Slum Resettlement: A Case study of Madurai, Tamil Nadu

Aim: Identify causes of slum formation and discuss challenges generated due to re-location of slum dwellers


  1. To study history of formation of slums and factors that led to its growth thereafter
  2. To study through case example of Madurai City the preferences of slum dwellers
  3. To identify challenges faced after relocation
  4. To suggest/recommend ways to provide social housing


  • Causes of formation of slums post liberalization in developing countries
  • Slum resettlement projects undertaken by Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB)
  • Changes in livelihood of slum dwellers; Vacant government housing in city outskirts
  • Planning instruments like redevelopment strategies to house urban poor

Category/ Broad Area: What give rise to formation of Slums

Need for Study

Cities in urban India are flooded with urban poor. Migration and creation of slums are two inevitable symptoms of urbanization. Slums are not a new phenomenon; they have been there, forever if not on paper but very much on land. As per Census 2011, 13.7 percent of India’s urban population lived below poverty line. People from distressed rural areas continue to migrate in large numbers to urban centres. On a globally comparable index by UN, the proportion of urban population living in slums in India is in fact higher.

Nation is projected to add 404 million people to its urban population between 2014 and 2050. Also, the recent three-year action plan released by NITI Aayog to facilitate urbanization in the country includes affordable housing as its key challenge where it has put focus on increased availability of social housing. It recommends release of unused or encroached urban land belonging to central and state governments to provide affordable housing recognizing the need to provide social housing close to city center.

Slums do not exist officially and are neither reflected on maps, taxes are not collected and basic services, and infrastructure is rarely provided. As the urban poor continue to grow in number, there is a growing need to revisit the very causes that lead to formation of slums in urban areas. There is a rising recognition that government programs like housing schemes or direct provision alone are not sufficient to house urban poor. This implies a growing need to analyze the gaps between goals of social housing policies and needs and thoughtful choices of urban poor.  While slum upgradation may not always be solution but neither is slum resettlement in locations far- off from city core. An approach that asserts to understand the demands of slum dwellers and provide them with housing options accordingly is necessary.

Case Study: Madurai

Madurai Map Image

Significance/usefulness of the project

In an attempt to solve issue of slums in urban areas, to release space for accommodating future development, and provide housing to slum dwellers, Indian government, came out with Affordable Housing in Partnership (AHP), Rajiv Awas Yojna (now PMAY-U) in 2015 to give affordable housing to slum dwellers, though not in the more central areas of cities where the slums tend to be, but on the urban outskirts.

  • The study shall be useful in understanding the on-ground impact of social hosing policy
  • The reasons that make AHP a failure if provided away from city core
  • Preferences of urban poor while choosing a location to reside
  • The impact of land use regulations on creation of slums


The slums as we know and see today really began to take shape in the 20th century, after the Great Depression. It was only in 1980s and 1990s, when trade picked up at an unprecedented pace and globalisation daunted upon the world. Developing economies across globe began to be connected more than ever before, witnessing a surge in employment opportunities and opening up the doors to access cheap labour so vastly available in developing countries.

Along with the benefits that globalisation fetched, came in the inequality and poverty as new global phenomenon. The state continued to take a back seat – changing its role from being a provider to a facilitator, without pre-empting the probable outcomes. As more and more people became a part of the race to generate more, the pace of economic and social growth, particularly in developing countries was faster than it was planned for…..and it was only a matter of time before challenges began to engulf us. The recipe for disaster for many developing economies had started to boil.

The unplanned development and urbanisation forced lower-income people to find respite in informal sector. The number of slums continued to expand in numbers dotting the urban landscapes like never before. Slum-dwellers could no longer earn a decent living and the number of families living below the poverty line in urban areas started swelling.

Slums in all shapes and sizes mean the same thing: an overcrowded residential urban area characterised by below standard housing, poor basic services (water and sanitation), insecure tenure, and squalor. As per the Census data of 2011, there were 0.9 million homeless in India in addition to an approximate slum population of 65 million (17% of urban India’s population). According to the UN, the share of urban Indians living in slums is 24 percent—about 100 million people. Migrants make up a sizeable chunk of India’s urban population, 35% as per National Sample Survey Organisation, 2007-08.

Slums are not just a consequence of population rise and demographic changes but also an outcome of increasing urban poverty and inequality, failed urban and national policies, laws and delivery systems, and also the inability of the urban poor to access affordable land for housing.

The top five states by number of slum households per 100 in 2008-09 include Chhattisgarh (18%), Odisha (17%), Jharkhand (14%) and Tamil Nadu (11%) and Bihar (10%). They together accounted for 51% of India’s slum households as per (NSSO, 2013). These states have more than 10% of their population living in slums.

As per the draft National Urban Rental Housing Policy 2015, 60% slums are on government land in urban India with 40% owned by urban local bodies. Under ongoing schemes, due to lack of regulations to ensure provision of social housing in central city area, (close to CBD where most of the slum dwellers are employed) people are resettled in locations far away from city core. Relocating them away from their place of work bear a brunt not only on inhabitants but the housing created which is left to deteriorate.

“Those who are relocated aren’t able to secure jobs outside the city. They end up selling the land/ house or giving it to relatives, and returning to more centrally located slums.”

What is it that they prefer the most, a good place to live or food to feed them with? Could we provide them with these at the new place?

For instance, the state of Tamil Nadu had the highest share of India’s slum households at 9,31,169 or 30% in 2008-09, the only state/union territory with a share in double digits. In the centre of the state, lies the Temple City of Madurai, the third largest city in Tamil Nadu next to Chennai and Coimbatore. It is one of the Second Tier cities in Tamil Nadu. The city of Madurai is one such ancient city that has been a major settlement for two millennia and holds prominence till date as the second largest corporation city by area and the third largest city by population.

