Members of various non-governmental organisations came together to decide key issues that will be taken up in a campaign on housing rights throughout Tamil Nadu.

Transferring the powers to enumerate beneficiaries of housing schemes from the revenue department to local bodies and faster distribution of pattas can go a long way in addressing the problems faced by the homeless in Tamil Nadu.

These were among the many important suggestions that came up at a discussion on housing rights in the city on Wednesday.

Members of various non-governmental organisations came together to decide key issues that will be taken up in a campaign on housing rights throughout Tamil Nadu.

During the session, A. John Kennedy, director of Udavi, said there were 3.7 lakh families without homes in Tamil Nadu and 80,000 in Chennai alone. The homeless urban poor in cities like Chennai faced huge problems and the government had to respond on an enormous scale to provide safe and decent housing to every homeless family.

Esther Mariaselvam of ActionAid pointed out the Centre was talking of a 100 new cities and ‘slum-free cities’ and wondered if they were inclusive concepts, considering that 98 per cent of the homeless in India were from economically-weaker sections.

In her welcome address, Jesurathnam, director, Sneha, said inadequate housing had resulted in people living under bridges, plastic tents along railway lines and on pavements.

She pointed out that people were displaced from their homes due to massive projects to construct special economic zones and airports. Ensuring a livelihood and housing with access to water and sanitation proved a big challenge.

N. Dayalan of Human Resource Development Foundation said a huge obstacle for poor families to get their due from government schemes was that the enumeration of beneficiaries and survey of land was being done by the revenue department, a task that ought to be done by the local bodies.

Ossie Fernandes of Human Rights Foundation moderated the discussion.

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