Sri Lakshmi Pengal Munnetra Sangam (SLPMS) has been relentlessly working in small urban slums and remote villages across Tamil Nadu to help people recover their livelihood in the aftermath of COVID-19.
In one of the many bylines of Madurai, a small community of 600 has been struggling for the basics. This area, where the inhabitants are mostly of elderly age, still does not have its own electricity supply. Although the land is owned by the government, the inhabitants have been settled here for a long time. Most of the families live in kutcha (temporary) houses, without proper sanitation facilities, prompting them to use the public restroom facility available in the neighboring area about a kilometer’s walk away. Restricted timings for these facilities have been an issue that the residents, especially the women, have been struggling with for a while now. Locals are mostly engaged in fruit and vegetable retailing, goat rearing, or sex work.
Priya smiled a little as she told us about her small business. Priya is a goat rearer, whose family has been residing in this rundown urban slum set up two or more decades ago. She’s a former sex worker who has availed of a revolving loan through SLPMS. She’d used her loan to purchase goats. Although pickup is low, she hopes to gain some momentum in time. She is supporting her family of six with whatever she earns. For Priya, taking care of her family is a priority, but her immediate surroundings make accessing the bare minimum a challenge. The slum has not been regularised by the government, and its inhabitants are technically squatters. For them, the threat of being homeless looms large. COVID-19, on the other hand, left them more vulnerable than before, their close proximity to each other, minimal access to health facilities, and a host of other issues have left Priya and many others like her at the mercy of fate.