CHENNAI: After drawing flak for the massive resettlement of slum dwellers in Kannagi Nagar, the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) has told the National Human rights Commission (NHRC) that in future, the number of tenements in each resettlement scheme would be restricted to 5,000. In a report submitted to the NHRC after a complaint by Shivani Chaudhary, executive director of the Housing and Land Rights Network, an NGO based in New Delhi, the State Slum Clearance Board has assured the NHRC that there would be redressal. The TNSCB said that they would look to ensure that adequate compensation for the actual losses incurred was given to all evicted and relocated communities on a priority basis.
The TNSCB also reacted to the study done on Kannagi Nagar by the NGO, which was the basis of the complaint. The study charged the State with treating the urban poor as ‘experimental subjects’ and forcing them out of the city to a distant, uninhabitable site without understanding the adverse and long-term socio-economic impacts of the resettlement and the multiple human rights violations. “About 21,000 households have already been resettled in Kannagi Nagar and Semmencherry. Another 31,912 will be evicted and shifted to the settlement in Kannagi Nagar and Perumbakkam. In total, about 53,000 households have been evicted from their original places of habitation in Chennai and relocated to these large resettlement colonies,” the report had stated.
Commenting on the undertaking that the board gave to the rights body, independent researcher and activist Vanessa Peter said that the State lacked a policy on resettlement. “Until a policy is there, it will just mean more lip service on carrying out resettlement,” she said. “Resettlement of more than 500 people does require a policy. Since the State has already said that each resettlement scheme would be reduced to 5,000, there should now be a thrust on evolving a State housing policy, with rehabilitation and resettlement of urban poor as one of the components,” Vanessa said. The Kannagi Nagar report was also severely critical of the size of flats, which were in the range from 195sq feet to 310 sq feet — too small to live comfortably. Now the TNSCB has told the NHRC that it would construct tenements with 400 square feet plinth area each, which would have a multi-purpose room, lockable bedroom, an independent toilet and balcony.