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Dissertation Dissertation

Land Policies and Practices And Their Impact On Informal Settlements in Puducherry City

The dissertation is on 'Land Policies and Practices and their Impact on the Informal Settlements in Puducherry City'. 

Urban poverty is a key global challenge facing humanity. A significant proportion of urban population of the Global South lives in informal settlements without access to: improved water, sanitation facilities, sufficient living area, durable dwellings and security of tenure (SoT). The global debates on urban poverty has identified SoT as a dogmatic factor in alleviating urban poverty which is also a key goal of MDG (Target 11 Goal 7). Hence, public policies aimed at reducing urban poverty should focus on improving the SoT of urban poor. With majority of the urban poor in the developing world living in the secondary cities, understanding the policies and practices in secondary cities is gaining importance as the level of informality there is decided by the policies pursued. 

Puducherry, a secondary city in the Union Territory of Puducherry is characterised by high levels of urban informality (slums and unauthorised layouts) with a significant urban poor population living in 140 slums. In this context, the study was undertaken to assess the impact of public policies on land in Puducherry. Qualitative research methods such as semistructured interview and documentary resources were selected to study the public policies on land to assess its impact on the informal settlements in the city. Officials who were involved in land policy formulation and its implementation were chosen as respondents and various relevant documents were also analysed. 

The results of the study revealed the lack of suitable policies to address the issue of urban informality in Puducherry. On the issue of urban slums, the unplanned land titling approach is dovetailed with housing subsidy schemes which did not solve the issue of slums due to political involvement in selection of beneficiaries. Furthermore, gentrification and vote bank politics has eroded the benefits of slum housing. On the issue of unauthorised layouts, the study found the prevalence of very high levels of illegal subdivisions resulting in haphazard conditions seriously impacting the orderly urban development in the city. 

The study results also indicated that the main reason for the unauthorised development is the lack of an appropriate developmental regulation that takes into account the requirements of the urban poor and land market. This created supply constraints for formal land resulting in open defiance of the developmental regulations by the private property developers. The practice of periodical regularisation of unauthorised constructions by the planning board exacerbates the levels of informality in the city. The results also revealed the current pathway that is pursued by the poor slum dwellers and buyers of illegally subdivided plots for achieving tenure security in Puducherry. Key recommendations such as conduct of regulatory audit of all the public policies on land, creation of an information base on informal settlements and need for a clear policy decision on vertical slum housing were made.