A middle-aged herdsman keeps stock of the fresh grass and small plants inside a defunct three-storey government working women’s hostel on Kumaran Colony Main Road. The hostel is located behind the Metropolitan Transport Corporation terminus at Gandhi Nagar in Vadapalani.
The grass is meant to feed a small herd of goats that he rears at the hostel. Similarly, a few men can be found sleeping on the cement floor of the hostel premises. Many others, especially petty traders, use the abandoned hostel to relieve themselves.
Ever since the hostel was closed around four years ago, it is being misused. Residents say tipplers occupy it and create nuisance.
The hostel was opened by the State Social Welfare Department in July 2010. Said to be the first such government facility for working women in the city, the hostel was built at a cost of ₹.2 crore. The facility has a spacious visitors hall, adequate number of washrooms in each floor, a separate room for security personnel and a ramp for the differently-abled. Interestingly, the Social Welfare Department has installed a notice board that warns of action against trespassers. Nevertheless, a row of private vehicles can be found parked right behind this board. “Private vehicles, especially generator vans of film studios are parked here,” says S. Manickam, a resident of Vadapalani.
The open space around the hostel is overrun with grass and shrubs. Most of the lights and glass windows are broken and dust has gathered inside the building. During monsoon, residents say, the rainwater inundates the premises including the ground floor of the hostel.
The land where the hostel stands now originally belonged to the HRCE Department and was meant for the construction of residential quarters for temple priests. As the space was not sufficient, HRCE handed the land over to the Social Welfare Department.
Long-time residents say that before the hostel was constructed the land was used as a playground.
“In fact, several cricket tournaments were held there before the hostel came up,” says B. David, a resident of Vadapalani.
When it was an empty ground, the place served as a soak pit to collect excess rainwater from the neighbourhood including Kumaran Colony, Dhanalakshmi Colony, Gandhi Nagar and Dasarathapuram in Vadapalani.
Officials of the Social Welfare Department cite poor patronage as the major reason for the closure of the hostel. At night, women felt unsafe as the approach road to the hostel did not have adequate street lights. For these reasons, many women shifted to private hostels
“Steps will be taken to revive the defunct hostel soon,” says an official of the Department.