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Slum dwellers get restive

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Awaiting regeneration: The shacks that mark the Kannammoola Bund Colony.
Awaiting regeneration: The shacks that mark the Kannammoola Bund Colony.

T. Nandakumar

Delay in launching slum renewal project

Thiruvananthapuram: Residents in five slums are growing increasingly restive over the delay on the part of the city Corporation in launching an ambitious regeneration project designed to improve housing and community infrastructure in the colonies.

The project covering Rajiv Nagar Colony, Kannanthura; Two Cent Colony, Kadakampally; Bund Colony, Kannammoola; Karimadham Colony; and Poonkulam Colony is to be taken up with Central assistance under the Basic Services for the Urban Poor (BSUP), a component of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

An amount of Rs.20 crore was sanctioned last year and three accredited agencies, namely the Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development (Costford), Habitat Technology Group and the Nirmithi Kendra were identified for the work. But repeated cost revisions and procedural wrangles have held up the project.

Town planning experts point out that the delay is a prime example of the shoddy project management and development administration that plagues the State.

Deputy Mayor V.Jayapakash said the delay was primarily caused by repeated cost revisions. “The initial project cost was based on the PWD schedule published in 2004. Each time, we had to rework the entire cost. Since the Central government refused to revise the grant component, the enhanced amount had to be shared by the State government and the Corporation.

The files had to be twice sent to the government for approval and we had to readjust the Plan fund allocation of the Corporation”.

Labour rates

A government notification issued last month revising the labour rates proved to be the latest hurdle.

“The executing agencies which had been demanding a revision to compensate for the hike in price of construction materials and labour, wanted the new rates to be applied. That caused a further delay,” Mr. Jayaprakash said.

He said the agreement was expected to be signed soon with the three firms. “Kannamoola Bund Colony will be the first work to be taken up under the project.”

But residents remain sceptical about the claim. At the ward sabhas last month, residents vented their ire and threatened to launch an agitation to press the Corporation to take up the reconstruction work.

Councillors had a tough time trying to pacify the incensed crowd.

The residents feared that further delay would lead to a setback for the reconstruction project.

Kannamoola councillor R. Satheeshkumar admitted that it was becoming increasingly difficult to pacify the slum dwellers.

“They are growing impatient with the Corporation,” he said.

R. Sivankutty, taluk union secretary of the Kerala Pulayar Maha Sabha (KPMS) says, “several deadlines have gone by. The Corporation has let us down.” Mr. Sivankutty said the residents of the bund colony, 90 per cent of whom belong to the Pulaya Schedule Caste, had been suffering in silence for years.

The KPMS is preparing to embark on an agitation demanding speedy implementation of the regeneration project.

“Our women and children will be in the forefront of the stir,” Mr. Sivankutty said.

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