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