NGO Asks World Bank to Ensure Legal Rights to Tamil Nadu House Allottees
Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Flickr
The urban housing crisis is a pressing problem for metropolitan cities. The Tamil Nadu government received grants and loans from the World Bank as early as 1958 to deal with the housing shortage, lack of affordable housing and reduced land entitlement.
A recent study conducted by the NGO Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Communities (IRCDUC) with technical support from the global advocacy organisation International Accountability Project in Chennai shows that World Bank-financed housing projects in Tamil Nadu have not ensured legal rights to the stakeholders.
Of the 50 settlements assessed by IRCDUC, sale deeds were not given to 32 allottees. Some of the allottees passed away and several families lost the documents to floods, fire or pests. Moreover, the process of applying for a sale deed is cumbersome, the study notes.
The allottees also risk being evicted as they reside on “objectionable” lands, IRCDUC, which works for adequate housing for urban deprived communities and believes in strengthening the state’s housing projects, found.
WORLD BANK HOUSING PROJECTS
The Madras Urban Development Project (MUDP) I, funded by the World Bank from 1977 to 1982, is considered the testing ground for urban reforms in Tamil Nadu. The project’s second phase was carried out from 1982 to 1987.
The projects were implemented with the objective of developing and promoting low-cost solutions in housing, employment, water supply, sewage and transportation. In Chennai, 298 settlements were established benefiting 48,459 rights-holders.
The Slum Improvement Scheme, under MUDP, was introduced to provide access to basic infrastructure facilities and security of housing tenure. The scheme focused on in situ development and transfer of land rights.
Thirty-five years after the project ended, IRCDUC assessed the challenges faced by MUDP rights holders in Chennai from August to September 2022 and Madurai from September to November 2022.
MUDP was followed by the Tamil Nadu Urban Development Projects in three phases and expanded to 10 cities across Tamil Nadu. However, it was dominated by resettlement housing programmes rather than in situ housing. Chennai has eight resettlement sites on the outskirts that emerged between 2000 and 2020 and comprise 61,432 families with 2.5 lakh displaced slum residents.
IRCDUC has demanded accountability from the World Bank to ensure justice for the rights holders and a clear position related to closed projects, especially when allottees are being impacted. There needs to be specific strategies for addressing prolonged adverse impacts on communities in closed projects, the report concluded.
The NGO called for evolving a robust “Responsible Exit Principles” to address issues related to the long-term adverse impacts of projects. It proposed that the World Bank ensure remedial measures through ongoing Tamil Nadu Housing and Habitat Development projects.
The pending issues related to the security of tenure in the urban development projects “should not be sidelined as a ‘legacy’ issue,”. There is a “direct link between property rights and poverty reduction”, IRCDUC observed. Vulnerable families cannot break free of intergenerational transmission of poverty and access to land titles has enabled families to break the cycle of poverty, it noted.
Some of the issues the state government is grappling with were pointed out by IRCDUC—reconstruction of dilapidated tenements, cost recovery for the old buildings and the emergence of hutments around tenements.
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