Nepal initiates a move towards child-friendly governance: Can India follow the footsteps of its neighbouring country?

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By-Raksha Sharda, Humara Bachpan Campaign

Children living in urban poverty are not only deprived of affordable housing but also basic services such as electricity, safe water, paved roads, public space and poor infrastructure in terms of schools and health care facilities. Children are exposed to multiple risks in cities: polluted air, dirty water, traffic accidents, lack of sanitation, inadequate nutritional intake, garbage dumps surrounding their living areas which also turn out to be their playgrounds.

There is a need to turn focus and attention to children in urban areas than has not been done so far. To address the issues of children and mainstreaming their needs in the urban agenda UNICEF and the UN Habitat launched the Child Friendly Cities Initiative in 1996. The initiative has now evolved into a worldwide movement with municipalities in different countries promoting and implementing initiatives to realize the rights of a child. In all of these countries, authorities are working to ensure that children’s rights are reflected in policies, laws, programmes and budgets at the local level.

The phrase “child-friendly” is multi-dimensional and comprehensive. Firstly, it is about the attitudes and sensitization of child friendly issues, secondly, it is related to child friendly behaviors, and thirdly it is concerned with child friendly planning and infrastructures as well as publications. A tripartite bond can only help to create a child friendly environment. It is a city, or more generally a system of local governance, committed to fulfilling children’s rights, which includes: influencing the decision about their city, express their opinion, participate in family, community and social life, receive basic services, walk and play safely, live in an unpolluted environment be an equal citizen of their city and a well-planned indicators of quality of life. In a child-friendly city, children are active agents, their voices and opinions are considered and influence the decision making process.

Following these guidelines Nepal along with the support from UNICEF took a key initiative of Child-Friendly Local Governance (CFLG) which seeks to put children at the core of the development agenda of local bodies, line agencies and civil societies. CFLG provides a framework or an overall guidance to the government in realizing and mainstreaming the rights of children which includes survival, development, protection and participation into the local government system, structure, policies and process. It facilities and coordinates the realization of child-rights at and between the national and sub-national level. UNICEF has been working closely with the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development (MoFALD), to develop the CFLG strategy that promotes all stakeholders at the local level to plan together to achieve the results for children as outlined in the strategy. The strategy is also being supported by various NGOs to adopt a bottom up approach for promoting planning for children and ensuring the participation of children in these processes. A child-friendly governance system is a stepping stone to ensure that the cities also become child-friendly.

Another key initiative taken by GoN is the establishment of Center Child Welfare Board (CCWB) and District Child Welfare Boards (DCWBs) in 75 districts of Nepal which carries out massive programs to aware and sensitizes children and community on child rights; protect children from abuses and violations and legal support. Other initiatives made by the Government of Nepal (GoN) include: development and implementation of 10 year child development plan (2004-2014), declaring the National Child Policy (2012).
At the policy level, the MoFALD convinced the GoN to officially endorse CFLG as an integral part of its Local Governance and Community Development Program (LGCDP) which is a multi-stakeholder governance programme between Government of Nepal and thirteen development partners. Secondly, CFLG also got reflected in the GoN’s Three Year Interim Plan. In terms of budgetary provision, MoFALD ensure a mandatory provision of 10% for women, 10% for children and 15% for CFLG initiatives specified in the Village Development Committee (VDC) and District Development Committee (DDC) block grant guidelines endorsed by the Cabinet. CFLG national framework also includes provision for 15% of the overall local body resources to be allocated for CFLG initiatives. Further, Municipal authorities have committed NRs 23 million (US$ 3.1 million) for CFLG initiatives over the next five years. These efforts are commendable and should act as an eye opener for other countries including India. Though, monetary provisions alone to do not guarantee progress, but GoN have made tremendous efforts to ensure effective implementation of CFLG.

At the local level, CFLG has been rolled out in 39 districts, 15 municipalities and 300 VDCs. Children are making their voices heard through 13,291 active Child Clubs in over 52 districts, and as members of the 40,000 Ward Citizens Forums, in the VDC, DDC and Municipal planning committees as well. With 27 sectoral and 12 institutional indicators centred on child’s right, municipalities and VDCs implementing CFLG are taking steps to ensure that their cities/towns are child-friendly.

