CHENNAI: Covered by vegetation outside and full of spider webs inside, a police station abandoned for the past 20 years speaks of the sorry state of affairs in Ayapakkam village panchayat. Several buildings constructed by the Tamil Nadu Housing Board (TNHB) to serve the public lie in ruins as the local panchayat is unable to take over the structures as TNHB is charging “exorbitant” rates.
A local real estate agent, requesting anonymity, said, “When the housing board completed construction of the buildings in 1996, the market rate was 2 lakh per ground.” The price today is nearly 50 times more. A police station, a community hall and a library that came up 20 years ago remain unused. Land allotted for civic amenities including a post office, a fire station, ration shops and six acres for a bus terminal remain unclaimed due to the high prices.
Retired officials say due to the surging land prices, the state government is using its agencies to grab land. Retired bureaucrat M G Devasahayam said, “There has been a paradigm change. TNHB, and the government by extension, is no longer interested in their primary objective of providing affordable housing to the lower and middle income families. The delay in handing over projects and sneaky change of layout plans are all a result of this unwritten policy.”
Denying the allegations, state housing and urban development secretary Dharmendra Pratap Yadav said, “TNHB has never received land free of cost, even from the state government. Secondly, even if land meant for something is used for another purpose, it cannot be done without the consent of the CMDA.” Ayapakkam panchayat officials contended that 23 acres of land meant for construction of educational institutions was taken over by the housing board without CMDA permission. About 660 plots have come up on the 23-acre land.
But former CMDA officials point out that TNHB has a track record of bypassing the planning authority’s permission, as a provision in the Housing Board Act allows them to do so. A retired CMDA official said, “The TNHB can amend land plans with state government’s consent. They have used this shortcut to change plans to suit their whims and fancies.”
Credits ET Realty