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A review of slum interventions in the city

The slums team at Transparent Chennai is supporting the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS) in preparing a report for the State Planning Commission to assess the impact of all kinds of interventions into slums in the city. The goal is to identify the strengths and weaknesses in each approach – be it in situ development or relocation – to make possible recommendations to the government on future interventions.  This study becomes relevant against the backdrop of schemes like the JnNURM and the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY), through which crores of rupees have been made available for developing housing and basic services for the urban poor.

We at Transparent Chennai have been working on 3 case studies

1)      In situ slum development at Sastri Nagar, Pulianthope

Sastri Nagar in Pulianthope was once vacant land occupied by people from different parts of Chennai. Under the Slum Improvement Programme (SIP) and as a part of MUDP part 1, Sastri Nagar was one of 77 slums that were developed in situ by the TNSCB. The 530 beneficiaries received Rs. 6,000 to build their houses. Basic services such as sewerage connections, roads, water, etc. were also installed.

2)      In situ tenements on Ekambaram Pillai Street and Munusamy Pillai Street,  Ambedkar Paalam, Mylapore

The Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board built tenements with water and sanitation facilities for residents of slums on Ekambaram Pillai Street and Munuswamy Pillai Street in the Ambedkar Paalam area. People got these tenements on lottery basis. Those who did not get houses in the tenements were given measured plots within the site to build their houses.

3)      Sites and services at Muthamizh Nagar, Kodungaiyur

Muthamizh Nagar in Kodungaiyur which was developed by TNHB as part of the Sites and Services scheme is an integrated site with water connections and toilet facilities. About 70% of the houses on the site are for those belonging to Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).

Preliminary observations from the field visit:

Among the three sites we studied, the Sites and Services project at Kodungaiyur alone was a relocation scheme: people from various parts of the city moved to this area. Most of the residents whom I spoke to said that owning a house was a dream come true for them. This scheme, which gave people plots with sewerage and toilet facilities, also allowed people to build houses as per their requirements as and when they can afford it. In addition to the land, people were also given loans to build their homes, which were very helpful because they might not have met the requirements of a bank in order to take a loan at that time, when they only possessed an allotment letter and did not own a fully built house against which they could take a loan. Since people have built their homes, paid their full dues and obtained sale deeds, they are now eligible for bank loans, and have become creditworthy.

The huts in Sastri Nagar, Pulianthope were developed as-is-where-is, and people were provided with Rs. 6000 to build their houses. Most people I spoke to said that this sum of money was insufficient to build a house, and had to additionally borrow money from lenders. The houses measure 10×8 and look very cramped; however, most people have managed to build first and second floors for their own use, or for rental income.  Moreover, from the interviews we also found out that almost no one in Sastri Nagar possesses a sale deed due to incomplete payment of dues. Most people also do not know how to go about obtaining one (although five people have somehow managed it), and thus are unable to take loans against their houses.

The tenements in Ambedkar Paalam also measure 10×8, but there is no scope for expansion of the house. At first, the houses had individual water connections, but later, the connections became defunct. Hence now, people have to draw water from the common water pumps on the ground floor. Residents living in the top floors are facing a difficulty of climbing up and down with pots of water every day. Aged people also find it tough. Pattamma, a 60 year old resident of this area recently moved from her tenement in the 4th floor to a shack in the area for rent as she was finding it hard to climb up and down the stairs. None of the people here have obtained their sale deeds, as they are all still paying their dues. They feel that the individual plots given to people who lost the lottery are much better than the tenements as there is a scope for customization and expansion of the houses, and the potential to get an individual water pump per house.

From my observations and interviews so far, beneficiaries of the Sites and Services scheme seem to be doing better than people in other sites in terms of upward mobility. The site has witnessed tremendous development with land costs going up multifold since the scheme. The children of many of the residents we spoke to possess college degrees and are now in salaried employment in private companies. Sale deeds have given people tenure security as well as financial security. Though this is a relocation scheme, it was voluntary, so there was none of the trauma associated with forced relocation. This suggests that relocation itself is not a bad idea. It depends on who benefits from it (in this case, tenants who voluntarily moved here), and how the site is developed: whether it provides access to basic services, good education and livelihoods, etc.

Under RAY, it is important to plan slum development programmes depending on the pros and cons, and successes and failures of past schemes, which is what we attempt to do in this study. These are only preliminary observations and analyses: an examination of all the completed case studies, as well as case studies from elsewhere in the country and the world, will throw more light on what type of recommendations can be made to the government on future programmes in slums.

