning of the schools, poses a threat for the safety of children. [4] In Navalur, only primary school facility is available within the settlement. Since the eviction on 17th November 2017, most of the children from class 6 to 12 are not attending schools because of inadequate transportation facility in the site to ensure that they reach the school safe. [5] 
  • In the settlements of Gudapakkam and Navalur there is limited access to higher secondary school. Children will have to travel over 8 to 10 kilometres to access higher secondary school in all these settlements. The Navalur and Gudapakkam settlements do not have adequate public transportation facilities for the children to commute to these schools
  • Of the 7 functional ICDS in Perumbakkam, centres in H and Q block do not have electricity. The ICDS are not adequately staffed. There is only one person in charge for the anganwadi functioning in A block and parents have complained that the centre in charge had often locked the children inside the centre and has gone out. The children were locked in these centres without any adult supervision. Of the 7 centres, facilities are available only in 4 centres. In none of these settlements spaces for ICDS is allotted as per the population norms of the State and based on the judgement of the Honourable Supreme Court. The ICDS centre in Gudapakkam is not functioning regularly.[6]
  • There is no functional Primary Health Centre in Navalur and in Gudapakkam it is functional occasionally (thrice a week), therefore depriving children of their right to health.

Though Government of Tamil Nadu claims that these evictions are conducted to protect the communities from disasters such as flooding, evictions carried out in haste without adhering to the processes coupled with the inadequate facilities in the resettlement sites only increases the vulnerabilities of the communities, especially the children.

We have filed a complaint dated 23 November 2017 to the Tamil Nadu State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (TNSCPCR) highlighting these issues and seeking intervention of the commission to address these violations. As there was no response we sent another petition dated 20 March 2018 requesting response of our complaint. We have neither received an acknowledgment or a response from the Commission till date, It has been six months since I have filed the complaint and yet I have not received any communication from TNSCPCR.

 The children who were relocated to various resettlement sites continue to face problems because of deficit of social infrastructure facilities like schools and anganwadi centres. The delay in the response from TNSCPCR to enquire into the matter has resulted in further denial of rights because of the delay in addressing the grievance.

Demands:

  1. TNSCPCR to immedietly respond to the violation of rights of children in the resettlement site. To conduct an independent enquiry into the matter within 15 working days
  2. No more evictions should be carried out till the issues related to children are resolved and a status report on the same is submitted to the TNSCPCR
  3. Evictions should not be carried out during the mid academic year as it disrupts the education of the children
  4. Ensure that all members including women, children, and those belonging to marginalized sections of the affected community are aware of the rehabilitation plans well in advance (3 months before the eviction)
  5. Ensure that no evictions are carried out without a comprehensive rehabilitation plan that includes impact assessment and identification of mitigation measures to minimize the adverse impact of eviction, especially for children
  6. Third party monitoring of these evictions should be mandated to ensure that rights of children are not violated during the process
  7. To set up of an independent grievance redressal authority that will handle eviction and rehabilitation-related child rights complaints
  8. Government of Tamil Nadu to conduct independent assessments of impacts, of eviction on the children who are evicted to the relocation settlements under the Integrated Cooum River Eco-Restoration Project
  9. Ensure that the resettlement sites are safe and free from stigma and criminalisation before relocating communities
  10. Ensure that the resettlement site has all basic facilities including potable water, electricity, schools, health care, nutrition, early childcare facilities and adequate space for children to play
  11. Special buses for the children should be arranged for those children travelling back to their previous place of habitation for schools till other arrangements could be made

 



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