Bureaucratic delay is not helping the poor in Chennai’s slums, resettlements

After its first meeting in May 2022, the Chennai City Habitat Development Committee has not met again; habitat development board says several decisions taken at the meeting needed govt. approval and hence delay

May 25, 2023 05:58 pm | Updated 05:58 pm IST - CHENNAI

The Chennai City Habitat Development Committee (CCHDC), constituted for effective coordination among different departments and stakeholders to address the issues facing the poor families living in slums and the resettlement sites of Tamil Nadu Urban Habitat Development Board (TNUHDB), has not met since its first meeting in May last year.

The CCHDC and the District Habitat Development Committees (DHDC) in other districts were constituted in March 2022 through a government order issued by the Housing and Urban Development Department. As per the order, the CCHDC should meet once in two months while the DHDCs in other districts should meet once in three months.

While the DHDCs in some districts have met more than once in the past one year, the committee in Chennai, which accounts for a vast majority of the urban poor in the State, has not met in the past one year.

The Commissioner of Greater Chennai Corporation is the Chairman of CCHDC while the Commissioner of Police is the Vice-Chairman. The Managing Director of TNUHDB, who is the member and convenor, is tasked with convening the meetings.

Both the CCHDC and the DHDCs have MLAs, MPs, officials from departments like Health and Family Welfare, School Education, Transport, Integrated Child Development Scheme, Social Defence, Employment and Training, two representatives from non-governmental organisations and two representatives from residents welfare associations in TNUHDB tenements as members.

As per the government order, the line departments, through the committees, were supposed to be coordinating for rehabilitation and resettlement of the people living in slum areas. The objectives listed by the TNUHDB for constituting the committee included supporting and facilitating better living conditions, enhancing coordination in policy-making, creating basic amenities and sustainable livelihood and redressing the grievances of the urban poor.

In its first meeting on May 5, 2022, many MLAs from Chennai, senior officials from different departments and representatives of NGOs participated. A number of broader and area-specific issues were discussed. However, no updates on the action taken had been shared with the committee since then.

Pointing out that the constitution of the committees was a welcome move by the government, Vanessa Peter, founder, Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC), a member of the committee, said it was unfortunate that the committee had not functioned properly, especially in Chennai.

With the resettlement process under way in many areas in Chennai, she said it was important that the committee meets on a regular basis. She stressed the need for including more representatives from the RWAs, particularly women, to focus on issues faced by women and children.

A senior official from TNUHDB denied the concern that the CCHDC was not functional. The official said that a number of key actions items that emerged from the meeting required measures to be taken by the State government. “It took some time for that work to get over. That is why there was a delay in convening meetings. The next one will happen soon,” the official added.

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