Chennai Rain Relief and Narikuarava Colony at Thiruvanmiyur station – Updates from the ground

A Narikurava colony near Tiruvanmiyur MRTS station remains in dire condition.  The colony contains 66 households, most of which were dilapidated shanties even before the floods.  The residents are in immediate need of food, clean water, and dry sleeping places.  They say they have not received any relief from the government so far.  Most of the residents work as ragpickers, collecting bottles and cans from trash for recycling.  This meager livelihood has taken a beating due to the flooding.  Even under ordinary circumstances, the Narikuravas are extremely vulnerable to infection and disease on a daily basis.  These health hazards are greatly magnified by the flooding, and will only continue to worsen as disease spreads through the city.

Young residents stand at the colony entrance.

Young residents stand at the colony entrance.

The Narikuravas are a historically oppressed nomadic tribal community (colloquially known as gypsies) who mostly earn their livelihood sorting through trash in the city.  They face another layer of discrimination due to their language, which is an easily recognized mixture of Tamil, Telegu, and Marathi, known as Vagriboli.

Needless to say, most dwellings were in poor condition to begin with, prior to the floods. Since the dwellings are raised only six inches or so off the ground, they have suffered severe water damage, as have most of the residents’ meager possessions.  Residents said that flood water had receded enough by the afternoon of Friday, December 4, that most could finally bail the water out of their houses.  However, the small lane running through the colony remains waterlogged as of the evening of Sunday, December 6th, and residents are forced to stand in the murky sewage-mixed water for hours at a time.  Almost everyone has sores and rashes on their feet. Only five or six of the dwellings are proper houses, and even those remain more than 6 inches deep in water.

Livelihoods have also been severely affected.  On a good day, a Narikurava ragpicker earns just 50 rupees, and even this paltry amount has taken a hit because of the rains. Almost everybody in the colony survives on ragpicking, except for a handful who now have contract jobs as sweepers under the government.  As residents’ assets have also been damaged by the water, they are naturally anxious about what little they have left.  During the height of the flooding, residents said they have been taking turns guarding possessions through the night, while others go to the nearby Tiruvanmiyur railway station to sleep.  The station was chilly and damp, but at least it kept the rain off.

The Kurasani Peer Masjid next to Adyar Depot has been organizing relief efforts in several nearby areas, and has been supplying a daily meal to the Narikurava colony for the past four days.  On Sunday they supplied 250 meals, each consisting of a sachet of nutri-nugget biriyani and a packet of water, to the colony residents.  Even the residents of the proper houses were very eager to receive this food aid.

At the moment the Narikurava residents are in great need of healthy food, clean water, warm clothes, dry places to sleep, and medical services:

In addition to sores and rashes, there are numerous other health problems that are likely to arise.  Water-borne illnesses can easily spread in these conditions, and Dengue and Malaria incidence will certainly rise given the massive number of mosquitoes breeding in the stagnant pools of water.

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