Make land policy for slum-free India, Selja tells states

July 19th, 2009 - 2:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha Patil By Kavita Bajeli-Datt
New Delhi, July 19 (IANS) In an effort to make India slum-free in five years, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Minister Kumari Selja has urged state chief ministers to prepare an “inclusive master plan” that addresses the concerns of the urban poor.

In her letter she asked state governments to develop an urban land policy and a legal framework that accords property rights to urban slum dwellers and gives them a life of dignity.

Noting that master plans have excluded the poor from urban development, thus driving them to illegal settlements, Selja said: “There is need to develop an urban land policy and a legal framework for according security of property right to the slum dwellers and the urban poor.”

She said the states could consider amending town planning, urban area development and municipal laws to reserve land to build affordable housing that has basic amenities.

The minister also wrote that the states should prepare and implement “inclusive” master plans by following a participatory process and ensure that the concerns of the urban poor, especially slum-dwellers, are adequately addressed in the process of urban planning and development.

Selja, who also heads the tourism ministry, said in her letter written last week that the states should complete surveys of all slums in cities and towns within three months and develop an authentic database on the prevailing conditions.

The minister said President Pratibha Patil had listed her government’s priority by announcing a Rajiv Awas Yojana for the slum dwellers and the urban poor on the lines of the Indira Awas Yojana for the rural poor.

Under the schemes, affordable housing would be provided through partnership and through subsidy.

She said her ministry is currently in the process of formulating the parameters of the Rajiv Awas Yojana that include developing a robust database on slums, envisioning slum-free cities and towns and slum-free states, creating a legal framework to accord property rights to slum-dwellers and reconfiguring and developing slums with basic infrastructure networks by adopting a “whole city” approach.

She said her ministry was also working on enabling the construction of houses by the slum-dwellers with access to cheap credit and through partnerships.

“I would request you to consider not only the needs of existing slums but also the causes as to why slums arise. Urbanisation is bound to occur and the cities must be prepared to provide space to the growing urban population, many of whom may be poor,” she wrote.

“Both the issues of backlog as well as those likely to emanate from the future urban growth are to be tackled. ‘Inclusive cities’ will be critical to inclusive economic growth and tapping fortune at the bottom of the pyramid,” she stated.

“I would, therefore, request you to launch an inclusive and equitable cities campaign involving all stakeholders to alter the existing city planning model,” she said.

(Kavita Bajeli-Datt can be contacted at kavita.d@ians.in)

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