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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.

Discussion

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.

Piloting the Sample Survey: Process and Lessons

In a previous post, Avni had detailed the sample survey on waste Transparent Chennai conducted in Ward 173. We piloted the survey to eliminate any redundancies and ensure integrity of the survey. After the mapping exercise we divided the ward into blocks of 250-300 households. The survey was conducted in fifteen blocks while the pilot was conducted in one of the fifteen blocks across 50 households and 4 shops that were shortlisted through systematised random sampling. The chosen block covered part of a low-income locality, Govindasamy Nagar, and part of a high income one, Krishnapuri.

Researchers and volunteers approached the households over two days to request participation in the pilot. The participation of the residents involved segregation of garbage generated in their household into organic, inorganic and sanitary waste before handing it to the team engaged to collect them. The sampling method allowed for a 20 percent rate of refusal, which meant that we could afford no more than one-fifth of the houses we approached refuse to participate in the pilot. Prior interaction in the ward showed us that residents in low-income areas were more willing to cooperate in such efforts. As a result, there was a degree of anxiety about the response we would receive from the residents of Krishnapuri.

With this in mind, the team decided to engage residents and discuss the pilot with them as a precursor to the recruitment process. We met with office bearers of the Resident Welfare Association in Krishnapuri and informed them about the nature and purpose of the pilot. They were very receptive and promised to solicit the cooperation of residents.

In Govindasamy Nagar, the outreach team had previously met with Maheshwari as part of workshops held in the ward. Maheshwari is a popular member of the community, actively involved in various causes and known to speak for the welfare of the residents. She played a vital role in spreading the word about the impending survey and in the recruitment process. A challenge faced in this regard was to explain the process of random sampling to volunteers from the community. The general tendency of the volunteers to veer from the process to select households they felt would adhere to segregation or were appropriate candidates or their friends, had to be kept in check.

The process we followed for recruitment was simple. Once we reached a selected household, we briefed them on the work done so far and the purpose of the pilot. We obtained their consent for participation and provided documents that would help them better understand the process. We also provided them with four bins – two for inorganic waste, one for organic waste and one for sanitary waste and the requisite number of garbage bags. Since segregation was paramount to obtain the necessary data, its importance was stressed repeatedly. Lastly, we administered a short survey to gather details about the number of residents in each household, number of rooms, current method of waste disposal and questions to determine their socio-economic category. The dustbins were handed out two days prior to the first day of collection and participants were asked to ensure that only one day’s waste was deposited by the residents during the time of collection on each of the three days.

In the recruitment stage, our fears proved to be well-founded. We faced more resistance in high-income areas than in the low-income one. We were close to crossing our upper limit of allowable rejections in Krishnapuri, resulting in some tense moments. We had one household that returned the bins and refused to participate on the first day of collection, and one that only gave us garden waste for three days. But most of the others were very cooperative and appreciative of our efforts. In Govindasamy Nagar, the situation was polar opposite of that in Krishnapuri: there was interest in the survey from all quarters, and residents wanted to understand the method of selection of households and why they were not part of the survey. We collected the contact details of those who were interested but were not part of the survey, in order to approach them during further engagements in the ward.

We began the collection stage of the pilot on October 27th. For three days we collected waste from the doorsteps of the residents between 7 A.M. and 9 A.M. with the assistance of conservancy workers. The bags were labelled with a code assigned to each household and with the category of waste, and then transported to the area designated by the Corporation of Chennai for analysis. We weighed each bag individually and recorded the results. The sanitary and organic waste was disposed into the Corporation dustbins and the inorganic waste was further segregated. With the help of two informal waste workers, the recyclable materials were extricated from the inorganic waste, and the weight of recyclables and the residuals from each household was recorded. The residuals were deposited in Corporation dustbins while the recyclables were given to the waste workers.

In Govindasamy Nagar, the issues encountered during the survey included locating households, too little space for the dustbins provided and more than one household making use of the bins provided contrary to instructions. A sample household and sample shop were found to be locked through the period of the survey, so no waste was obtained from them. In Krishnapuri, the households that agreed to participate, segregated waste more effectively.

Compliance with segregation was found to increase with each day of the survey as instructions for segregation were reiterated to each household. Sanitary waste was obtained only from a few households over the course of the survey. Possible reasons could be the stigma attached to the nature of waste that included condoms and sanitary napkins. Feedback from the residents and volunteers prompted the redesigning of survey instruments to be more visually appealing. The number of dustbins provided to the slums was reduced to three owing to the lack of space in the households. The pilot gave us an idea of the scale of the logistics that would be required to carry out the larger sample survey. The lessons from the pilot certainly aided in better planning and efficient organising of the sample survey.

