Monthly Archives: April 2012

Are ‘Slums’ Urban?

By Nidhi Singh nee Batra, Sn. Prog Officer-PRIA

Whenever I have thought of a city – I thought of it as one large urban theatre, where every actor has a role and a place, a stage which has the latent characteristics of being democratic. But in my recent visit to the slums of Raipur where PRIA is working towards strengthening voices of civil society on Urban Poverty– that image of a city has become extremely questionable.

Entering a ‘territory’ is difficult. Slums are one such ‘territory’. The moment one enters, there are all eyes that look up at you, stare at you with multiple questions and you know that you have impeached a boundary or a limit.

In ethology the term territory refers to any sociographical area that an animal of a particular species consistently defends against conspecifics (and, occasionally, animals of other species). Animals that defend territories in this way are referred to as territorial.

I have come with an architectural and urban design background where we have romanticized a city, seen it with pink glasses that even in a poverty stricken city, one finds immense beauty – and a joy of living. In all that romance, one tends to see urban- and urbanization as that in some essence blurs various boundaries. Limits of caste/religion/culture all get blurred to together form ‘an urban way of living’.

Lewis Mumford’s definition of the city says:

“The essential physical means of a city’s existence are the fixed site, the durable shelter, the permanent facilities for assembly, interchange, and storage; the essential social means are the social division of labor, which serves not merely the economic life but the cultural process. The city in its complete sense, then, is a geographic plexus, an economic organization, an institutional process, a theater of social action, and an aesthetic symbol of collective unity. The city fosters art and is art; the city creates the theater and is the theater. It is in the city, the city as theater, that man’s (sic) more purposive activities are focused, and work out, through conflicting and co-operating personalities, events, groups into more significant culminations.”

(Mumford 1937: 185)

The city with its architectural corpus is the theater in which urban life, urban drama unfolds. This urban drama continuously re-makes that architectural complexity, while creating a collectively shared understanding of the past, shared memories that become attached to particular architectural spaces. The city, with its monumentality and architectural poetics “intensifies and underlines the gestures of the actors and the action of the play” (Mumford)

But in a city of such immense soul, there are ‘territories’. What I want to question is whether this act of forming ‘territories’ really urban?! And I am here not saying that it is just the poor who have marked territories, it is also the rich- it just depends where you are an outsider and where are you a resident.

What I am internally questioning is how do we define/ rather ‘imagine’ and perceive ‘urban’? Cities have a very explicit imagery- and these images flash in your mind when you think of ‘urban’. Are enclosed territories- formed because of location, background, economic status, work profile – a feature that ‘I’ relate to as urban?

One thing is for sure, these enclaves of the urban poor, have a social order of their own – their urbanity might differ from your urbanity. And it is this very reason – distinguished urbanity- that makes ‘slums’ a contested space.

Humans probably just keep seeking order, uniformity and want the other to follow the more ‘accepted’ norm. And this is in so much contrast to our initial understanding of ‘City as a theatre’ were social drama unfolds…The fact that there are contesting urbanities – all having a role in one collective locale – is what exactly makes all these actors ‘urbane’. Even though lifestyles/ life practices may differ – it is ‘how’ to understand the ‘differences’ that is important. Most SRA/ Rehabilitation schemes fail – because they ‘fail’ to understand these ‘differences’. I was an intruder in the slums of Raipur- at least let’s not make the dwellers be intruders in their own city.




Ghar Bharo?!-Raipur

TerraUrban is in Raipur- and BSUP is the ‘hot’ topic right now in the Corporation. BSUP houses are ready, now lets find the poor to occupy them – Wonder if that’s the slogan.

150 houses from Durganagar, next to IAC colony were shifted to the BSUP houses prepared at Amledhi, but when they reached their newly ‘found’ homes, they confronted another challenge – there are no services! Houses at Amledhi lack basic services and the slum dwellers are agitated for no proper electricity or water supply connection being given to them.

Read the news clipping below


Pro-poor Governing Climate?!-Raipur

Recently on TerraUrban you read the story of ‘Telibandha’ Slum Rehabilitation in Raipur where the evicted still await their ‘promised homes’ under Basic Services for Urban Poor (BSUP-JNNURM).

Interestingly here is another news piece of 19 April in Deshbandu-Raipur wherein the Municipal Corporation promised 298 urban poor households under BSUP-JNNURM scheme. 5000 houses are already built under JNNURM-BSUP in Amledhi and Kachna in the city and now based on lottery system residents of Ravi Nagar, SCE Colony, Durga Nagar shall be the chosen one to get that now have been promised houses.

Read the following clipping from Deshbandu


Another incident in the governing climate of Raipur, is that on the recommendation of Professor Isabella Milbert, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva has selected Raipur mayor Dr. Kiran Mayee Nayak to participate in a public conference, a two-day private forum for Mayors focused on governance practices.

Hope the city further builds on its pro-poor climate!

The power of knowing- Google earth empowers the slum dwellers!

Shared by Krishan Tyagi, State Coordinator PRIA Rajasthan

Empowering the poor also means to increase their knowledge and information about their own place of stay. Google earth is aptly doing that role. As seen in the case of Sangli in Pune, slum dwellers could see how their slums are spread and how far they are located from several amenities such as schools, hospitals, market and station with help of google earth. Thus they also agreed for relocation that has been planned within 2 to 2.5 kms from their current location under IHSDP.

Knowledge is definitely, power!

To read more see the clipping below from Dainik Bhaskar or click

Can a slum exist in a World Class City?

