Architecture : Land Acquisition and Resettlement in India - Ukkadam, Coimbatore

When you cannot ignore the advantages due to the Industrial Revolution, its advent had not given a fair share to everyone. The people who were dependent on indigenous vernacular activities like pottery, handloom weaving had a huge blow in running their day-to-day lives. They were forced to migrate to other occupations to cope up with the fast-paced advancements that emerged.
Dhobi (washermen) is one such community with the traditional occupation of washing clothes. One can commonly find their settlements near the banks of rivers, lakes. Dhobis in various regions are likely to be of many different ethnic origins. Their ancestors took the occupation of washing clothes evolving over time into a distinct castebound by rules of endogamy. This is one of the communities who also protects and maintain the waterbodies for their regular needs and usage of the water. The census of 2001 returned dhobis representing six per cent of the total scheduled caste population.
In 1953, a group of 32 washermen started their work in the bank of Periyakulam, Ukkadam. Periyakulam is a lake of area 1.2 and is one of the major waterbodies of Coimbatore being a great source of water in Ukkadam. The community got recognized by the Government of TamilNadu in 1962, in the period of Kamarajar. Proper washing area including area for drying the clothes and houses were built for the community in an area of 2 acres which led to the thriving of the community.
As of today, the community has 32 families spanning people of four generations. The latest generation is getting educated in local schools and are literate.

The day starts with the collection of clothes from nearby residences, small lodges and hospitals. The clothes are washed in the forenoon and dried up in the afternoon. The dried up clothes are ironed and delivered in the evening.
Even the source of water has also undergone a change from the direct usage of water from the lake to the use of groundwater through borewell system.
The community is economically backward and is leading an ‘urban poor’ life. The average daily income of a family household is Rs.500. They are socially neglected and ignored as well. There are no special plans or offers by the government to uplift the lives of the community.
In addition to the common festivals celebrated, festivals that were indigenous to the community include ‘Vellavi’ festival during which white cotton clothes are washed using the steam from the boiling water.
As a part of the Indian Government’s Smart City mission, Coimbatore is one such city selected for the smart city project. The Perur Bypass Road was laid separating the settlement and the Periyakulam lake. And the problem arises now since the settlement land is going to be acquired for the extension of the Perur Bypass road. This puts the whole community of Dhobi Khana in danger and losing their livelihood and occupation. 
The resettlement plan proposed by the government officials doesn’t pay heed to the sustenance of their occupation. The proposed area cannot be made up for their occupation and also there is no major water source nearby. 
While development is necessary for a country’s growth, the development should be sustainable and never by killing indigenous communities and their livelihood.


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