Smart Cards will be used in the rehabilitation and resettlement of homeless people in the metropolis of Chennai, formerly known as Madras, India. Homeless people, including large numbers of pavement dwellers and persons staying on enroached land, will be the first group in the city to receive Resident Identity Cards (RIC) under the new National Population Register (NPR) programme so that their rehabilitation and resettlement can be accelerated.
The group taking part in the first phase of the National Population Register consists of people living on “objectionable land” such as government land or areas on which habitation is not permitted under Indian law (footpaths, canals or bodies of water). This group will be given smart cards by the Chennai Corporation with the help of a team from the National Population Register which will use biometric equipment to capture and store images of irises and fingerprints of the persons involved in this initial phase of the programme.
The Chennai Corporation will issue Smart Cards to a total of around 6,000 people living on improvised illegal dwellings around a number of canals in the region around the city. Biometric identification of homeless people and residents on ‘objectionable land’ has gained priority in the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB), which asked the Chennai Corporation to initiate the project. The homeless people and trespassers will be resettled in more suitable areas with better living conditions. The TNSCB intends to use the Smart Cards to identify beneficiaries of the rehabilitation and resettlement project.
After the completion of the first phase and the issuing of smart cards to the homeless, the rest of the city’s population will also receive the same cards as part of the National Population Register. After the successful rehabilitation of people trespassing on government land, work will begin on removing shacks from these areas, widening roads and preparing other public works.
The use of smart cards to resettle the homeless people of Chennai is a controversial measure. The National Population Register and the Chennai Corporation insist that the first and foremost priority is resettling the homeless into better dwellings and much improved living conditions and away from government land where important public works will take place. On the other hand, it is crucial to ensure that this process will not be used as a pretext to violate the right of the city’s homeless people and discreetly and efficiently remove them from government land without any actual interest on their well-being.
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