Shared by Nidhi Singh nee Batra-PRIA

To protect the rights of the slum dwellers is one of the aims of ‘Rajiv Awas Yojana’, to be a ‘World Class City’ is one of the visions of Delhi. Do the two coincide? Can slums really exist in any ‘world class city’?! Apparently not!

On April 20th 2012, officials from DDA, along with a huge deployment of policeman, began the process of demolition in Gayatri Colony, near Baljeet Nagar (Anand Parbat industrial area). Earlier last year, portions of this slum cluster were demolished by the DDA. It is to be noted that no prior notification was released by the DDA about this demolition drive.

The agitated slum dwellers decided to protest outside the Chief Minister’s Office in Janpath, and bring to her immediate attention the plight of the thousands of impoverished workers and their families residing in the slum. The agitation was carried out under the banner of the Ghar Bachao Morcha, a body formed by the slum dwellers last year itself.

In a powerful memorandum submitted to Shrimati Sheila Dixit, the slum dwellers argued how the DDA was encroaching upon their right to shelter which is enshrined in the fundamental right to life [Article 21, Constitution of India].

The agitating slum dwellers also highlighted how in a city where the law pertaining to rent regulation and minimum wages are violated continuously, migrant workers have no option but to reside in the cities in the slums. With their meager incomes and faced with the problem of soaring rents in authorized colonies, they are forced to live in slum settlements like Gayatri Colony. Activists from the Ghar Bachao Morchs also highlighted that the past record of DDA’s slum-clearance clearly shows that lands from which slum dwellers are evicted are mostly used for construction of malls or high-rise residential complexes which only the rich can afford. This, they argued was most unfortunate, considering that the DDA is supposed to cater to the needs of all strata of society.

Chief Minister agreed to a second meeting on Monday, 23rd April at her residence along with DDA officials. Future of Gayatri Colony gets decided today!

Source/ read more:

Mission Impossible /Possible – The Urban Poor

By Nidhi Singh nee Batra, Sn. Programme Officer,PRIA

Here is a look at two ‘new’ central schemes planned for the Urban Poor. Wonder if they take any lessons from JNNURM and RAY?!

 1.       National Urban Livelihood Mission:

a. Mimics a similar programme run by the ministry of rural development- the national rural livelihood mission

b. Concept paper put in by Ministry of Housing and Poverty Alleviation in January 2012

c. The mission has three broad aims: To train the urban poor so that they can find employment, to mobilize them into self-help groups for financial security and finally promote entrepreneurship among those of them who want to venture out.

d. It will replace the decade old Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana that has an outlay of R813 crore in 2011-12 (a 37.5% year on year). The new programme, couched in such grand terms, could have a budget close to R1,500 crore in the next fiscal.

e. To develop these and other initiatives, the ministry of housing and poverty alleviation has proposed setting up a national mission management unit. Since urban issues are primarily of municipal level, the national units will be replicated at the state and then at the district level. For million plus towns, currently 53 as per the 2011 Census data, there will be separate city-level units. At each stage a multi-disciplinary team of experts in the area of poverty alleviation, skills and livelihoods, slum development/ redevelopment, community mobilization, institution development, social development, credit, marketing, research and training, MIS etc will staff the units.

 2.       National Programme for providing permanent shelters to the homeless in towns and cities:

a. Prodded by the council, the housing and urban poverty alleviation (HUPA) ministry is planning to launch the programme this fiscal (2012-13).

b. The plan is to build one shelter in every city with a population of one lakh. They would be like transit homes, where the homeless can come at any time to avail of the facility.

c. In all, the government proposes to build 16,000 well-equipped shelters for the homeless in the next five years

d. The ministry has already been allocated R50 crore in the 2012-13 budget for preparatory work

e. A concept paper prepared by the ministry stated that while the Centre would share 75% of the cost for setting up a shelter home, the rest would be borne by the state governments and municipalities concerned.

f. The day-to-day management of the homes would be the responsibility of the state or municipalities. “The latter can rope in community-based organisations/NGOs to run the homes.

g. Earlier, the NAC had urged the Centre to amend guidelines of the Rajiv Awas Yojana — its flagship slum rehabilitation programme — to bring the “ultra poor” under its ambit. But when the ministry refused, the NAC recommended that a separate scheme be framed to cover the urban homeless.

The question amongst many, is do our municipalities have the capacity/ staff/ financial resources to run multiple missions (not to forget that JNNURM has recently got two year extension and most cities are wary about implementing RAY)?! 

Kya Hua Tera Wada….

By Deepika Pandey, Asst. Programme Officer, PRIA

Telibandha slum area in Raipur (C.G) was selected under second phase of BSUP sub-mission of JNNURM for in-situ development. On 18th April 2011 the dwellers were shifted to Boriakala from Telibandha with a promise by their Didi the Mayor of Raipur Smt.Kiran Mayi Nayak that within 1 year all of them will be shifted back to Telibandha  in the BSUP apartments  which will be constructed in “Monolethic cement concrete” (g+3) manner by the RMC.  The slum dwellers became ready for displacement from Telibandha to Boriakala without any resistance, into the accommodation allotted to them purchased by RMC. The allotment was done through lottery system. Municipality laid this transition as an achievement and won many appreciations from the Government. Now one year has passed but Municipality has still not established even the substructure for the dwellers for bringing them back.

Patrika newspaper in Raipur has traced this story of Telibandha. It can be read at or see the clipping below.

Is it just one of the many examples of our ‘unaccountable’ governance institutions towards the urban poor?