Lack of title deeds deprives coastal families of benefits

Ownership certificates are needed to get aid from government for repairing houses damaged by sea erosion

Prema Gilbert’s house in Cheriyathura was left battered in the strong waves that pounded the capital’s coastline some months back. The small plot near the sea had been her family’s abode for the past three decades. With the house left almost uninhabitable by the waves, she applied for financial aid from the government for carrying out maintenance work. But, for many like her who live along the coast and do not have title deeds or ownership certificates for their land, getting any such government aid is a tall order.

“I used to stay in that house with my daughter and her child. While my husband passed away 12 years back, her husband left her nine years back. We had applied at the village office for government aid for carrying out maintenance work, but we have been told that without a title deed it is hard to get. Now, we are living in a rented house. Due to the lockdown, my daughter lost her job and I have also not been able to go for my job as a domestic worker,” says Ms.Gilbert.

According to Shajitha Nazar, councillor of the Vallakkadavu ward, located near the capital’s coastline, she has come across hundreds of such cases of fishworker families who have been living in the coast for decades, unable to get any benefit because they do not have the documents to prove ownership of the land.

“There are many in the coastal wards who have been waiting for so long for such benefits. Some of them are paying land taxes even though they do not have ownership certificates. Though suggestions have been made to use the land tax receipt as a document as a proof of ownership to provide them the benefits, especially in the maintenance projects, it has not worked till now,” says Ms. Nazar.

Tony Oliver, president of the Trivandrum Kambavala Matsyathozhilali Federation, says that many of the houses in small plots of land along the coast have been built without any permits as many of these families have been living there for long.

“Even the owners of the 60 houses in the Tsunami colony near Valiyathura have been unable to get financial aid for maintenance. Since the past many years, representations have been given to various authorities, but to no avail, as they do not have ownership documents,” says Mr.Oliver.

Until recently, a large number of applicants for building permits from these regions, including those for Pradhan Manthri Awaz Yojana (PMAY) have been finding it hard to construct houses or to get TC numbers due to the requirement of a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Airport Authority of India(AAI), considering the area’s proximity to the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.

The issue was finally solved after interventions by the Thiruvananthapuram city Corporation and elected representatives. Quite a few others have been waiting to get rehabilitated under the State government’s housing schemes for the fishing community.

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