Encroachments in Chennai removed by TN Housing Board

By A Harsha Vardhan Published on Aug 09, 2018 11:48 AM IST

Chennai: A section of a 50-year-old church and 12 buildings on Thangam Colony, 6th Avenue in Anna Nagar, in the city, encroached upon land belonging to TNHB, was razed by officials last Thursday for road widening works.

A tense atmosphere prevailed in the area as police forcibly evicted church-goers, pastors and residents from CSI Immanuel Church.

A TNHB official said,”Around 2,600 sq feet of road was encroached by the church 30 years back. A 300-metre portion of the 6th Avenue road, on which the church and the 12 buildings sit, has not been seen bitumen for the last 50 years because of their encroachment.”

After repeated complaints, petitions and court cases by the residents of the area, the Supreme Court passed an order in 2015 directing the State government to remove all encroachments and facilitate road widening and bitumen topping. But still, the problems persisted.

The TNHB official said,”Even after the Supreme Court passed the order, we were unable to go forward and reclaim the land for the road as the police and State government were hesitant to provide support. They thought the issue could balloon and become communal as a church is involved.”

“Another reason for the authorities hesitation was because the encroachments were not huts, but developed properties belonging to middle and high-income group residents. The encroachers also tried getting stay orders. But the court finally gave us the go-ahead and we have razed the encroached portion of the buildings with police assistance, after giving the encroachers due notice and time to vacate,” he added.

However, Bishop Ezra Sargunam of ECI said,”A big injustice has been done against people who have not done any mistake. We were not given any notices or information prior to the demolition. A big blunder has happened in our nation today.”

While the church and property owners whose buildings were razed denied encroachment, the other residents of the area have a different opinion.

Balakrishnan, a long-time resident, said,”The 6th Avenue is a 60 feet road. But this questionable section has been reduced to 30 feet because of encroachments. I believe that this is the right move.”