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A first-hand look at in situ development in Pune

In comparison to other major cities in the country, Pune has been fairly progressive in its approaches to slum development. The in situ slum redevelopment project at Yerwada in particular, has been among the noteworthy instances of participatory planning efforts under the Basic Services for the Urban Poor (BSUP) component of the JnNURM in the country. It has long been my favourite example to quote while discussing the possibilities of in situ development in Chennai. So imagine my excitement when I got to visit Yerwada! I happened to meet Mr. Sharad Mahajan of the Maharashtra Social Housing and Action League (MASHAL) at a conference in Pune, and he offered to arrange a field visit for me[1].

Interactions with MASHAL field officers and residents gave me many insights into the project. While some aspects of the project matched my expectations, others surprised me. Here are some of my initial learnings:

Background and project details

All the slums that are part of the project are officially recognized slums. Beneficiary households span six administrative wards. The municipal councilors from these wards (called corporators) came together to implement this project. The project only involved redevelopment of housing, and not the provision of any social infrastructure or basic facilities. Beneficiaries did not receive a patta for their homes. The provision of tenure security was also not included in the scheme. However, field officers revealed that the councilors are now making attempts to give patta to the residents.

Details of housing intervention

According to the field officers, about 70% of the houses in these areas were pucca (or made of permanent materials) at the outset. The project set out to help the remaining households, which were semi-pucca or kachcha (made of impermanent materials). A community meeting was held to inform people about the project, and to invite them to participate. The corporators also announced the scheme. The expenditure was Rs. 3,00,000 per house for a minimum house size of 270 square feet unit, of which 10% came from the beneficiary.  Residents had the option to have bigger homes, but they had to pay extra.

Interestingly, smaller houses were not given extra land to ensure a minimum house size of 270 square feet: they simply built upwards in the land he/she occupied prior to the intervention! For instance, if a beneficiary occupied 150 square feet of land, he would receive a three-storeyed house measuring 270 square feet. However, those occupying less than 100 square feet of land were not eligible for the scheme.

Partly as a result of this policy, no two houses in the intervention are the same. Architects worked with the residents of each house to design the house as per their needs. However, the design mandatorily included a toilet. The structures also had to be constructed with Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC).

The project tried to employ contractors and construction workers living on the site. People could also bring in contractors of their choice from elsewhere. According to the field officers, there were some disagreements between the architects on the MASHAL team, and the people. The councilor functioned as a moderator in case of dispute. Residents I spoke to seemed happy about their new concrete homes which do not leak or flood. Some of them also have a toilet in their homes for the first time due to this intervention.

Beneficiary contribution

The scheme was voluntary. Some households, though eligible, did not participate in the scheme because they could not afford beneficiary contribution, or the rents they needed to pay while their house was being built. No assistance was offered to the people to be able to pay these rents. Some of the beneficiaries have also been unable to pay their contribution towards the house (this was required to be done in three installments of Rs. 10,000 each, upon the start of construction, construction of plinth and construction of roof respectively).  No penalty or interest is levied for defaulters.


By being implemented in already recognized slums, this project may have only benefited those who have already been eligible to receive benefits from the government. Yerwada also seems like it was already a fairly well-developed slum with largely pucca houses at the start, and sewage, water and electricity connectivity. Thus, the scheme has not assisted the more vulnerable populations residing in poor living conditions in informal settlements. Despite the JnNURM’s insistence on the provision of tenure security, pattas were not given to people as part of this scheme, much like other BSUP housing projects in other cities. People do not possess any ownership documents, except for property tax bills and photo passes. The scheme also did not provide social infrastructure.

However, the project has been commendably participatory and flexible enough to accommodate the needs of each beneficiary in his/her house, and has even involved the residents of the site in the construction. The contribution of the government per house (Rs. 2.7 lakh) is over twice that of the contribution in the BSUP housing intervention undertaken by the Chennai Corporation (Rs. 1.3 lakh). The construction of 270 square feet has been guaranteed at this cost in the Yerwada project, while in Chennai, beneficiaries receive only financial assistance, and no guidance on design or construction of the structure. Our field work in Chennai has indicated that some households do not complete construction of houses because midway they find that they cannot afford the construction anymore. Some Yerwada beneficiaries also reported gaining access to a household toilet through the intervention.

It was very exciting to be able to visit a project I had only read about, and critically examine its merits and demerits. We will certainly study the Yerwada project further, as TC continues to push for in situ development of Chennai slums.

Written by Priti Narayan, researcher, Transparent Chennai

[1]MASHAL, an NGO, has worked for the development of 2,020 kachcha and semi-pucca houses in this project. Other NGOs are involved as well.


