The Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) has decided not to build en masse housing tenements anymore. Officials from the Board said that they will be constructing 500 to 2,000 houses in one location but not in a group, as this would help ensure mixed development of communities and avoid ghettoisation.
“We have been conducting social impact surveys in relocation sites and found that constructing fewer houses would help in community development. The work is in progress,” said a senior TNSCB official.
The Board has identified eight locations in the city to build vertical buildings under the Affordable Housing Project to accommodate the urban poor and homeless. “We are in touch with all the line departments to help identify suitable land within the city limits to build houses for the poor,” the official added.
A recently-released report points to the plight of several families resettled in Perumbakkam and Ezhil Nagar to make way for various development projects.
The report titled ‘From deluge to displacement: The impact of post-flood eviction and resettlement in Chennai’, released by the Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC) and Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), talks about the various violations of law and the rights of the flood-hit. The report states that of the 9,687 families residing on the banks of Adyar river, 3,464 were shifted to the TNSCB resettlement tenements in Perumbakkam by June 2016. Later plans were announced to relocate an additional 2,519 families by May 2017, and they were evicted two months later. Over 90% of the resettled families claimed they were forcibly evicted. Following relocation, families pointed to the various shortcomings which affected their life. Unemployment, for instance witnessed a significant increase post relocation to these tenements. It was revealed that 15% of working men and 19% of women in Perumbakkam lost their employment immediately after relocation. In Ezhil Nagar, 11% of men and 18 % of women lost their jobs. Families further complained that many of their children had to drop out of schools due to inadequate educational facilities, 18% in Perumbakkam and 13% in Ezhil Nagar were out of schools and anganwadi centres. The drop-out rate is reportedly the highest among children between 0-5 years and 14-18 years of age.
They also complained that availing of healthcare was a major ordeal. Those who were earlier able to access government healthcare services had to move to the private sector due to the non-availability of adequate State urban health posts within the vicinity. Pregnant women had to travel as much as 10 km to avail of maternity care.
Experts, while welcoming the decision to avoid en masse housing projects, pointed out that the State must soon develop a comprehensive human rights-based policy on housing, rehabilitation and resettlement to stop forced evictions, especially in the context of the proposed relocation of over 14,000 families under the Cooum River Eco-Restoration Project. “It is also important that the State provide equitable spatial allocation for the poor and to ensure that future housing projects are focussed on in situ and redevelopment instead of forced relocation to the end of the city,” said Vanessa Peter, policy researcher, IRCDUC.
“The character of urbanisation has changed. Now all it takes is a bulldozer to break one’s home which they build after years of toil and hard work. The State must ensure it helps upgrade their houses instead of pushing them further down into poverty,” said Shivani Chaudhry, executive director, HLRN.