Barricade in Pullapuram isolates residents in the heart of the city

Residents of Pullapuram find themselves isolated for over a year now over a conflict with residents of a nearby Police quarters.

Pullapuram has been home to around 1,000 residents for over five decades now. Now, recent developments in the area have created serious difficulties for them in accessing basic civic amenities. Developments that have arisen due to an ongoing friction with the residents of the nearby Tamil Nadu Police Housing Board Quarters.

Years of peace no more

Pullapuram is located adjacent to the Police Housing Board Quarters on Poonamallee High Road in Chetpet. The locality has eight streets with over 320 houses. Most of the residents here are involved in manual labour such as conservancy work with the Greater Chennai Corporation or in the private sector. The residents had been issued a patta for the land by the then Collector in 1980. The Police Housing Board Quarters has existed in the area from around the same time.

A pathway through the Police quarters has been open for the residents for all these years to use to get to Poonamalle High Road and to have basic services such as water or any kind of delivery reach them. There was no written arrangement between the Police Housing Board and Pullapuram residents.

The residents of Pullapuram and the Police quarters shared street lights, water tanks and electrical transformers. Both sets of residents coexisted without any issues until recently.

However, the authorities of Police quarters have set up barricades to demarcate their land in February 2021, leaving the Pullapuram residents with little access to basic amenities.

A woman fetching water from tanks placed inside police housing quarters
Residents of Pullapuram are allowed to fetch water from the tanks in police housing quarters only during a given time. After 8 pm, the police personnel lock the gates. Pic: Shobana Radhakrishnan

As the residents of Pullapuram faced water shortage for decades, the Chennai Metro Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) authorities placed Sintex tanks at the border of Police housing quarters to supply water to the Pullapuram residents.

According to the residents in the locality, what started as a small argument between a Police personnel and a Pullapuram resident while fetching water from the tank turned into a larger issue, leading the authorities from the police housing quarters to barricade their campus, thereby preventing the residents from gaining access.

Read more: Where does the water in your tap come from?

Pullapuram residents face the brunt of the barricade

Lorries that supply water to the area arrive at around 10.30 am or 11 am. By this time, most of the residents of Pullapuram would have left for work.

“We used to fetch water from the tanks after returning from work. After the barricades were placed, the police authorities also set up a gate. Police personnel have also been deployed to open the gate at a given time. The gate is shut by 8 pm. When we return from work the gates are almost always shut. This is how we have limited access to water,” said Elisamma, a resident of Pullapuram.

Barricade in place so close to the hand pump
Barricade has been placed so close to a hand pump leaving it unusable by the residents of Pullapuram. Pic: Shobana Radhakrishnan

The barricades have been placed so close to the houses of Pullapuram that a hand pump near Elisamma’s house lays on either sides of the barricade. “We cannot use that pump,” the residents noted.

With the barricades at the doorstep of the houses from 4th to 8th streets, the residents have no space to park their vehicles. “It’s not just about parking, we do not even have space to place a freezer box for a funeral or for the crowd to gather for mourning the death. There is no pathway for ambulance or fire service to enter the 7th and 8th streets. Houses in these streets face the housing quarters which have been barricaded with a blue sheet. The other side of the street is also very narrow and leaves little room for big vehicles like an ambulance to pass through,” said Mary, a resident.

Residents now have to walk more than a kilometer to access the main road as their direct access through the Police quarters has been cut off.

A group of children who were seen playing in a narrow pathway in front of a house pointed to a tree on the other side of the barricade and said, “We used to play cricket under that tree. Now we have no place to play.”

Further, seized vehicles are parked in the Police housing quarters campus near the barricades. This section of the housing quarters is under complete neglect. Insects and snakes have made their way from here to the Pullapuram residential area. “We are scared to let our children play even in front of our houses now,” Elisamma said.

A resident from the Police housing quarters, who did not wish to be named, pointed out that the barricades affect them as well. She said that the shops for essential goods like grocery and vegetables were available only in Pullapuram, on the other side of the blue barricades.

“The resources were shared. We depend on the Pullapuram residents for plumbing or electrical works. We have shared street lights too. It is better if we have the barricades removed,” said the resident.

Read more: Irregular water supply not just a seasonal issue for many Chennai families

Plea of Pullapuram residents

The residents of Pullapuram have one request. “We do not claim that the barricades have been placed in our land. All we request is some consideration for our woes. We have been using the pathway through the police quarters for many years. We want the authorities to at least move the barricade a few feet away and allow us to access the roads through the Police quarters as before,” said Babu.

He added that several representations have also been made through individual residents and through the Pullapuram Adhi Andhra Seva Sangam, a welfare association present in the area.

Babu, who is the Treasurer of the Association, also added that the police authorities could take action on the residents if they were misusing the grounds for anti-social activities or dumping garbage, but that cutting off an entire section of residents from civic supplies has made their lives difficult.

Empty ground in police housing quarters near the barricade
Residents of Pullapuram request the authorities to at least move the barricade a few feet away. Pic: Shobana Radhakrishnan

No action on removal

Councillor of Ward 99, Parithi Elamsurithi, said that he has raised the issue in the Municipal Council several times and has also made representations to the officials concerned.

In response to the representations made by the Councillor, the District Revenue official of Zone 8 of Greater Chennai Corporation, in a letter to the Tamil Nadu Police Housing Corporation in Kilpauk, requested the authorities to remove the barricade that has been causing inconvenience to the residents.

Despite two letters from the Revenue officials, complaints from residents and involvement of the councillor, the barricades still remain in place.

letter from revenue department
Letter from the revenue department this June calling for the removal of the barricade. Pic: Parithi Elamsurithi

An official from the Tamil Nadu Police Housing Corporation responded that they have not barricaded but rather placed blue sheets to demarcate the Police quarters’ land.

“We have received correspondence from the revenue officials. A decision is yet to be made on the issue,” the official said.

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