As an action research group, Transparent Chennai is interested in research that can inform practice, research that has the potential to bring change on the ground in some way. This means that researchers are also involved in outreach so that civil society organizations use our research, and so that we produce research that is relevant for them. As part of our ward-level accountability work, we have reached out to student volunteers, met with councillors, held public meetings and so forth. But as part of our work on slums, we recently helped organize a demonstration to raise awareness about the lack of official recognition for most slums, and we may have crossed over from researcher to activist territory. And that was a totally different ballgame altogether.

Some background information first: in July, Transparent Chennai, in association with the Unorganized Workers’ Federation, had organized a workshop on slum policy in Chennai, its implementation thus far, and what sort of implications this history could have on future projects like JNNURM 2 and RAY. We presented some research we had put together on these issues, and a number of slum dwellers shared their experiences. At the end of the meeting, many attendees including members of slum-based organizations, researchers, concerned citizens, activists and students saw the need to change policies and showed enthusiasm to carry this work forward as a network of organizations.

A core committee was formed, and met every Friday at our office. The first thing we did was to get our objectives clear: what were our main demands? Official recognition of slums (declaration), provision of basic services such as water, sanitation, etc. for slum dwellers in situ without relocation, and ensuring that money pumped for schemes such as JNNURM and RAY was used in keeping with their objectives of increasing access to basic services among the poor. What would we call ourselves? The Right to City Movement – Chennai for all, in the hope of creating a truly inclusive city. So far so fun.

What do we do next? The initial idea was to host a large public conference aimed at improving the JNNURM II or the RAY – with 1000 attendees, a sort of bigger version of our workshop which would make the government and the media sit up and take notice of the issues. Some students attended the during the workshop, so Transparent Chennai decided that we could get them to do some basic data collection on access to services in slums and present it at the conference.

It was only a little later that we realized we did not have enough time to pull off a conference of that magnitude by the beginning of the September. Getting a hall for the day was proving impossible, and so was trying to get the data collection exercise to work in tandem with the slums outreach within the limited time. Thus the idea of staging a demonstration came up at the next meeting. But if we thought the public meeting was going to be easier to execute, we had grossly underestimated the work required.

What does a peaceful demonstration require?

  1. 1) Police permission which can only be obtained in person with a written letter at the Commissioner’s office.
  2. 2) “Bit notices” or leaflets and posters announcing the demonstration and explaining the issues in Tamil.
  3. 3) Distribution of leaflets in slums, and pasting of posters in slums and public places a day before the event.
  4. 4) Getting a banner made for the demonstration venue.
  5. 5) Organizing a press meet to announce the demonstration.
  6. 6) Inviting the press to the press meet and for the protest.
  7. 7) Announcement of the demonstration to our students group and confirmation of participation (because we had already done considerable student outreach, and gotten 150 people to sign up!).
  8. 8) Getting posters and placards ready for the day of the demonstration.
  9. 9) Compilation of a list of “goshams” or chants for the day.
  10. 10) Figuring out the logistics of the demonstration: the shamiana, chairs, microphone system, carpet, water, etc.
  11. And all of this had to be done in about ten days total. Phew.

As is with democratic processes, there were delays in getting the bit notice and poster drafts approved by the committee that only met once a week. But our student gang and interns chipped in for a few hours late one evening, to make posters and placards as they ate Kurkure, and made 50 super creative posters in just three hours!

Our partners took care of outreach in slum areas for us. Transparent Chennai team members did play a part in it too! The day before the demonstration was spent in our campaign vehicle: an auto with our poster stuck on the back that went all over town, sticking posters in slum areas and talking to people about why slum declaration was important and why they should come to this event. Saravanan of the Jai Ambedkar Welfare Society was our friend, philosopher, and guide through the whole process.

And so we did it! Over 250 to 300 people attended the protest, including around 30 students who held up their signs proudly in the hot sun for hours and stood with the slum-dwellers who had come from all over the city: Ambattur, Sholinganallur, Zoo Maidan, Greams Road.

Because of the mix of people who had come out for the event, all of the big four English newspapers in town covered us, a rarity for issues facing slum-dwellers, and so did the TV stations.

So, for a little while, researchers turned into organizers and activists. While it was certainly a little frustrating in parts, it was a great learning experience for us. Now for that conference… onward and upward!

Written by Priti Narayan, Researcher, Transparent Chennai

Students make posters for Right to City movement

Transparent Chennai organized a poster-making session for the demonstration on Saturday, September 1st in front of Memorial Hall organized by the Right to City Movement (of which we are a part). Social work students came from Madras School of Social Work and from D G Vaishnav, and thoroughly impressed us with their enthusiasm and creativity!

