In July 1990, the Slum Clearance Board in the city of Madras (now Chennai) India decided to rid that city's streets of the "untouchables" - the Dalit people who made their homes on the streets. Overnight, six thousand street-dwellers were rounded up, their makeshift thatched homes or lean-tos were burned to the ground, they were tossed into the back of army trucks and driven to an inaccessible flood plain named Vellachery on the outskirts of the city. There, all 6,000 of them were unceremoniously dumped on the ground and told to fend for themselves, with no housing or infrastructure of any kind provided for them.
Vellachery was a terrible place to abandon these people with no support services. It was an immense floodplain, separated from the Bay of Bengal by a narrow ridge of sand. Because Vellachery was flooded twice a year with salt water during the monsoon seasons, nothing grew there - no plants, no trees, nothing. And because it was twice yearly flooded, no human being lived there, either. Further, because it was unpopulated, there was no public transportation from Madras into Vellachery - no way to reach the outside world and no way for the outside world to get to it except by four-wheel drive vehicles. It was an absolutely dreadful place to be dumped.
The Success Story That Followed
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