Slum-free Chandigarh: The way forward
Capital of two states, Chandigarh has to mostly get along without any help when it comes to rehabilitating the displaced slum dwellers. Those who get no alternative housing, often find themselves in worse living conditions, leading to new slum formations elsewhere. Experts share the holistic approach that can tackle the vicious cycle of slums
Every time slums are vacated in Chandigarh, a human cost has to be paid as thousands living there are displaced.
While those eligible are allotted alternative housing, the rest end up in city’s villages or in the peripheral areas, like Zirakpur and Nayagaon, where they are forced to live in congested dwelling units, sometimes even worse than the slums, spurring growth of new slums.
Capital of two states, the City Beautiful, despite its limited land resources, has been largely left to fend for itself when it comes to rehabilitating the urban poor, who can’t afford the expensive land in Chandigarh.
Chandigarh Master Plan 2031 (CMP-2031) has advocated for a regional metropolitan plan for addressing such issues. Punjab has shown reluctance on the issue, despite a push from the Centre.
According to Rajnish Wattas, former principal of the Chandigarh College of Architecture, Chandigarh needs to manage the tough balancing act of wisely using the scarce vacant land for rehabilitation and also realising that it cannot be a permanent solution for wave after wave of migrant workers moving to the city.
“Chandigarh also needs cooperation from the neighbouring states for housing the urban poor. A city cannot revel in only cosmetic beauty when economic disparities exist,” he said.
Former UT chief architect Sumit Kaur said, “There is an urgent need for the neighbouring states to increase provision for housing for the urban poor to reduce pressure on the limited undeveloped land left with Chandigarh.
“Instead of starting with pre-conceived notions, the administration can undertake a comprehensive survey of housing needs of different segments. Such findings should become basis of the housing policy,” said Kaur.
Full utilisation of village land through village development plan must also be ensured as scarce land is available with city.
Part of the framing of the city’s first comprehensive plan for rehabilitation in 2006, former Chandigarh MP Pawan Bansal said, “New encroachments have to be stopped strictly. But at the same time, the government has to deliver on the much-hyped housing schemes for the poor. A humane touch must be there.”
The UT administration, not known for involving the stakeholders while taking decisions impacting them, should also involve slum dwellers and urban poor while devising housing for them, suggest experts.
Anu Sabhlok, academic professor, IISER Mohali, said, “Consider the case of Colony Number 4. People were living there for almost half a decade. They had electricity and water connections. That was there officially accepted address for ration cards, passports and other official documents. In this situation, the administration should provide in-situ improved infrastructure to them, rather than uprooting them.”
AAP convener Prem Garg also suggested that apartment complexes with better infrastructure could be constructed in the existing slum locations for slum dwellers.
Experiments in other states
Though aiming to be the first city in the country to be declared “slum free”, Chandigarh has much to learn from other states’ experience in rehabilitation.
R Srinivas, town and country planner, Union ministry of housing and urban affairs, said, “Gujarat has had much success by involving the private sector in the rehabilitation process. Developers are offered to commercially monetise a portion of a slum’s land and in lieu of this, they have to provide housing to the slum dwellers on the same piece of land either on subsidised rates or free of cost.”
Other states like Maharashtra, who introduced similar policies, experienced mixed results.
Tech for enforcement
With manual surveillance of slums’ expansion failing, newer technology has to be tapped in.
Chandigarh deputy commissioner Vinay Pratap Singh said, “We have to bring in technology to check mushrooming of slums. Manual checks have not proved very effective as officials get transferred and nexus develops. We are planning to use satellite imagery extensively. Along with it, tailored software will alert every 15 days about any encroachments cropping up on public land.”
Chandigarh Master Plan suggestions
In-situ development of unauthorised settlements
Rental housing for temporary stay of migrants to avoid slums
Provision for accommodation of domestic servants in above one kanal houses
Strict check on illegal encroachments
Involving slum dwellers as stakeholders in the planning of housing for urban poor
Basic shelter and services, including drinking water, toilet facilities and drainage, for cycle rickshaw pullers living at rickshaw stands.