BHUBANESWAR (India) • The eastern Indian state of Odisha will give land rights to slum dwellers in small towns and property rights to those living in city settlements in a "historic" step that officials said would benefit tens of thousands in one of the poorest states.
The state Cabinet has approved two ordinances to assign land and property rights to about 200,000 slum-dwelling households that will enable redevelopment, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said on Tuesday. "The urban poor in slums will get land rights for residential use that are heritable, mortgageable and non-transferable," he said.
"As far as is practicable, efforts will be made to provide these rights on an in situ basis," he added, saying the "historic" decision will help remove residents' constant fear of eviction and harassment.
About 65 million people live in India's slums, according to 2011 census data, which activists say is a low estimate. That number is rising quickly as tens of thousands leave their villages to seek better prospects in urban areas. Many end up in overcrowded slums, lacking even basic facilities and with no claim on the land or property. Evictions and demolitions of settlements have risen as Indian cities expand and are spruced up.
Slum dwellers have long opposed efforts to relocate them to distant suburbs that limit their access to jobs and amenities. Instead, they favour development with upgrading of facilities and secure tenancy.
While Odisha and other states have programmes to give land to the landless poor in rural areas, a similar effort has not been undertaken in cities before, said Mr G. Mathi Vathanan, commissioner at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Mr Mahendra Parida of slum dwellers' rights group Bhubaneswar Basti Basinda Mahasangha said the move was a welcome first step, but many uncertainties remained. "The government has yet to properly identify all slum dwellers ... so not all the urban poor will benefit."