The town presents a wide range of activities in various institutional, commercial and tourism sectors. Growth in such activities, generation of employment in trade and business activities, hawking, retailing, carting etc. has attracted rural poor to the town. Owing to rapid urbanization, there has been a large influx of the migrants resulting in formation of slums.

In the city, the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) is working for resettlement and housing provision for slum dwellers by providing self-contained hygienic tenements. The city has as many as 200 slums and 40,034 slum households within the City Municipal Corporation with a total population of 14,8,383 people as per Slum free City Plan of Action-2013.

With the objective of making the city of Madurai, a large number of urban poor living in various slums spread across city centre where they had access to livelihood opportunities, have been shifted to Rajakoor, 18 kilometres away from temple complex. Multi-storeyed apartments have been provided under JNNURM to house slum dwellers living on untenable land.

The relocation and shelter that comes in name of development effects the balance in society. Many of these people who were employed in informal sector in and around Meenakshi Amman temple complex, selling flowers, food and vegetables, accessories etc. to visitors and pilgrims coming to make offerings at temple now feel alienated, some without work, and others staying two hours away from their place of work.  The displacement left many jobless, forcing them to look afresh for new opportunities. The location is far away from central city, with hardly any industrial or business establishments to absorb them.  With nothing at their disposal, they now do odd jobs earning just enough for minimum subsistence.

The shelter came to them at cost of their lost their old family ties. People belong to different communities and no longer lack the sense of belongingness and familiarity. The people who back then could get to their schools, place of work etc. on foot, are now forced to spend a share of their already less disposable income on buses. Their wages are still the same, and the cost of transportation has only added to the expenditure.

“The pangs of separation stay afresh for years to come and it might take years to overcome the same.”

Another slum which the city authorities are targeting to remove for ‘city beautification’ is one of the largest slums in the city – Gomaspalayam. Located in the heart of the city, it is considered ‘eyesore’ by city residents, and the government itself. The development and beautification of the area will once again come at the cost of livelihood and normalcy of thousands of people who would be relocated to the city outskirts.

The slum is situated close to bus terminus, markets, offices and shopping malls which provide occupants their livelihood and access to daily needs. The houses in slums are extremely small, with many of the residents lacking access to even basic amenities like water. As the government now plans to demolish the slum and relocate people to Melur, a location 32 kilometres away from their place of work; What would they chose, a decent place to live or livelihood?

And the residents say, “This is not what we want. If the government wants to do something for them – it has to be right there, where we live.”

As per the housing and urban affairs ministry, there were as much as 2.5 lakh houses built under previous schemes lying vacant in 2014. Report by (IDFC, 2018) suggests that around 18.8 million urban households face a housing shortage in 2018, while 11.1 million houses lie vacant in cities, because in most the cases they were built far from existing livelihood opportunities i.e. away from residential colonies or business centres. A large number of housing options due to high land prices in city are provided in locations away from city centre with no connectivity and without minimum necessary infrastructure. These high land prices are caused as a result of restricted land supply through land-use regulations like FSI ceilings. Most mass public housing built in city outskirts where land values are comparatively less end up getting deteriorated and losing their value due to bad maintenance, poor location, and social and physical isolation.

Main Outcomes/ final analysis/ proposals

It is not new to find these Slum dwellers selling off homes that the government relocates them to, majorly due to the increased distances from their workplaces.  Instances like such show us that a pukka house with attached bath and toilet, piped water is not all that they desire. Slum is not a choice people chose to live in, but an outcome of thoughtful decisions, decisions about distance from place of work.

Considering the hazardous location where slums are situated, slum upgradation may not always be the best possible solution but neither is pushing them away from their livelihood. The need is to solve the issue bottom up, to provide new approaches to improve the conditions, and increase the supply of affordable land and housing in urban areas rather than fighting against it, or ignoring it.

Instances from Latin America also exhibit that shoving slum dwellers out to peripheries can further aggravate problems as people create new informal settlements or move to already existing ones. Innovative approaches like the urban development strategy employed to reduce land speculation and promote social housing, and a housing plan that prioritizes poorest settlements can be inspired from. The strategy focuses on the creation of new housing units to reduce housing deficit, regeneration of the degraded city centre to provide low income housing. In certain designated or identified areas to be developed for low-income housing, Government authorities should be given the first option to buy an available property at market rate, and urban redevelopment should be prioritised to allow compulsory development on undeveloped, underused, or derelict property. The local authorities can provide incentives like exemptions on building fees, transfer of building rights to the municipal government at market rates, and exemptions from municipal taxes to encourage private sector to produce social housing.

Lessons from across the world show that it is the willingness of government agencies and politicians to implement strategies and policies that could incentivise fair participation of private sector and make them prioritize changes that will benefit those in need of affordable housing. The preference to settle in locations close to place of employment to optimise travel costs and absence of affordable housing options here leads to formation of informal settlements.  Greater FSI in areas close to CBD or existing transit corridors can release more space near locations of work and bring down per unit price, providing affordable housing options closer to places of work. Land owners benefitting from greater FSI can finance required infrastructure investments. Thus, the success of affordable housing options is reflected by a cost and time- effective transit option. In areas where low income housing is provided, creating a rapid, accessible, and reliable mass transit systems can help augment affordability and keep people connected to their places of work. Lastly, the engagement of residents, citizens and the public in these programs is vital to their effectiveness.

Author – Vallary Gupta
College – School of Planning & Architecture, Bhopal
Postgraduate – MURP

Keywords: Slum, Slum Resettlement, Madurai, livelihood, urban poor

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