Municipalities have started looking at the process of development through the lens of a child wherein children voices and their participation in decision-making bodies is encouraged. In Dang district, for example, the municipality has made arrangements to allocate open spaces for parks. Child clubs in Biratnagar, which is the second largest city after Kathmandu have helped the municipality identify children missing out on education and immunization. These child club members also helped increase the enrolment of Muslim girls who had not been attending school due to the schools’ restriction on school uniforms. As soon as the children managed to convince Biratnagar and the District Education Office to allow those girls to wear salwar kameez instead of skirts, the girls started going to school. Biratnagar Municipality in partnership with Biratnagar child-clubs ensured that their voices were reflected in key local level policy documents and program interventions.

Real ‘child-friendliness’ can only be achieved through a long-term commitment of child friendly policies and the commitment levels of all concerned duty bearers and political will to the implementation of child rights. Unplanned urban sprawl, inaccessible housing, non-existence of basic services and loss of open green spaces has not only decreased the living standards of the people but it also increased its vulnerability to disasters. Despite these developmental challenges, Nepal is encouraging CFLG making it a national strategy and laying the foundation for building child-friendly cities. While our neighbouring country is taking strong initiatives to look the world through children’s eyes, encourage children participation, listen to their voices and respect children as human beings with their rights and responsibilities, this should act as an eye opener to the policy makers, bureaucrats, municipalities, civil society organizations in India to initiate towards a child-friendly local governance and ensure coordination and collaboration among various agencies leading the way toward a child-friendly governance and cities.

Urban dialogue on poverty issues at Bodh Gaya

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Dalit Vikas Abhiyan Samiti (DVAS) and Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) are jointly working on the issues of urban poverty in state of Bihar and in specific in the city of Gaya. DVAS and PRIA, on 16 July 2014 organised a unique forum to bring forth an exchange dialogue between community, civil society, service providers and academicians.

Executive from the ULB, Vice- Chairperson ULB, City Manager, Dy. Director Directorate of social security, Chairperson Bihar Economic Council Gaya, President Social Sciences Department, Magadh University, and Elected Representatives from ULB, Members of SICs and representatives from media houses actively participated in the consultation.

Objective of the urban poverty and governance consultation at Gaya

The city of Bodh Gaya is well known for its rich heritage and culture which draws thousands of tourists from all over the world. Over the period of time the city has given way to unplanned urbanization resulting in development of slums and slum like structures. If we refer the 2001 census data it says, there are 4672 HHs living in the slums of Bodh Gaya Nagar Panchayat , further according to Census 2011 data 249HHs are homeless , who are living in Bodh Gaya Nagar Panchayat. However, as per 2006 report of Nagar Panchayat Bodh Gaya number of households living in slums is 3500. As per the survey conducted under SPUR in December 2010, the town had 18 slum pockets housing 3109 households and a population of 20875.

With a new government at the centre which has a strong urban focus and an agenda of making 100 smart cities, issues of urban poverty need to be urgently addressed in the city of Gaya. However the government has shared no such plans as of now. Instead the talk is about large scale and green field developments in the country which the space and provisions for the urban poor in these larger schemes have not been articulated yet.

PRIA had recently done a research study to evaluate in ‘economic terms’ the contribution of the urban poor to the cities they belong to. The major finding of the study was that the urban poor actively contribute about 7-8% to the city economy, however are still neglected by the city in respect to provisions, services and infrastructure. In State of Bihar the state of affairs is no different. Centrally sponsored schemes of Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) and Swarna Jayanati Shahri Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY) for the urban poor have not been successful.

DVAS in collaboration with PRIA has been working in the slums of Bodh Gaya since past two and half years, for the collectivization and mobilisation of the urban poor community in Bodh Gaya. Exercise of slum listing and profiling, formation of settlement/slum improvement committees (SICs) in various urban poor pockets of Gaya have been the two major interventions by PRIA and DVAS. These interventions have helped in bringing forth various specific issues related to the urban poor in the city, has helped in generating a much needed database, understand the gaps in access to rights and entitlements of the urban poor in Gaya. SICs have been vital in the community to raise their voice on these issues and also to act as a bridge and mediator between the service providers and the community at large.

