One walk to this place and one realises that it is anything but a land meant for the poor in Chennai's Boat Club area where thick foliage, clean wide roads, spacious and beautiful bungalows, and well-manicured gardens are a common sight. Boat Club Road is an affluent locality, which was supposedly meant for the welfare of the poor, is now home to the rich.
According to a recent tweet, former IAS officer MG Devasahayam stated that Boat Club is a property donated by Sir John De Monte to the Catholic Church by a Last Will and Testament executed on 19 July 1820. As per the Will, the property was primarily meant for "poor Orphans, Widows and distressed Families". But only the rich and the affluent live here.
Devasahayam had earlier lodged a complaint against 12 people, including the archbishop of Madras-Mylapore AM Chinnappa. Most of these are trustees of the Demonte Charitable Trust. The complaint was about the alleged criminal breach of trust pertaining to immovable properties. These properties were primarily meant for the welfare of poor, widows and orphans and Boat Club in Chennai is a part of these properties.
John De Monte had committed his assets-estimated to be over 105 acres of land across prime locations in Chennai-to the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore. The land was committed for charity and for the betterment of the poor. But, the reality is far from what he had intended. His land is now one of the most coveted spots in the city.
De Monte had stated that his properties never be sold but can be leased out to fund the charity. But, after his death, some of his properties were taken over violating his will.
Recently the residents of the Boat Club had requested the district administration for placing a gate at the entrance of the residential area. They complained that people of all kinds were coming into the residential area and cars were found parked at odd hours. The corporation commissioner in Chennai turned down the request stating that the roads in the area are public roads and people cannot be stopped from using them.
The Commissioner had said that a segment of people in the society cannot be given special treatment as the law does not permit so.
On the matter, Devasahayam was quoted as saying, "The Boat Club RWA has no right to seal the property and prevent ordinary people from accessing this breathing space."