Written by Aishwarya Balasubramanian, researcher, Transparent Chennai

A preliminary review of policies towards housing for the urban poor in India

The increase in urban population has led to problems of land and housing shortage, congested transit, and severely stressed civic infrastructure. Under the JnNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission), 65 Indian cities had an opportunity to bridge this infrastructure gap and also to resolve some of the housing problems for the urban poor through the BSUP (Basic Services for the Urban Poor) component of the central government funded Mission.

During the 11th Five Year Plan, the Planning Commission estimated the housing requirement in the Indian cities to be around 26.53 million dwelling units by the end of 2012 of which 88% were required to cater to the economically weaker section (EWS) and another 11% to cater to the lower income group (LIG). To understand why this gap exists, one must look at the history of policies towards housing for the urban poor in the country. An examination of the history reveals that this gap in housing for the poor largely emerges from the failure of state-led programs to build housing, and the lack of private players that have come forward to fill the gap.

India being a socialist state at its founding, the government had taken on the responsibility for building much of the legal housing available for the poor. The government appropriated large pools of excess lands to be used for public purpose under the Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act (ULCRA). In the past most state governments relied on the in-situ tenement construction method, but with the advent of the World Bank’s shelter projects, the emphasis moved to the sites and services approach, which involves selling plots of land to beneficiaries in integrated sites with basic facilities at a concessional rate.

Some of the state governments realised that slums were too difficult to manage by the urban local bodies and created parastatal bodies like housing and slum boards to look into issues concerning slums and the urban poor. These parastatal agencies have themselves had a mixed record of providing housing for the poor. The TNSCB (Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board) started by building tenements in-situ, but since the mid 1990s, has been clearing slums and shifting the people to resettlement ghettoes on the outskirts of the city causing a commotion in the lives of these underprivileged people. The SRA (Slum Rehabilitation Authority) in Gujarat and Maharashtra has tried to use private sector partners in improving slum conditions, but these programs have been plagued with corruption. Delhi has an urban shelter improvement board under which there are separate programs for the urban poor. In 1986, Calcutta had a Basti Improvement Programme (BIP), in which tenure security was given to two third of the central city’s slums based on the John Turner model which was quite successful in the South American countries.[1]

In recent years, state governments have been moving away from acting as direct providers of housing for any class of people, including the poor, and have tried to rely more on incentivizing the private sector to provide housing. After the formation of the TNSCB, the Tamil Nadu Housing Board has stopped catering to the EWS and LIG category arguing that their land holdings are in prime locations in the city and could be used for projects that would generate more revenue than slum housing. Rajasthan has tried a mixed approach in their affordable housing policy, pushing both government and private sector builders to create more housing for the poor. They have directed government agencies to reserve at least 50% of all constructed houses for the EWS/LIG category, and, under the directives of development control regulation, have asked private developers to reserve 15% of their development for these categories. The state governments of Rajasthan, Kerala and Punjab have worked on luring the private participation in this sector through increasing FSI for affordable housing builders, fast tracking approvals, providing Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) to builders, allowing 10% of the land for commercial use, and even acquiring land at reasonable rates and then giving it to private players for construction.

Private participation in affordable housing has been most successful where community based organizations have been involved. In Ahmedabad, NGO’s like SEWA (Self employed Women Association) and SAATH have worked with private builders to build housing specifically for the EWS, LIG and lower MIG with houses ranging from Rs 3.5 lakh to Rs10 lakh. This model works only if there is a large volume of housing as the margins are lower and the emphasis is on timely completion of the project.

Despite these institutions and laws in place, the gap in housing for this segment continues to remain unfulfilled because the government failed to meet its own commitments for housing in any of these programs.

To deal with what is becoming a crisis situation, the government created another scheme called Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY). Under the RAY guidelines, all the urban local bodies are expected to map and take a census of all the slums in the city and create strategies to improve existing slums and prevent future ones. The RAY was progressive in many ways: it asked cities to map slums, whether or not they were recognized or notified. It is a necessary step towards giving slum dwellers a right to live in the city. If implemented correctly, the RAY could lead to a great deal of positive change in the city, but the program has so far been slow to take off. In the meantime, without access to adequate affordable housing, the poor in slum areas face lack of access to basic services, and are in constant danger of forced evictions.


Written by Roshan Toshniwal