In the light of the above, the objective of this consultation at Gaya was twofold:
• To bring multiple stakeholders (CSO, State, Urban Poor, ULB, Academia, Media etc.) on a common platform to deliberate and discuss issues, challenges and way forward on urban poverty issues of Bodh Gaya and urban poor in general.
• To build alliances and explore collaborations in seeking solutions to urban poverty issues in Bodh Gaya
.

The consultation was successful in bringing forth various issues and perspectives of all stakeholders associated. Some of the key aspects discussed in the consultation were:

Community members elaborated upon various immediate issues and problems they are facing. Women in specific spoke about lack of sanitation, services, adequate health infrastructure and social evils. The community leaders recognised that all community members need to collectivise and raise their voice against such issues. Knowledge and participation is the need of the day for the urban poor to avail their rights.
It was bought forth into notice that failure of many schemes has often been due to lack of awareness and knowledge dissemination. The service providers (government) and the beneficiaries both should take onus for the same.
The service provider – Nagar Panchayat of Bodh Gaya, also elaborated upon the various governance challenges it faces and requested for a better coordination with the community. Nagar Panchayat’s representative also highlighted various on-going and forthcoming development activities in the city such as infrastructural development in 4 urban poor settlements, installation of solar lights, provision of social infrastructure, provision of urinals etc. in urban poor settlements. However, the issue of providing adequate housing to poor, as elaborated upon by the representative is dictated by the lack of available land in the city.
• Representative from Directorate of social security, Gaya shared several important information with the community dwellers that would facilitate them to avail various schemes and benefits under various schemes as applicable in the State and the city.
• The consultation as a whole was a successful step to bring forth all stakeholders on a common platform and to work in unison on urban poverty issues. This interaction however has to be continuous one to facilitate learning, appropriate service delivery, accountability and participation towards an equal and just development of Gaya.

THE INFORMAL AND INSECURE LABOUR FORCE OF INDIA

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By Shivani Singh, PRIA

India has over 40 labour laws but the irony is that the majority of labour force is in the informal sector and is deprived of legal rights. Though there are Labour Legislations that have provisions within the laws for the informal sector workers but majority of labour force is outside the purview of the Labour Legislations and hence are deprived of rights and protections. The write up elaborates the situation of informal sector in India and the limitation of Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008 to do justice to the informal sector workers.

I. Unorganized Sector in India

Majority of the workforce in India are in the informal economy, also referred to as the unorganized sector in the country. In 2004, the Government of India set up the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) to examine the issues of the informal economy. The NCEUS adopted the following definition of the “unorganized sector.” “The unorganized sector consists of all unincorporated private enterprises owned by individuals or households engaged in the sale and production of goods and services operated on a proprietary or partnership basis and with less than 10 total workers.” (NCEUS)

According to data available in 2005, the unorganized sector accounted for 395 million persons or 86 per cent of the work force. Most of these workers (253 million) were engaged in agriculture and who are mainly self-employed. Together with the 29 million in unorganized employment in the formal sector, there were 422.6 million persons in the unorganized economy (sector plus employment) who comprise 92.4 per cent of the work force. (NCEUS)

The lack of a comprehensive legislation to provide for a minimum condition of work is a severe lacuna, sought to be addressed unsuccessfully over several decades. Nearly every commission set up by the Government to study the unorganised sector has recommended it. The First National Commission for Labour (1991) proposed a comprehensive legislation for agricultural workers and the Ministry of Labour drafted a bill for regulation of employment, conditions of service and for the provision of welfare measures for agricultural workers in 1997. Likewise, the Second National Commission for Labour (2002) proposed an Act to consolidate and amend the laws relating to the regulation of employment and workers’ welfare in the unorganised sector in India and provided for social security cover and welfare, regulation of employment and conditions of work, as well as promotion of livelihoods. The legislation intended to cover employments, both in the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors, which were listed in the Schedule appended to the proposed Act. (Ministry of Labour and Employment)

