Resettlement Colonies and Livelihood Challenges : A study on Kannagi Nagar

Researchers from Madras Institute of Development and activists have been conducting a study on livelihood patterns in Kannagi Nagar during 2011-2012. Kannagi Nagar being predominantly made of evicted slum population from various parts of the city, the study aims to understand how forced mobilities impact and determine the working choices for the poor in Chennai city. In particular, the study explores the disruption in access to work, challenges in rebuilding the lives and livelihoods after forced relocation.

Kannagi Nagar, Chennai’s largest slum resettlement colony, equipped with a barely adequate level of basic services, is located on the IT corridor (earlier known asthe Old Mahabalipuram Road or OMR), a dynamic stretch of new-economy enterprises. The siting of the resettlement colony on the OMR predates the development of the IT corridor, but this accident of siting allowed policymakers of the

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TNSCB to justify moving slum- dwellers to the area on the grounds that they would have easy access to work opportunities on the corridor.

The study comprised two components: a survey of working members in 726 randomly sampled households (roughly 5 percent of the 15,000-odd tenements), and 60 open-ended interviews with a sub-sample of the surveyed workers. Based on this survey, the researchers published a paper titled ‘The Spatial reproduction of urban poverty: Labour and Livelihoods in a slum resettlement colony’ in Economic Political Weekly, October 2012 issue.

The paper explores the creation of surplus labour for emerging formal sector through state engineered policies. As per NCEUS, while formal sector has captured 50% of GDP, it employs only 12-14% of total labour force in the country. This paper elaborates on the conditions of forced resettlements where the abundant availability of formal sector jobs is undercut by their poor quality, contributing to precarious and The study also highlighted the fact that slum resettlement colonies over time take on forms and dynamics very different from what their builders and managers envision. While the legality of the tenement is constrained by the policies and policy managers in various ways, the thriving dynamism in Kannagi Nagar provide a lens into working class’ aspirations for a legalized space and asset building to secure their and their family’s future.

Yet, while the working class is relocating and being relocated, so is capital. The manufacturing industries(characterized by Perungudi’s industrial estate) has moved away to give way to emergence of Chennai’s IT corrdior at the same time, the number of resettlement colonies and size keep increasing. The paper highlights these mobilities perpetuate the type and quality of jobs being created and deskilling of an already low skilled work force resulting in reproduction of urban poverty.

The article is available at The paper is part of the special edition of EPW on Reivew of urban affairs. The editorial and other papers can be found at



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