Author: terraurban


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

(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.

Shivani Chaudhry
Executive Director
Housing and Land Rights Network
G-18/1 Nizamuddin West
New Delhi – 110 013

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

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Source: Arvind Unni,
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.

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Terra Urban Monthly Digest – June 2014

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Terra Urban is your daily urban blog. Here are the snapshots of dialogues on Terra Urban in month of June




Slum redevelopment a CSR activity: Ministry of corporate affairs

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LUBNA KABLY, TNN | Jun 26, 2014, 12.26AM IST
MUMBAI: Slum-redevelopment, road safety awareness and consumer protection services will be treated as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, according to clarifications issued by the ministry of corporate affairs in response to queries from stakeholders.

BJP’s election manifesto had promised to usher in a low-cost housing policy that would ensure every family in India a home by 2022. The ministry, in a circular, has clarified that slum-redevelopment or housing for economically weaker sections could be covered under the eligible CSR category of ‘measures taken for reducing inequalities faced by socially and economically backward groups’.

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Ragpickers to get voter ID cards

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Source: Asian Age,

The Delhi Electoral Office has come up with a new scheme to enrol ragpickers into the voters list. The ragpickers will now have voter identity cards to exercise their franchise.

An electoral official on Saturday said that in the first round of its scheme, the electoral office has successfully enrolled 1,500 ragpickers.

“We are committed to ensure that marginalised sections of the society like the homeless, ragpickers, transgenders and sex workers are included in electoral rolls,” said the electoral official.nCamps are being organised in the national capital from June 12 to July 11 to enroll ragpickers in all the 70 Assembly constituencies.

The electoral office has been taking the help of an NGO to prepare a list of ragpickers in each constituency of the capital.

Prakash Kuamr, president of NGO Sajag Society, said that the enrolment process is more intense in areas where the concentration of ragpickers are more.Mr Prakash said that his NGO had almost covered more than eight constituencies in the capital.

A total of 8,000 homeless people were enrolled in the voters list during the last Lok Sabha elections in Delhi.

“We face a lot of difficulties during the verification of the ragpickers who do not have a permanent address. But if we find such people more than three times at the same place, we mention it as their permanent address,” Kumar added.

‘Good meaning’ development schemes fail to reach the urban poor

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by Anshu Singh, PRIA

While Rajiv Awas Yojana states in situ development of slums for the slum dwellers on Government land, we came across a different story while working with the slum dwellers in Jaipur. The slum Poos ka Bangla, lies near Jaipur Railway Station, inhabited by people mostly engaged in hawking, wage labour, servants, rag pickers in the nearby area. People belonging to lower castes from the villages of the states of Bengal, Bihar, Nepal, Gujarat, Punjab etc. lives in the slum who are engaged in labour and hawking. Though they stay in government land, they pay rent to those who have encroached the land illegally.

The people residing in adjoining area, engaged in Government services or self employed, have encroached the land using political connection. They have constructed houses- kachcha/ pucca and have given them on rent to the hawkers, rag pickers, labour etc. @ Rs. 1000/month. There are around 143 households in the slum and residents of adjoining area have encroached around 4-5 plots on the government land. Using their political connection and in connivance with the government officials they have got the names of their sons registered in survey list of RAY. So even if the slum redevelopment plan would be taken up under RAY, houses would be allotted to those who already own a pucca house and not to the destitutes as their names are not included in the survey list. The homeless will remain homeless even after the implementation of RAY.

The slum dwellers are daily wage earners and have very limited earnings out of which they have to pay rent to those who do not even own the land where they are living. Both male and female members of the family earn to make their living. Their children are malnourished and cannot even avail basic education. On one hand the slum dwellers lack access to basic services from the Municipality and on the other they have to the people who are not even the owners of the land.

The urban poor are exploited as they were in generations past which have helped in the creation of slums. Exploitation of urban poor has been a clear, direct, and systematic, cause of poverty and social suffering. As per the Planning Commission report 75% of slum households have not received any benefits from any of the governmental programmes designed to alleviate poverty (Report of the Working Group on Urban Poverty, Slums and service delivery system, 2011). The case, as mentioned above where poverty and exploitation are going hand in hand, are one of the reasons why even after several efforts by the government for eradication of urban poverty, in which housing is one of the priority along with food and livelihood, the poor remains poor and initiatives to make the city slum free seems to be a distant dream of the government.