More recently, the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) in a bid to extend decent work to all in the unorganised sector recommended two comprehensive legislations for unorganised agricultural and non-agricultural workers, combining all aspects of the conditions of work, including social security. The draft bills recommended several minimum conditions of work for unorganized workers, thus prescribing minimum standards, including: (i) an eight-hour working day with at least a half-hour break, (ii) one paid day of rest per week, (iii) a statutory national minimum wage for all wage workers and home workers, (iv) penal interest on delayed payment of wages, (v) no deductions from wages in payment of fines, (vi) the right to organize, (vii) non-discrimination on the basis of sex, caste, religion, HIV/AIDs status and place of origin, (viii) adequate safety equipment at the workplace and compensation for accidents, and (ix) protection from sexual harassment, provision of childcare, and provision of basic amenities at the workplace. (NCEUS)
More recently, the first step to provide comprehensive social security cover to all workers was facilitated through enacting the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008. This Act has the potential to cover all “workers” including the self-employed for the purposes of ensuring access to basic social security although working hours, safety and employment relations continue to be unregulated for these workers.

One one hand the Act is respite but it comes with certain limitations. That are mentioned below:

II. Limitation of Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008 (Sankaran T. S.)

i. Neither agricultural labourers have been brought under the purview of the Act nor a separate bill for agricultural labourers tabled. But, the minister claims that they are also covered.
ii. NCEUS had prepared two Bills, one on social security and the other on working conditions. The latter has been dumped and the Bill passed confines itself only to social security in its most diluted/truncated form.
iii. The 2008 Act appears to have excluded vast sections of unorganized workers like agricultural labourers, the unorganized labourers in the organised sector including contract labourers and the informal labourers in the formal sector, the anganwadi workers, para workers like ASHAs and parateachers, and those the cooperative sector.
iv. The Act is applicable only to a small section of unorganized labourers whose income limit is expected to be notified by the government. There is every possibility that the subsequent notification will include parameters to exclude good number of unorganised workers from the applicability of the law and the schemes.
v. The passage of the Act is not accompanied by any legally stipulated guarantee for the establishment of a Central Welfare fund.
vi. There is no provision for penalties in the Act to punish those employers who violate it.
vii. “Social Security” to the unorganized workers has been narrowed down to ten paltry social security schemes. Most of these schemes like old age pension or maternity benefit (or even the meagre Bima Yojana, for that matter) is already existing/ongoing schemes and there is nothing new in them.
viii. As a result of dropping the Bill on conditions of work prepared by the Arjun Sengupta Commission, working conditions of unorganised workers including hours of work, mandatory holidays, industrial safety, job security, industrial relations and trade union rights, guaranteeing minimum wages, bonus etc., would remain unregulated and unenforced.
ix. The national and state boards for unorganised workers provided for in the Act are advisory bodies and like the National Labour Commission they are toothless bodies. While implementation is left to the district bureaucracy, there is no independent enforcement or watchdog/oversight body with representation from unions and there is no appellate authority even.
x. Not only there is no penalty against the defaulting employers, there would be no action against the bureaucrats who refuse to register any unorganised worker under any of the twin scheduled schemes.
xi. The special problems of migrant workers, especially inter-State migrants, among unorganised workers, especially the problem of security, has been totally ignored by the Act.
xii. The special problem of women unorganised workers do not figure in the Bill. The problems of security, sexual harassment, proper accommodation for migrant women workers, issues relating to nature of work and industrial safety, gender wage gap, non-payment of wages, childcare facilities at work spot etc., have been totally neglected.

Bibliography

Ministry of Labour and Employment. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://labour.nic.in/content/reports/others.php
NCEUS. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://nceuis.nic.in/The_Challenge_of_Employment_in_India.pdf
Sankaran, K. (2014). WIEGO Law Pilot Project on the Informal Econom. WEIGO.
Sankaran, T. S. (n.d.). South Asia Citizen Web. Retrieved from http://www.sacw.net/article658.html

Current practicality, future idealism

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Source: Gautam Bhatia, The Hindu

Computer managed smart cities comparable to anything in the West sound too good to be true. However, if the new package fails to carry with it the larger cast of the urban dispossessed, and the millions of rural poor who continue to become the urban dispossessed, the future will see more daily battles over resources

Look outside your window in any direction and you will immediately be aware of the degraded life and ramshackle condition of the Indian city: buildings encroach on public land, telephone lines are dug, rubble is piled in the fast lane, cars are parked on sidewalks while people walk on roads, broken unfinished housing appears on the sightline, tenements lean against boundary walls … you will sense the unbridgeable gap between people’s needs and civic reality. In numbers, transport, housing, commerce, aesthetics, what people want and what the city offers are opposing, often unmanageable compromises.

