CHENNAI: Apart from losing their residences and source of livelihood, people who are evicted also lose their rightful compensation, because Social Impact Assessment (SIA), as mandated by law, is not conducted before evictions.
Though evictions happen in Chennai throughout the year, the recent one being in Koyambedu, as per records of Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board, the SIA has been conducted on evictions in only Pallavaram Salai and Navalur Neduncheziyan Nagar. People were evicted from 39 settlements under Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust (CRRT) project, says TNSCB data. However, activists say nearly 70 settlements were evicted during Chennai floods and for other projects.
Not conducting SIA before eviction is also in gross violation of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency of Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013, which mandates a social and environmental impact assessment including a detailed profile of the livelihood of the evicted families.
Section 7 of the Act says that the study must be done by an expert group consisting of two non-official social scientists, two representatives from the civic body, two experts on rehabilitation and a technical expert in the subject related to the project. The report then has to be shown to the public in their native language and their grievances have to be added in the SIA. However, in reality, as residents allege, evictions are mostly forced and happen in a haphazard manner with none of these taking place.
When Policy Researcher Vanessa Peter of Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC) wrote to TNSCB questioning why such an impact assessment was not done, the Board replied that they took down details of slum families in FORM-2 during evictions. However, FORM-2 has only the bio-data and other basic family information which is not a substitute for a detailed impact assessment.
Currently, evicted residents are paid Rs 5,000 as part of shifting allowance as one-time payment and Rs 2,500 in addition every month. But the amount provided by the government is far too inadequate and hardly meets the livelihood requirements, allege evicted residents.
Gomathi R, a resident of Perumbakkam, said that the cost of living is expensive in Perumbakkam compared to Chindradripet, from where they were relocated. ‘’Due to loss of livelihood, my husband is unable to pay a debt of Rs 54,000. It is pressurising, and the compensation is just a pittance,’’ she said. Leilani Farha, UN’s special Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, in her 2017 report after visiting India, said there should be a national-level moratorium implemented for those evicted, and no such law existed at the moment. Such a moratorium would protect those families of any liability such as paying debt and they can get a postponement of any legal obligation.
Though the TNSCB provides alternative livelihood, Vanessa Peter argued that the scope for evicted people is minimal.
‘’The monthly compensation is lower than the minimal required wages for sustenance and the source of livelihood of people is diverse and depends on a location,” said Vanessa.
Meanwhile, a comparison of an SIA conducted for eviction for a World Bank project here in Ambattur shows the benefits of it. The SIA took into account all factors and offered transport assistance (Rs 10,500), vulnerability assistance (Rs 5,250), subsistence assistance (Rs 36,540) amounting totally to a compensation of Rs 52,290.
However, on the flip side, the TNSCB officials claimed that the slum lords and owners do not allow officials to conduct SIA. ‘’If the tenants are evicted, owners will lose their structure and the money gained from rent. So they resist and instances of physical violence against officials have been recorded too,’’ said a TNSCB official.
Officials with the Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust, a nodal agency, said they insisted the TNSCB conduct SIA every time and the expectations of people are studied in detail.
Near to 8,000 houses demolished by govt for evictions since 2016
70% people relocated are Dalits
SIA study done only in 2 localities
Evictions happen even during monsoon
LARR Act mandates SIA study before evicting
Source: IRCDUC, TNSCB, HNRL5