Delay in construction of tenements for slum dwellers under various Central and territorial government schemes has irked the intended beneficiaries, who now want the administration to speed up the works and hand over the houses immediately.

According to slum dwellers in Kuruchikuppam, where the Slum Clearance Board (SCB) is reconstructing 168 tenements under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, though they were promised the houses by mid-2010, not even half the construction had been completed so far. Despite several petitions and requests to the board as well as the government, the work is still moving at a snail's pace, they said.

One of the problems contributing to the delay was the number of contractors. Slum dwellers said that rather than awarding the contract to one builder and completing the work on time, the board chose to give contracts to several builders. “There is no coordination among the contractors working in these blocks. Some of them stopped work for weeks together and did not give any reason when we approached them,” said Satish, a beneficiary.

According to Kalaimaran, Executive Engineer of SCB, the construction was carried out in two sets. The contracts for the first set of eight blocks were given to two contractors, whereas the second set of six blocks had six different contractors.

“Though we were able to vacate the tenants in the first eight blocks on time, there was some delay in vacating the rest. Thus, to compensate the time lost, we gave the contracts of the other six blocks to different builders,” he said.

Slum dwellers also said that in the two years since the construction work started, they had to pay rent at market rates for their current houses which had resulted in debts. “We used to pay Rs. 700 as rent for the houses we had. Now, we are paying up to Rs. 1,000 as rent. With our meagre earnings, this has forced us into debts,” said Shanthi, a resident.

Apart from tenements in Kuruchikuppam, those being built by the SCB in Lambert Saravanan Nagar near Reddiarpalayam has also been delayed.

This issue also found mention in a recent review meeting on implementation of flagship programmes in the Union Territory convened by the Chief Secretary.

According to Lakshminarayanan, Member of the Legislative Assembly representing the Cassicade constituency, who inspected the Kuruchikuppam site on Wednesday, the delay was largely owing to the escalation of prices of building materials.