August 19, 2019
The High Court has slammed Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board for having begun construction of tenements in Vellingiri in Coimbatore without getting the land reclassified by the Coimbatore Local Planning Authority. The board also did not obtain the No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Forest Department.
The Division Bench of Justices S Manikumar and Subramaniom Prasad had passed an interim order on a PIL filed by Vellingiri Hill Tribal Protection Committee. When it came up for hearing, Coimbatore Divisional Forest Officer D Venkatesan had submitted that man-animal conflict was prevalent in the division and this was mainly due to the increasing number of buildings and industrial and agricultural activities close to the forest.
In a bid to relocate slum dwellers and encroaches, the TNSCB began constructing tenements at different places in the corporation limits. Now that they have forayed into town and village panchayat limits, there has been stiff resistance from the public and the wildlife enthusiasts over the construction of multi-storied buildings close to forest fringes as that would result in intense human-animal conflict and would also increase animal population in that area.
Those relocated had always expressed concern that the tenements they were asked to occupy were very far away and they were unable to get to their place of work. Children also dropped out from schools because they did not have proper modes of transport. Activists also pointed out that as per the Sypreme Court ruling, they should be relocated within 5km of their current dwelling, else the labour class should find it difficult to get work and commute.
Activist Shiva M told The Covai Post that the TNSCB had to primarily conduct a survey on the requirements, as those living in the Natham land could be given patta while those encroaching the water course cannot be given the rights. This information should be submitted to the District Collector and then forwarded to the TNSCB to ascertain the actual number of dwellings to be built. Already there were tenements In excess waiting to be occupied and the number of tenements that are being built in excess to the demand has raised eyebrows, he said.
Without conducting any such survey, the TNSCB has proposed 2,494 dwellings in Perur-Chettipalayam, 2,100 in Thenkasi village and 574 in Kalimangalam hamlet in Alandurai. As for Kalimangalam, the Forest Department had already denied NOC based on HACA regulations. It may be noted that recently Indus College which was situated 100 m from the proposed area was sealed for not obtaining NOCs from Forest Department and HACA.
Highlighting yet another case of alleged injustice , the president of Vellingiri Hills Tribal Protection Committee said that in the Kaudapathy tribal settlement area in Thenkarai, the TNSCB had taken possession of the 1 acre that was donated to 28 tribal families by one Nataraj-Rajamani Gounder family in 2011. The tribespeople gave them the land when the TNSCB promised to construct individual houses for them. But now the board has constructed four blocks (Ground plus three floors each) and has asked all the 28 families or the owners of the land, to occupy one block, adding that it would decide who would occupy the tenements in the other blocks, he said.