February 14, 2005

Not so hard

At least in Chennai, at least on the face of it, they seem to be addressing the issue of slums in a sensible way. Sunday's (February 13) Hindu reports Corporation removes encroachments on Nungambakkam Canal. (For some reason I can't find the report on the web).

Over 100 huts, begins the report, which occupied a piece of land ... obstructing water flow in the Nungambakkam Canal near Wallace Garden were removed today by the Chennai Corporation with the assistance of the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board.

It's in the next two sentences that I find the sense I mentioned.

The evicted families will be accommodated at the Board colony at the Board colony ... south of the city along Old Mamallapuram Road. If children going to school at Nungambakkam want to continue in the same institutions, the Corporation will arrange for a free bus service from [their new homes] till the end of this academic year.

Further in the report:

This morning, the Corporation earthmovers started demolishing the hutments even before the residents were given tokens for occupying tenements at [the resettlement area]. "I told them to stop the demolition and to give tokens ... The staff did this and only then did the demolition work resume." [said A.T. Sadasivam, municipal councillor for the area].

The councillor said a similar eviction was planned in November 2004, and [former Chennai Mayor] M.K. Stalin wanted the operation stopped till March or April, and also demanded that rehabilitation measures be put in place before starting eviction.

"Now they are doing it at the fag-end of the academic year" the councillor said.

There is also a photograph of a young girl from demolished slum, carefully making sure her pet parrots go with her to to her new home.

If this report is indeed accurate and this is indeed how this slum in Chennai was treated, you wonder: why is the simple idea of rehabilitation before eviction, if slums are to be demolished, so hard for us in Bombay to comprehend? So hard to implement? So hard to accept?


Voice on Wings said...

For some reason, The Hindu has hidden the article from our view :) You might want to check this out, to get an idea of the underlying spirit of what you have cited.

As someone who grew up in Chennai, I am aware of the TNSCB and have seen many low cost 'multi-storeyed tenements' which house erstwhile slum dwellers. These buildings aren't exactly 'visual treats', but atleast they serve the purpose of replacing slums and providing a hygenic and concrete alternative to the dweller.

But I should say that there are still many slums in Chennai and I doubt if it is possible to completely do away with them. May be lack of funds, or may be inefficiency / corruption.... there's a long way to go before the vision as outlined in the document can be translated into reality. I also wonder if the govt alone can do it. Maybe the Corporates should pitch in as well and exercise their social responsibility.

Anonymous said...


What Hindu says is correct in some respects. In Chennai there is Slum Clearance Board which takes care of the rehabilitation efforts of the slum dwellers who have been evicted from the slums. They construct multi storied apartments blocks and give it out to these guys at a nominal rate.

I am surprised that you don’t have such a thing in Mumbai!!

But there are some drawbacks in that also.. First of all, the guys who have been allotted such apartments don’t stay there. They either rent it out or sell it out and make quick money. Some times, it doesn’t go to the rightful slum dwellers. It gets swallowed by others because of corruption. But somehow I don’t see the slums coming up at the same place atleast in Chennai. This is all goody goody side of the Chennai’s slum clearance.

The other side of slum clearance, I don’t know whether you have heard about it, for which Chennai is very famous for, is setting fire to the hutments and bring down the entire slum over night. Very efficient way of slum clearance.. isn’t?

So if you ask me is that the solution, I don’t think so…

Dilip D'Souza said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dilip D'Souza said...

> setting fire to the hutments and
> bring down the entire slum over
> night.

Vasanth, that actually has happened here in Bombay: not only in the areas that the Municipality expressly destroyed (Ambujwadi and others), but for example, there was a large and suspicious fire that destroyed much of the large slum area in Bandra Reclamation one night about two months ago. Oddly enough, if you go past now, you see a few long concrete structures coming up, apparently residential. I don't yet know what that's about.

Wings, I don't believe we will ever "completely do away with slums." And if we address them only by demolishing them, I know we will never completely do away with them. That's the lesson of the years we have been demolishing them.