Read the entire article at: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/current-practicality-future-idealism/article6218108.ece

A ‘smart’ idea for urban ills?

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Source: A. Srivasthsan, The Hindu

The urban future depends on making cities intelligent, and that applies equally to both new and old parts of the city.

Given the fact that the existing cities, which accommodate a bulk of the population, waste a lot of resources and are energy-inefficient, they urgently require smart solutions. It would be better to treat the smart city proposal by the government as a kind of urban experiment or a prototype, whose lessons and experience could be used to develop cities in general.

Read more at: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/a-smart-idea-for-urban-ills/article6206807.ece?homepage=true

Press conference: FORCED TO THE FRINGES: DISASTERS OF ‘RESETTLEMENT’ IN INDIA

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Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) would like to invite you to a Press Conference to launch its new publication -

FORCED TO THE FRINGES:
DISASTERS OF ‘RESETTLEMENT’ IN INDIA
(Report 1: Savda Ghevra, Delhi; Report 2: Kannagi Nagar, Chennai; Report 3: Vashi Naka, Mumbai)

Date: Friday, 11 July 2014
Time: 3.30 pm
Venue: Indian Women’s Press Corps, 5, Windsor Place, New Delhi

Given continuous reports of the inadequacies of resettlement across India, HLRN, in collaboration with its partners, conducted a detailed human rights assessment of three large resettlement sites in Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai. This publication presents the findings of the independent studies, and proposes recommendations to the state and central governments. HLRN hopes that this publication will help towards improving housing and living conditions in India, and in developing an alternative, human rights-based paradigm of urbanisation (and resettlement) that enables the creation of inclusive and equitable cities.

Speakers at the press conference will include the authors of the reports (from Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai), affected persons, independent experts, academics, and human rights defenders from different parts of India.

R.S.V.P:
Shivani Chaudhry
Executive Director
Housing and Land Rights Network
G-18/1 Nizamuddin West
New Delhi – 110 013
+91-11-2435-8492
http://www.hic-sarp.org

Of smart cities and (un)smart decisions – A tale of misplaced priorities

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Source: Arvind Unni, http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/standpoint-of-smart-cities-and-unsmart-decisions-a-tale-of-misplaced-priorities-1998212
It has been more than a month since the Modi-led BJP government swept to power at the Center, primarily riding on the anti-incumbency wave against the UPA, and on the promise of good days ahead (ache din aanewale hain).

Now, it is the (over-employed) mantra of “minimum government and maximum governance” that leads the policy-making discourse, advocating shrinking the top levels of government with “expansion at the grass-roots level”. Having worked on Mumbai’s housing and urbanisation issues at the grassroot level, I’d like to highlight the misplaced priorities and the consequent policy contradictions in urban areas that have emerged in the new government’s short tenure until now. This article analyses our urban future given the current political climate in light of a few recent incidents in Mumbai. It is time for the State to rethink its priorities and goals for urban India.

The BJP Manifesto – Promises Galore

The BJP’s election manifesto, like all party manifestos was full of loud claims for urban India. It clearly stated that “our cities should no longer remain a reflection of poverty and bottlenecks.” Contrary to the rural-centric policies until recently, BJP clearly views “urbanisation as an opportunity rather than a threat” and outlined an (albeit vague and contradictory) urban agenda to make cities “symbols of efficiency, speed and scale.” To achieve this, the manifesto makes many promises – it plans to prioritise low-cost housing and public transport, build 100 new cities, upgrade the existing 8,000 urban centres, use technology to improve urban services and also make development sustainable. The dream is powerful in rhetoric and imagination. But no one knows how these grand imaginations would pan out on the ground. If this very early tenure is to be analysed, it has frighteningly been heavily tilted towards intensive capital investment while the working poor and environment are at the margins of this envisaged development.

Read more at : http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/standpoint-of-smart-cities-and-unsmart-decisions-a-tale-of-misplaced-priorities-1998212