The Corporation of Chennai, especially the officials and staff at the ward office, were very supportive throughout the process, providing us with space for conducting the analysis, electric connections for the weighing machines, and space for storing the rented weighing machines overnight. Their assistance continued during the final nine day survey and was invaluable to its successful completion.

Written by Aruna Natarajan, researcher, Transparent Chennai.

Councilor Meetings on RAY mapping: Promising first steps from the TNSCB, but more work needed!

The Transparent Chennai team has been monitoring the progress of the Rajiv Awas Yojana – the central government’s “slum-free cities” program – in Chennai. Although the program was announced in 2009, it has been slow to be implemented in the country, including in Tamil Nadu. If implemented according to the spirit of the RAY guidelines (a very big IF), I think that the program has real potential to improve policies towards slums in the city.

Each city and state has to prepare a ‘Slum Free City Plan of Action’ before they can access funds under the program. In Chennai, in preparation for creating this plan, zone-by-zone surveying and mapping of all slums, whether declared or undeclared, has begun. As far as we know, three zones are nearly finished with their work. In order to comply with the requirements of the program, the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB), which is the agency responsible for implementing the RAY in the state, has begun holding meetings for councilors and MLAs to share and vet their survey findings from zones where they are nearly done.

Because Transparent Chennai had invited representatives from the TNSCB to our public meeting on the RAY last December, we have been invited as observers to the three meetings that have already taken place. We will be posting reports of each meeting, and are happy to provide more information by phone (call our office during working hours at 044.2830.3400, and ask to speak to Nithya or Priti).

First councilor meeting in Zone 13
We were informed about the first meeting in advance by phone and letter, but the date was changed a number of times making it difficult to plan our attendance. Finally, the meeting was held on Saturday morning on February 16th at the Hotel Raj Palace (near Andhra Mahila Sabha). Invitees included staff from the Slum Clearance Board and councilors and MLAs from Zone 13.

The meeting opened with an address by the Managing Director of the TNSCB, Mr. Chandrasekar, IAS. He provided attendees information about the RAY and about what activities had taken place in the city so far, and told them about progress and pilots in Trichy and Madurai as well.

The meeting was then led by Mr. Shanmugasundaram, the State Level Coordinator for the RAY. Mr. Shanmugasundaram provided details about the process of the RAY (how would planning be done, how would projects be put together?). He then provided details about the results of the survey on a ward-wise basis, using both maps and tables. In each ward, he presented the name of each of the slums counted, a brief description of each (as a tenement, MUDP/TNUDP slum, riverside slum, etc.) and also presented the suggested strategy for dealing with these slums (either delisting, tenable – in situ rehabilitation, and partial or complete relocation). After the presentation from each ward, the ward councilor – if present – was invited to give his or her feedback. Not all councilors were present, but those that were present were given ample time to speak.

Additionally, two MLAs attended the meeting, M. K. Ashok from the Velachery constituency, and R. Rajalakshmi from Mylapore constituency. Ms. Rajalakshmi appeared only briefly because she had other obligations. Mr. Ashok stayed for most of the meeting, and was articulate about the concerns of slum-dwellers in his constituency, saying that they should not be moved from where they were living.

Given the difficulties that slum-dwellers and CSOs in the city have faced in the past in accessing information from the TNSCB, I was impressed with the frankness of the presentations by Mr. Shanmugasundaram and by the Managing Director of the TNSCB, and their public commitment to having a public meeting to which the concerned slum residents would also be invited.

However, it was clear at this meeting that councilors and MLAs had not been given the information about the surveys done in their wards and constituencies before the meeting, which means that they did not have a chance to prepare their responses. It was also not made clear at the meeting how feedback from this meeting would be incorporated into the planning process for the RAY. For example, what would happen if councilors stated that certain slums were missing from the survey, or that the number of households counted in the survey in each slum was actually less than the true number of households that lived in the slum? Would the numbers be rectified?

There were more complex questions too – What would happen if councilors did not agree with the plans put together for each of the slums? If slum-dwellers or councilors preferred to develop their slums in-situ (in the same place as they currently sat), would that be permitted?

One thing that does seems clear from this meeting is that close engagement from slum residents and councilors will be required in order for the RAY to be implemented in Chennai according to the spirit of the RAY Guidelines. The RAY asks cities to do some difficult things – doing things like setting aside vacant land in a ward for rehabilitating slum-dwellers is likely to face resistance from other departments and agencies, and the TNSCB will require citizens and elected representatives to put pressure on these other agencies to give up their land. Without our vigilance, it is unlikely that the RAY will yield significant benefits for slum-dwellers.

Written by Nithya V. Raman, director, Transparent Chennai