A report by the Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC) has indicated that a majority of the beneficiaries of the World Bank-aided Madras Urban Development Project (MUDP) in slums in Chennai were yet to receive sale deeds for the land even four decades after the implementation of the project.
The report, released on World Habitat Day that fell on Monday, was based on the field study done by the organisation in 50 of the roughly 300 settlements where the MUDP was implemented in two phases between 1977 to 1987 with the Tamil Nadu Urban Habitat Development Board (TNUHDB), formerly Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB), being the key implementing agency. Nearly 50,000 families were covered as part of the two phases of the MUDP project.
Regarded as a relatively successful model at the time of implementation with focus on in-situ development, the ‘slum improvement scheme’ component of the MUDP involved developing basic infrastructure in identified slum settlements and providing secure tenure (freehold titles) to the residents with the recovery of improvement costs done through hire-purchase agreement.
Of the 50 settlements studied by IRCDUC, sale deeds, which will protect the land rights of the people, have not been provided to the families in 32 settlements. The sale deeds have been provided to at least some of the families in the remaining 18 settlements. The inordinate delay is despite an order of the Madras High Court in 2012 directing the State government to ensure the execution of sale deeds for the families covered in the project, the report noted.
Despite being covered under the MUDP project, families in at least seven of these 32 settlements faced threats of eviction as they were located near the Cooum river, the report said.
According to the report, a key problem is the excessive delay in the transfer of these lands by the landowning departments to the TNUHDB. The land, in many of these settlements, belonged to other departments like the Greater Chennai Corporation and the Public Works Department.
The report said that due to the delay of more than four decades, some of the descendants of the original allottees did not possess necessary documentation. In some cases, the original allottees have moved to other locations after transferring the ownership to others.
Vanessa Peter, founder, IRCDUC, said that a high-level committee should be formed to monitor the transfer of land to TNUHDB (wherever necessary) and to ensure the issuance of sale deeds to all those covered under the MUDP project, irrespective of the present classification of the land. She said that Chennai District Habitat Committee can be a forum for discussing the issue, in coordination with the landowning departments.