35 years on, sale deeds still evade most slum dwellers in Tamil Nadu: Report

The IRCDUC report said that one of the major reasons for the delay in the issuance of sale deeds is the delay in the transfer of these lands by the landowning departments to the TNUHDB.
When applying for sale deeds from the TNUHDB, the families will now have to pay pending amounts, if any, with accumulated interest. (Photo | Express)
When applying for sale deeds from the TNUHDB, the families will now have to pay pending amounts, if any, with accumulated interest. (Photo | Express)

CHENNAI:   Over 32 slum settlements that were given allotted small parcels of land at subsidised rates under two schemes are yet to get sale deeds (that ensure land tenure) even after 35 years, a report released by Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC) said.

The World Bank-funded Madras Urban Development Project (MUDP) I & II and the subsequent Tamil Nadu Urban Development Projects (TNUDP) schemes were among the ‘slum improvement’ programmes that allowed families, mostly in informal settlements, to purchase small parcels of land for a subsidised price between 1977 to 1987.

The delay in issuing sale deeds despite an order of the Madras High Court in 2012 directing the state to ensure the execution of sale deeds has resulted in the process becoming unduly cumbersome for those who apply for them now. During this period, many of the original allottees have passed away and their children find it difficult to avail of the legal heir certificate due to family disputes. 

The IRCDUC report said that one of the major reasons for the delay in the issuance of sale deeds is the 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 HR&CE, the urban local bodies, PWD, etc. The TNUHDB in these cases developed the settlements only based on ‘Enter upon Permission’ and has not completed the land alienation process,” the report said. In Chennai, the land alienation process is pending for 86 settlements as of November 2022.

When applying for sale deeds now from the TNUHDB, the families have to pay the pending amounts, that have accumulated interest over the years and amount to several thousands now.  “The families say that they have paid the pending amount but the board does not have records of the payment and have asked the families to produce the bills or pay up with interest. Over 35 years, these families have been through fires and flooding during which they have lost proof of payments. The question is that people may have lost proof of payments but why didn’t the board maintain any records?,” asked Vanessa Peter of IRCDUC. 

Parts of old documents recently accessed by IRCDUC from the board show ‘FCP (Full Cash Paid)’ marked against the names of some allottees. However, the board continues to demand proof of payment. In the case of Malathi (name changed) from MS Nagar settlement, the board had initially said she had pending payments of Rs 6,000. However, this amount was later revised to around Rs 70,000, including interest.

“We were made to walk to the taluk office multiple times and after paying Rs 70,000, I got the sale deed. Now, I’m continuing to make multiple trips to their office to get the patta due to a technical glitch,” said the 70-year-old woman. The report concluded that there is a direct link between property rights and poverty reduction. Vulnerable families are unable to break free from the intergenerational transmission of poverty as they continue to reside in lands which may not be legally recognised, constantly subjected to threats of eviction. However, access to land titles under schemes like MUDP and TNUDP has enabled families to break the cycle of poverty.

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