A glimpse of the slum Poos ka Bangla through google map:,75.789039&spn=0.001368,0.002642




GPS Mapping- A Tool for Social Recognition

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by Dr. Suman Bhanoo, PRIA

Recently on Terra Urban you have read the GPS Mapping by JJEKM and PRIA in B- 5 Bandhu Camp, Vasant Kunj, Delhi PRIA and partner organisation JJEKM jointly started GPS mapping in South Delhi’s informal settlement. Group of SIC members and youth group of community enthusiastically partiVK1cipated in GPS mapping and whole community assisted the team during the process of mapping. After completing initial around of GPS mapping, PRIA team again went to the location to orient community regarding transferring of GPS data to Google earth and then to a Google map.  In one go GPS instrument marks only 350 households and after marking initial households, data is supposed to transfer to Google earth. During this session all community members gathered under one roof and shared their GPS mapping related experiences. Informal settlers were enthusiastic to learn more about mapping exercise and many families came to complain that their households have not been marked (which will be marked in next round). Process of mapping unmapped location has developed excitement, enthusiasm and expectations among community, which explicitly shows active involvement of community is key ingredient of community development. Calling for community members in the development process not just increases their responsibilities towards community resources but also furnish an opportunity to develop required skills and cognition.
Mr. Prem Singh is the community president and for last 25 years he is residing in Bandhu Camp. Here is the anecdote of his GPS mapping experience:

“Many government and private groups came here for survey but they didn’t give a heed to explain the purpose of the survey. They always asked some information and vk2we responded. Indirectly they made us realize that we are neglected and marginalized group of society. But during PRIA and JJKM’s GPS mapping, they have involved youngsters, SIC group and all other community members. It was like journey of learning. Now I know very well how GPS instrument functions and its importance. Now I am very well acquainted with the fact that it has myriad benefits, it can be used as evidence in court to stop evictions, can be presented to city planners and authorities to draw their attention towards various issues and challenges that we are facing. It is an appropriate tool that can be used to raise awareness among community. When we started GPS mapping I was bit skeptical as I have misfortune of not getting higher education but once they trained us, it was not less than sheer fun. We have completed one round of mapping and soon we will be going to complete rest of the mapping exercise. Now we are well aware that in case of any mishappening GPS map is going to be the big support for us. Few days back D-6 slum of Vasant Kunj’s met with an unfortunate fire and due to lack of any supporting evidence they are facing problems. It would be great help for us during any calamitous incident. Throughout our life we have faced identity crisis but I am glad that our slum will be globally visible. It is a matter of honor and prestige. I am excited to see our settlement on Google map”.

Dearth of basic amenities, lack of social security and uncertainties of life are the integral part of
life in informal settlements, but hope to get better life and better living is the driving force. Process of mapping the unmapped is an attempt to put neglected sections of society on global map. It is an endevaor to highlight their existance and challenges.


Toxic life of Chulhai Chak – Patna

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by Swathi Subramaniam, PRIA

A famous bollywood movie -Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola –  had popularized the character of Gulabo, a pink buffalo. This Gulabo was actually an annotated named given to a country liquor which had a pink buffalo as a logo. The fact that India’s country liquor is an integral part of cultural heritage of locals has been exemplified through the movie. However, what such epic dramas have often ignored is the fact that the real heroes behind production of such indigenous liquor are subjected to a far more toxic life  than the much loved spirits that they are creating in their informal setups.

One such production house is located in a small slum in Patna called Chulhai Chak. Chulhai Chak has about 2,500 households and has poor connectivity to the main Patna city, located in the outer circle of Patna – Patna Urban Agglomeration and has limited road connectivity. The settlement is home to the ‘Musahar’ community of Bihar.The residents have been making liquor since over 60 years. Musahars are landless labourers living in grinding poverty and sub human conditions for centuries. Some of them even today live as bonded labourers. Many among them live in ghettos in the outskirts of the villages in Patna. The Musahar community is also known for feeding on rats due to their poverty stricken conditions.

The condition of Chulhai Chak and areas near that slum is very pathetic. The liquor in the households of slum is made by both the wife and husband. This home-made country liquor is made out of Mahua in a process which takes about 5 days to get ready.