Students came up with fantastic imagery and slogans that brought home the importance of officially recognizing slums in the city, and ensuring that rehabilitation too place in-situ. See the photos below!

Pushing for declaration

(Cross posted on Terra Urban:

On July 21, 2012, the Transparent Chennai team kickstarted our work on slums and informal settlements with a workshop on slum history. We had nearly 100 people attend the meeting, including members of slum-based organizations and trade unions, NGOs, researchers and academics, and students.

The workshop was meant to be a stocktaking – we wanted to survey the entire history of programs and policies towards slums in the state and see how these policies had been implemented in the city, and the impacts they had on the urban poor. In addition to presenting the findings from our own research, we also invited slum-dwellers to share their experiences of accessing services and eviction and asked local experts for their feedback on planning regulations in the city.

What we found from our research was shocking to us. In the 1970s, Chennai had a fairly progressive history of policymaking towards slums. The state passed the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Act in 1971, which essentially stated that the government was only supposed to intervene in slums for the purpose of improving them (and not, for example, to move slums to make way for infrastructure as happens now!). It said that the government needed to first identify slums according to the definition given in the Act, officially recognize them or ‘declare’ them under the Act, and then improve them by adding basic services or by building better housing in-situ.

They declared 1,202 slums in 1971, and spent the next few years building thousands of units of tenements in-situ to benefit slum-dwellers all over the city.Under the World Bank funded Madras Urban Development Programs (MUDP) and the Tamil Nadu Urban Development Programs (TNUDP), the city built thousands of “Sites-and-Services” plots in large mixed income colonies. Today, many of these original allotees have built second and third floors and are earning substantial rental incomes from their homes, providing their families with stability and helping them to permanently escape poverty.[1]

But since then, the government has not followed the dictates of the Act. No new slums have been recognized for 27 years. But many new slums have come up as the city has grown, and the Corporation boundaries have expanded. This means that hundreds of thousands of city residents live in a limbo: they live in constant fear of eviction, and they are not eligible for any of the government programs to improve services in slums because the government does not recognize the slums they live in. This has had predictable consequences: a 2002 survey by the Slum Clearance Board in undeclared slums found dismal levels of access to water and sanitation.

The government has also been evicting large numbers of slum-dwellers from the city to make way for new infrastructure projects and as part of city beautification projects. Our research found that at least 20,000 households were evicted from the city between 2005 and 2009 alone, and more evictions have taken place since then.

And the government no longer builds in-situ tenements. Almost all of the money spent by the Slum Clearance Board in the last 15 years has gone towards building large-scale resettlement colonies on the outskirts of the city, where evicted residents from both declared and undeclared slums have been sent – in complete defiance of the guidelines for intervening in slums set down in the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Act. The money for these colonies has come from the JNNURM, despite the Mission’s stated emphasis on in-situ rehabilitation. Residents of slums who attended the workshop shared harrowing stories of evictions that took place as a result of these practices, and others described the inhumane levels of services in their neighborhoods.

So what now?

The individuals and groups that attended the workshop agreed that they needed to work together to push the government to declare existing slums, provide better services, and stop the practice of resettlement into far-away ghettos. The groups agreed to call the network the “Right to City Movement: Chennai for all,” and members agreed to organize events together to bring attention to the flaws in slum policies and the way they were being implemented in the state.

We are very excited about the creation of this network, and hope that we can play a role in supporting its activities. We also believe that such an active network is important because new urban development schemes are on the table including the Rajiv AwasYojana and the JNNURM II. As the central government plans to spend much more money for the urban poor, we are hoping that there will now be a strong voice advocating that this money be spent in ways that really improve conditions for slum-dwellers in the city.

[1]This observation comes from research we recently conducted for the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation where we surveyed residents from a sites and services site in Kodungaiyur.

Written by Nithya V Raman, Project Director, Transparent Chennai

The undervalued treasures of our past require protection: A brief history of heritage legislation

The built heritage of a city narrates its history, the variance in culture that existed and the transition of lifestyles over different periods. It is an exhibit about the past that has survived through generations and over centuries. From an economic perspective it is an inheritance that needs investment in order to reap its rewards. The heritage zones of the city have their unique nature which needs be promoted, protected, conserved and experienced.

A brief history of archaeology and conservation legislations in India

The Portuguese in Goa were the pioneers of archaeology in India which dates back to early 16th century.[1] To start with, the colonial masters brought about the idea of conserving the Rock cut reliefs, the south Indian temples and the remains of the previous masters from the Qutub Minar to the Taj Mahal.

