Transparent Chennai was recently invited by the Information Resource Centre for Urban Deprived Communities (IRCDUC) to provide training on slum policy and the implementation of the JnNURM and Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY), to their community trainers in Madurai and Coimbatore.
It was a chance for TC to share with a new audience what we have learned about the spirit of these schemes and what they set out to do, and how both the JNNURM and the RAY have been implemented in Chennai so far. But this training also turned out to be an opportunity for us to learn, from residents themselves, about how differently schemes are implemented from city to city, even when many of the same institutions are involved.
What was striking was the completely different approach taken to the survey of slums under the RAY in these cities compared to Chennai. RAY guidelines clearly state that the community must be involved in the surveying and mapping processes. According to the Central government, NGOs and CBOs (Community-Based Organizations) must be consulted in the preparation of the list of slums, demarcation of slum boundaries, identification of vacant land, and rough mapping of slums. At the end of the surveying and mapping, the compiled information from the slum must be ratified by members of the community and by CBOs.
As we have written before, this process is not being followed in Chennai. A private consultant Darashaw is undertaking the surveying and mapping of the slums in Chennai. After the surveys have been completed, the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board has organized meetings where councilors and MLAs from each zone are invited, and the list of slums from each ward is presented. The elected representatives are then given the opportunity to point to missing slums. While early meetings included details on the number of families surveyed in each of these slums, and the proposed plan of action for each slum under the RAY, the recent meeting held in Zone 14 did not include this information. The Slum Clearance Board has not yet presented the survey findings to the community at large. People across the city continue to remain in the dark about why surveying is done, and fear that any enumeration activity will lead to an eviction. In fact, some slums have resisted enumeration precisely for this reason.
In contrast, it was heartening to see that the processes followed in Madurai and Coimbatore are closer to the process recommended by the RAY guidelines. According to the attendees of our training programme, the surveys in all Coimbatore slums involved an NGO. Teams formed by members of Arivoli Iyakkam – an NGO that I was told has a presence in most slums of the city, Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) officials and Corporation officials, along with members of the community completed the surveying process. The list of slums and households prepared by this group was then ratified by the respective ward councilor. In Madurai too, college students collaborated with self-help groups from each slum to complete the survey. In areas without self-help groups, the Slum Clearance Board itself completed the survey.
One wonders: why could a similar process not be followed in Chennai as well? Despite the presence of strong NGOs operating in at least some parts of the city, the TNSCB and the consultants have not engaged them in the surveying process. Community members aside, even local councillors were often not aware of the ongoing RAY survey in their wards. People are continuing to panic about enumeration in their areas, especially in light of the Cooum River Restoration Project, and the unoccupied tenements in Perumbakkam. The Board may not have the capacity to survey slums in a city as large as Chennai, and that may explain the hiring of a consultant for the purpose. But did the existence of a consultant prevent the Board from following a more consultative process in the surveying?
As for the training programme in Madurai, our partners informed us that the attendees appreciated the session. A committee on the RAY has also been formed in Coimbatore as a result, and further training on the RAY is likely to be scheduled. Watch this space for updates!
Written by Priti Narayan, researcher, Transparent Chennai