Mahua is a flower, from which distilled liquor is produced. The flower itself has many uses for its medicinal and aromatic properties. The drink is made using granular molasses and dried Mahua flowers. The flowers are known to have intoxicating qualities and is said to affect animals.[1]

Mahua has an important role in many communities. Mahua is a common drink for the tribes in the states of Patna, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Mahua Deo – Mahua spirit is worshipped by the Korwa tribals. Mahua liquor mixed with certain ingredients is used by some tribals to obtain abortion. 

Home made liquors are illegal, lack proper processing methods and hence is highly dangerous. The intoxication level of Mahua liquor is also very high. Factory made liquors are safe to consume in appropriate quantity and are not life threatening.

In Chulhai Chak,the producers of this illegal liquor often feel advantageous with consumers being readily available within the settlement itself and they do not have to go out somewhere to sell. The buyers and the consumers themselves come to the community for buying mahua liquor.

However, in the process of making liquor the probability of losing their own lives is also very high. The husbands/men of the house make liquor and taste it before finally supplying for consumption. They end up consuming the mahua liquor in such great quantity that the cases of men losing their own lives instantly are rising in the settlement.

It is said the dangers of making mahua at home is extremely high. When not made properly, it can burn down the lungs instantly on the first consumption. And it is this occupational health hazard that Chulhai Chak has been engulfed in. Even then, the residents still feel entrapped to continue such activity due to lack of other alternative work opportunities.

Unfortunately, the State is yet to address these issues of health hazards and sufficient alternate livelihood opportunities for this community. With immense construction boom in the State, these residents who are known to be labourers could be absorbed. This community at present is not just physically disconnected with the rest of the city, but is also unable to avail the benefits of any developmental schemes which they are entitled to. State urgently needs to intervene and provide the right of a life with dignity to these residents.



Power of Unity

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by Komail Ashraf  , CINI Urban Unit

The common belief of greater development, better living conditions, and more prevalent resources in urban areas has masked the real picture of urban poor. Urban slums are extremely vulnerable communities, with slum populations ranking among the poorest and most under-served groups. Problems with housing, sanitation as well as access to water, electricity and health and other basic services make communities more vulnerable. In West Bengal, status of slum dwellers are equally drastic. There are 4473 slums with 1,393,319 slum households.(NSS 65th round (State Sample))

The Urban Poor needs to be stronger. They need to know what they want, need to prepare themselves in order to negotiate with the government for what they need and to give them good reasons to listen to them and become involved.

 With these perspectives CINI – Urban Unit in collaboration with PRIA initiated an approach to federate groups of urban poor living in different slums of Kolkata and Siliguri. CINI facilitated the formation and collectivization of urban poor and their groups (Self Help Group) by capacitating them on the rights/entitlements to raise their voice and demand the same from the government authorities.

 In this direction CINI- Urban Unit has brought 13 such small groups of Shibtala and Chamra Patti area of Ward-65(Kolkata Municipal Corporation) into one platform.  

 Name of the groups are:

Sl. No.

Name of groups




























The groups had individually approached the local administration many a times for SHG loan as entitled to each group by the government, but without any success.

The groups realized that they have to come together and work for their rights. It is this realization that brought the 13 SHGs together and become a force to reckon with against the local administration. The federation met on May 30, 2014, involving 26 participants( 2 representatives from each SHG group) and jointly agreed to approach as a federation to the local administration for the loan.

On June 3, 2014 all the members of SHG federation involving around 60 members including CINI representatives met the local councilor to raise the issue. The representatives from all 13 SHGs of the federation participated in the meeting and discussed at length their concerns with the local councilor. This time around, the councilor taken aback by the SHGs federation has agreed and assured that the groups would get a loan of INR 1.5 lakhs each by June 2014. The federation has accepted the assurance by the local administration and is rejoicing in their collective effort to bring a change in the attitude of duty bearers towards the strength of urban poor.  