The British had a keen interest in the archaeological wealth of our diverse culture and established the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 1861 with Alexander Cunningham[2] as a surveyor. The ASI went through many vicissitudes till the arrival of Lord Curzon in 1899, who was a connoisseur and a keen enthusiast of history. In 1902 the ASI was reconstituted with John Marshal as the first Director General and in 1904 the ‘Ancient Monument Preservation Act’ was passed. In 1906 surveys of hundreds of monuments and sites were declared protected under the act and extensive repairs were undertaken.

In 1921, under the Government of India Act, 1919, archaeology was made a central subject, and the provinces were left merely with the power of declaring monuments and sites protected under the Ancient Monument Preservation Act. The interest was evident with the exploration of Harrappa in 1921 and Mohenjodaro till 1931. In 1932, to encourage outsiders, including the foreigners to undertake exploration, the ‘Ancient Monuments Preservation Act’ was amended. In 1937 even universities like Calcutta, Baroda and Allahabad had played important roles in undertaking archaeological works.

In 1944, Dr. Robert Wheeler the ASI Director General trained and build capacity amongst his staff in modern methods of excavation and conservation. In 1951, under the constitution of India an act was passed to replace the old Ancient Monument Preservation Act of 1932, under which the states were given important role to play in this central subject of archaeology. After several iterations another act Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act 2010 has been passed.

Preserving heritage in Chennai

The listing of heritage buildings in Chennaiwas first made by INTACH which is Asia’s largest voluntary organisation for conserving art and culture. Then in 2003 a separate committee under justice E. Padmanabhan was constituted for identifying and enumerating places of historical importance in and around Chennai. A report was compiled and submitted to the high court in 2006 and draft legislation has been written.A heritage conservation committee has been formed at the CMDA level, but action remains to be taken.

This list comprises of 466 natural and manmade heritages of which three are sadly already demolished.Due to the Chennai Metro rail work the Trevelyan fountain in grounds of the Victoria Public hall has now been removed. The recent fire incidents at Khalsa Mahal and Agurchand Mansion make it evident that much more needs to be done to protect the heritage.

We at Transparent Chennai wish to invite the history and heritage enthusiasts to lend their hands in exploring the heritage of our city. We would like to partner with local groups to start work on the issue of heritage. We will soon be adding a layer of information about it on the site. Are there things that we can do together to increase awareness and encourage people to take action?

Roshan Toshniwal


[2]Alexander Cunningham was a military engineer who impressed upon Lord Canning the then Governor General to undertake systematic exploration in the country.

Chennai Slum’s Sanitation Woes

This video and write-up is from Video Volunteers  (, a media organization that works towards empowering the world’s unheard and disadvantaged communities. We thought that this video captured some very serious problems with solid waste management in the city. People that live in low-income communities are often neglected when it comes to the provision of public services and amenities, such as solid waste management. Watch this video to learn more!

Over a million slum dwellers don’t have access to basic sanitation in Chennai – home town of this video’s correspondent.

Nearly 25% of Chennai’s 7 million citizens live in the city’s various slums. But when it comes to basic civic facilities like sanitation, the administration always tends to forget them.

In this video, Mani shows us an example in Kotturpuram slum where ten thousand people live in extremely poor sanitary condition. Every lane in the slum is covered with rotting garbage and sewage flowing out of homes and clogged drains. No municipality worker comes here to clean the roads or clear the drains.

This is because, Mani says, slums are never considered as important as other areas of the city by the administration. So services such as sanitation and garbage collection hardly reach the slum dwellers.

Though residents of Kotturpuram slum have made repeated complaints to the municipality over the unclean roads, nothing has been done. Now, if we are to think that every slum more or less share the same set of problems such as sewage, unclean water and road, we get a picture where the city administration is practically ignoring the need demand of nearly one and half million people!

Waste management and sewage treatment have been Tamil Nadu’s worst areas of performance. There are two rivers that flow through Chennai city – Cooum and Adyar. Both of them are heavily polluted. The Cooum in particular has been severely polluted with effluents from some business establishments, and plastic bags and sewage from slums on its banks.

Mani who lives quite close to Kotturpuram says that currently the government of Tamil Nadu working on a plan that aims to make Chennai ‘slum-free” by 2013.

As a part of the plan, Tamil Nadu government has started constructing several residential complexes across Chennai to rehabilitate slum-dwellers. But Mani says, besides providing shelter, the government also needs to provide other civic facilities to the slum dwellers. Otherwise they will continue to live in the unhealthy condition that they do now.

Are there civic issues in Chennai that you would like IndiaUnheard to report on? If yes, let us know by submitting your story idea.

“Source: Video Volunteers –