The Madras High Court on Friday directed the Government Pleader and the Assistant Solicitor General of India to file counter by the State and the Central Governments to a public interest litigation petition seeking a direction to discontinue the ‘ill-conceived' JNNURM project under progress at Perumbakkam in Kancheepuram district. The petitioner said the project could be remodelled as a compact one of not more than 5,000 houses.

The First Bench consisting of Chief Justice M.Y. Eqbal and Justice T.S. Sivagnanam said the notice would be returnable in five weeks.

In the petition, A. Narayanan of Virugambakkam, who is the editor of Paadam, a Tamil magazine, said the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board in coordination with various State and Central Government agencies was building mega resettlement and rehabilitation (R and R) projects on the city's outskirts for the past 10 years. The board had been clearing the slums and resettling the urban poor families.

It had constructed 22,390 tenements at Kannagi Nagar and Semmanchery, where more than one lakh urban poor had been settled. The situation at the two places was “extremely harsh and disastrous,” especially for women and children. Water, sanitation, anganwadis, electricity and especially schools were inadequate.

The situation at the existing R and R projects was a serious violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights charter and Right to Life. That being so, the government had chosen to go ahead with another mega R and R project consisting of nearly 27,000 houses at Perumbakkam (phase I and II) under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) near the existing sites, without having any policy on hand.

Each block in Perumbakkam would consist of eight floors, each floor with 24 flats of about 170 sq. feet living space, two lifts and a generator and electrical junction room.

The entire campus is likely to have nearly 300 lifts. However, it would be impractical to maintain so many lifts in tenements for BPL families without lift operators.

The project would end up as a “dumping site” for the poorest and marginalised sections of the city “due to the thoughtless concept, inadequate basic infrastructure and absence of any policy guidelines.”