By Y S Rana, CHANDIGARH : The inexplicable and inordinate delay on the part of the UT Administration in execution of the ambitious Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) project of rehabilitating the slum dwellers in one-room tenements, has not only cost the administration dear, but also denied Chandigarh the distinction of becoming the first slum-free city in the country. Had the UT Administration adhered to the timeline, the 35,000-odd slum dwellers in Colony No 5 of Chandigarh would now have been living in their newly built one-room tenements. Under the scheme of things, the tenements should have been ready by 2010.
In keeping with the thinking of the Central Government, the UT Administration conducted a biometric survey to identify the families living in slums in 2006 to make Chandigarh the first slum free city in the country by 2010. About 23,841 families, spread over in 18 slum colonies, were identified for rehabilitation, and the Chandigarh Housing Board (CHB) was assigned the task of constructing tenements for them in two phases. Under Phase 1, the CHB was to construct 6,368 one-room tenements by 2009. The total cost of the project was estimated at Rs 354.11 crore, including Rs 163.88 crore ( 46.27 per cent) GOI subsidy; Rs 28.36 crore (8.02 per cent) beneficiaries’ contribution; and Rs 161.87 crore (45,71 per cent) UT Administration’s share. In Phase II, the total cost of construction of 19,630 tenements was estimated at Rs 405.71 crore with 80 per cent GOI subsidy.
But the project progressed at snail’s pace. The Central Government had sanctioned a grant of Rs 396.12 crore under JNNRUM for the project to make Chandigarh slum-free by 2010. Even after the lapse of five years, the Chandigarh Housing Board could start construction work on only 12,864 out of the 25,728 tenements. Going by the pace of construction, there is little likelihood of the tenements being ready before 2015.
The CHB blames the delay on finances not being made available by the administration. When contacted, a UT Administration spokesman conceded the point that the delay in work had made the cost go up by Rs 276 crore. Now, the revised detailed project report (DPR) which puts the escalated cost of the project at Rs 840 crore from Rs 564 crore, has been approved by the UT Administration, and sent to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs for approval. The colony is riddled with stories of struggle, failed dreams, triumphs and the spirit behind every grim face. The total sanitation campaign of the UT Administration notwithstanding, majority of the residents in Colony No 5 defecate in the open because of insufficient provision of toilets.
Awaiting tenements, dwellers in slums continue to wallow in stink. Stalls selling food items, cigarettes, and other eatables, dirty rags, mounds of waste all over, jute bags stitched together to serve as curtain or door, are a common sight in Colony No 50. “It is here that everyone looks but cannot see,” remarked Theresa Micheal, a tourist from UK. Most of the inhabitants are rag pickers, migrant labourers, daily wagers or those working as maids in houses. If the pace of the construction work taken up by the Chandigarh Housing Board (CHB) is any indication, hope for better living for these slum dwellers remains a distance dream.