For Poor their Home is their Workplace

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by Shivani SIngh, PRIA

I. Introduction

For poor their home is their workplace. This statement stands true as 93% of our labor force is in the informal sector and lacks any kind of social security also most of our Labour Laws are also not applicable in the informal sector. Amidst this for poor utilizing the limited space available to them in the city is the only option to make out a living for themselves and their family. My visit to Chamara Patti slum in Kolkata was learning towards knowing what a slum is. The slum I saw was blooming with lots of economic activities like leather making, packaging of cardboards, footwear making etc. that was taking place inside their homes, in small factories or on the roadside. But apart from observing the economic activities I also observed how ignorant the State is towards the right to social security, right to sanitation and right to life of these urban poor workers.

II. Glimpses of Urban Poor’s Work Place

But beyond the glitz of new street lights and fresh paint lies a world of abject poverty. During my visit to Kolkata I visited a slum named Chamara Patti that is divided into two parts nalla (canal) at one side Hindu families reside and on the other side Muslim family resides. The Hindu families are mainly engaged in leather making and the Muslim families are mainly engaged in footwear making. The population residing on both the sides migrated from nearby states. In Chamarpatti Slum leather making work and footwear making work is prominent, majority of urban poor workers are engaged in this work-children, adult and old age. The houses built in the slum were both Kutch and Pucca houses what was significant to observe was that how poor have utilized and converted their living space into a workplace.

I observed each step of leather making and captured the glimpses of it.

Step 1: The leather-making process begins with the cautious removal of the hide from the flesh of the animal. Once at the tannery, skins are sorted by species and quality. Fresh hides are immediately put into process, beginning with a soak in our large tanning drums to clean and remove dirt and other materials.

Step 2: The hide is chemically removed using a lime (calcium carbonate) bath, after which the flesh is removed from the inside of the skin with a mechanical fleshing machine. Then another lime bath and enzyme solution prepares the hides for tannage by removing unnecessary proteins and inter fiber substances. This second bath is also known as bating.

Step 3: Next tannage takes three to four days. Skins are weighed and placed in a rotating drum with water and the appropriate measure of tanning agent. Continuous agitation ensures even distribution.

Step 4: After the tanning, we can now call the skins leather. First, the leathers are dried. As seen in the slum the leather is dried in sun utilizing the spaces available like their own house, rooftop, roadsides etc.

Step 5: After drying, leathers are hand staked on the stake, naturally.


It was a learning to see how leather is manufactured in slum. Later I explored the workplaces of urban poor in the slum.

In the picture below we can see the space next to the road where all the leather was stacked on a wooden frame made especially for tanning the leather in sun. When I walked further into the slum I saw that leather sheets are hanging on Kutcha roof and similarly from other picture we can see that it is hanging on the terrace. This shows that the limited space that is being provided to the poor they utilize it for their work activity. Also in the next picture we see how they have utilized the roof top for tanning the leather. In front of the house there were few men nailing the leather on a wooden plank and coloring it. As we see in the picture an old man is sitting on the wooden planks. In the last picture a man is keeping the leather sheets in his rickshaw.

t2Then I went to the other side of the slum where the Muslim families reside. While walking inside the slum I saw a woman making footwear, she smiled looking at me, I asked her, “what are you doing, “She replied and said ‘nothing’. I further explored the conversation her by saying that “you are making rubber slippers is this not work?” She smiled and said, “I do this work as a time pass”.  Then I said, “But this is work don’t you earn out of it?” She said, “yes, but it’s very less”.  This incident made me realize that how despite of working and contributing to the city the woman feels that she is doing nothing. The next thing I saw was her house. As seen from the picture there is a wooden bed, water buckets under the bed, hanging cloths, grocery, utensils etc.  Looking at her house we can see how in just one room everything and every person in the household get adjusted.


Apart from observing the economic activities my attention was being drawn towards the lack of educational, health and other amenities in the slum. A picture story on the lack of basic amenities is available as below:


III. Other Problems in The Community

Occupational health and safety crisis among tannery workers, both men and women, including skin diseases and respiratory illnesses caused by exposure to tanning chemicals, and limb amputations caused by accidents in dangerous tannery machinery. In the Tanneries I saw no labour and no environmental law is applicable. Moreover other health problems like fevers, skin diseases, respiratory problems, and diarrhea, caused by the extreme tannery pollution of air, water, and soil.

The question is that despite of Slums being a center of economic activity and social existence the government denies them a crucial right that is right to life?