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Policy
 
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SLUM DEVELOPMENT
A model for slum development
Slum development is deemed necessary by all, but understood by few. K. S. Narayanan takes a sojourn into the heart of Vijayawada, and finds that the Municipal Corporation has managed the process in a manner that can put the best of cities to shame
Issue Date - 30/04/2012
 
Land acquisitions have the knack of hitting a raw nerve and creating a disorderly outburst – for reasons right and wrong. In recent times, there have been several instances of land acquisitions gone horribly wrong leading to conniptions of public rage and protests. A recent example was the discontent in the local populace over allotment of agricultural land in Noida Extension to private builders for developing housing sites. Eventually, the authorities were forced to back down and extend the olive branch to affected landowners after the judiciary stepped in to restore a sense of balance and fair play. Even earlier, there have been many instances of face-offs between affected landowners and the land-acquiring agency in question. The farmers’ agitation against Reliance Power’s Dadri project in UP, the protests against Reliance SEZ in Navi Mumbai, and the fracas over Tata’s Nano car factory in Singur, West Bengal, are some examples.

More often than not, such controversies have a way of snowballing into protracted litigations and gumming up the path of progress and development. In a move that grabbed the nation’s eyeballs, Tata, after the unseemly dust-up over its acquisition of land in Singur, chose to relocate his Nano factory to Sanand in Gujarat. Good news is – at least the Nano was lucky enough to have found a peaceful, new home. Many projects exist where companies have not found such luck. So what could be the way out to steer clear of pitfalls in a scenario when land acquisition has become controversial and is often marked by a huge trust deficit between land-acquiring agencies and the land owners?

Vijayawada. It’s the third-largest city of Andhra Pradesh, and fast emerging as an important commercial and industrial hub. The city offers an exemplary way out of the miasma of conflict in which land acquisition deals often get sucked into. The city, with a population of 1.05 million – expected to increase to 1.65 million by 2021 – is showing the way on land acquisitions in public-private partnership mode for urban development, in a cooperative manner with active participation of the stakeholders.

Like any other urban magnet, Vijayawada attracts migrating labourers in large numbers and about 27% of its urban population live in slums. According to the city’s Corporation Commissioner, G. Ravi Babu, “Slums in Vijayawada urban agglomeration are located on state and central government, municipal, private and other unclaimed lands. There are 111 notified slums on encroached land along the banks of the canals, and on open railway tracks. They suffer from severe deprivation in terms of physical and social amenities as well as sustainable livelihoods.”

To address the challenge of land encroachment, arrest the growth of slums, and reclaim public land, the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC) embarked upon an innovative exercise in land-sharing. It has taken to partnering with the landowners of Jakkampudi and Gollapudi villages, which cover an area of 226 acres and 787 acres respectively and fall under the agency’s ambit. The project was taken up under the BSUP (basic services for the urban poor) programme of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). The first phase covered only the villages at Jakkampudi, and is completed. Altogether, 9,000 houses have been built in the Jakkampudi area under this programme, at a cost of Rs.1.98 billion.

 
But acquiring land is never easy. It wasn’t so even for the Vijayawada municipality. After several unsuccessful shots, VMC decided to try out the public-private partnership (PPP) model and got down to the task of inviting and involving farmers in its land acquisition exercise. “Finding land has been a tough task. But we got farmers with land banks to agree to a public-private partnership (PPP) model, under which 225 acre of land was bought over from them in the two villages of Jakkampudi and Gollapudi. The government used 96 acres of this chunk for building homes for the poor and the rest was given back to the farmers with a layout,” points out Ravi Babu. With the farmers convinced that they were not about to be gulled and there was merit in the government’s proposal, a MoU was thrashed out between the VMC and land owners.

Under the terms of agreement worked out, the latter agreed to part with 40% of their land for building houses for the economically weaker sections of society. In return, the VMC agreed to develop 60% of the remaining land for use of the original owners.

Today, thanks to the PPP model, VMC has been able to construct 18,000 houses of the targeted 28,000 units. On the other hand, land owners in the two urban villages have benefitted on account of the huge appreciation in land value due to infrastructure development around it, point out officials of VMC.

The central government has already sanctioned Rs.14.28 billion for infrastructure development in the two villages under the JNNURM programme, while the state government has spent Rs.250 million towards bearing the cost of development charges for this land. The VMC has not only provided urban infrastructure such as roads with open/closed drains, underground drainage system, reservoir for drinking water, and other physical and social infrastructure, but has also ensured connectivity of the two villages with the main city. All lands have been procured within 8 km of the business district and are well connected by public transport.

Unlike the earlier slum rehabilitation projects, under the JNNURM, an effort has been made to involve the beneficiaries and make them an active participant in more ways than one. Subbama Rao, whose jhuggi was gutted in a devastating fire some months back, is a happy woman now. She is a proud owner of a 315 sq. ft. flat in Jakkampudi colony that was built by VMC under the JNNURM programme of the ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation. “We have initially paid Rs.10,000. We will pay monthly installments to the bank for the loan we have availed for the house after we get the passbook,” says Rao, who is happy to have left behind the woes of waterlogging and sewage overflow at Radha Nagar where her family resided for more than a decade before finally shifting to the new home. As a result of these initiatives, the VMC has been able to reclaim 200 acres of land encroached in different parts of the city.

          

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