Monthly Archives: June 2012

Uprooting lives..

By Tripti Sharma, PRIA

Transport Nagar is being erased away in Jaipur, for paving a way to a ‘Ghat ki Gunni tunnel’. The slum is being shifted to Agra road.

Encountering these demolitions, Tripti from PRIA has captured and questioned the ‘development scenario’ in the following verse and a picture blog:

Slum Rehabilitation in Jaipur
Are we looking humans, as objects or lives…??
Are we looking houses as commodity or “homes”…??
What are we envisioning……Cities or Contested Spaces..or Voids without lives….
Its time to Rethink ….about are visions and aims….
Why every thing else is prioritized
and not a HUMAN….??

Waste of a Childhood – poverty stricken child rag pickers

Shared by Vinika Koul, PRIA

June 12, marked the 10th anniversary of the World Day against Child Labour, an effort to focus attention on the global extent of child labour and the actions and efforts needed to eliminate it.

Recent estimates by the International Labour Organization (ILO) state that about 215 million children worldwide are involved in child labour, with more than half this number involved in its worst forms.
India has an estimated 17 million child workers – the highest incidence in the world. According to a report by UNICEF, about 12 percent of children in India aged 5-14 are engaged in child labour activities, including Rag Picking

Many children begin working as rag pickers at the young age of five or six years. In a study that PRIA recently undertook under Democratizing Urban Governance: Promoting Participation and Social Accountability, it was revealed that in Patna and Raipur about 26-20% of total rag pickers in the city are children between the age of 5-14 years, while 40% of the total dump site waste pickers were children, which is a huge percentage. These are children who do not have access to education and are subjected to intense health threats.

In 2001, waste-picking was included among the hazardous occupations banned under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. But apart from this very brief mention, Rag picking is ignored in legislation regarding child labour. Contrary to most child labourers, ragpickers are self-employed or working with their parents and therefore not answerable to any employer.

Efforts towards improving poverty stricken condition of these children rag picker is limited and even if taken are not yet sustainable. One such un-sustained project was night shelter project” started by the Chennai Corporation in 2009 near the Kodungaiyur dump yard, where many child ragpickers had been rehabilitated.
In fact, many of them have taken up the mission to find underage workers in their neighbourhood and bring them back to school.

One among the rehabilitated children, S. Anand (12) was invited by the Appalachian University in the US to share his experiences last month. “My brother Surya and I were born and brought up in the dump yard locality.
It was our world. The huge mounds of waste looked like a treasure trove for poor children like us. When the night shelter was started, we were asked to stay there. We were given free bridge courses to pick up our studies.
Initially, many of us went back to the dump yard. But we were encouraged to study, though our scores were low,” said Anand.

Along with Anand, more than 20 children from Kodungaiyur, and from the platforms of Egmore and Central station were rehabilitated in the shelter. They were enrolled in bridge schools and later to regular schools.
The amount of love given to the children by Ms R. Isabel, executive secretary of Madras Christian Council of Social Service (MCCSS), authorised by the Union government, and her team members, boosted the children to perform well in their studies and extracurricular activities.

The night shelter project ended in early 2012 for unknown reasons and unfortunately the children, now residing at the MCCSS premises, have gone back to working.

Terraurban expresses the utmost need for civil society at large to work towards improving the conditions of these child rag pickers and strengthen our voices on various dimensions of urban poverty affecting our cities.

Source: PRIA’s Study/

Slums spread over 12% of Hyderabad

Twelve per cent of Hyderabad is occupied up by 1,476 slums in which 26 per cent of the city’s population lives, GHMC commissioner M.T. Krishna Babu informed World Bank representatives on Monday. The commissioner gave the figures during a presentation about the Corporation’s development plans of the city’s slums under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and the Rajiv Awas Yojana projects. He added that the civic body had prepared an abstract plan for a slum-free city within a span of five years with an estimated cost of Rs 12,054 crore with 233,34,985 proposals.

Of the slums in the city, 297 are non-notified. The commissioner added that there are 985 slums in the core area of the city, which housed 66 per cent of the total slum populat-ion and 491 were in perip-heral areas where the rest lived. The GHMC has a total population of 68,09,970, of whom 17,36,152 live in slums, which account for 80.45 sq km of the total 625 sq km of the city, the commissioner informed.

The commissioner also explained that there were three types of structures in the slums — kuccha, semi-pucca and pucca houses. There were 40,876 kuccha buildings, 1,77,842 semi-pucca buildings and 1,87,329 pucca structures in the city’s slums. The commissioner added that GHMC was planning to relocate 16 slums from Tank Bund and other hazardous locations in order to protect the lakes from further encroachments. It would do this by constructing bunds and developing greenery around them.

Following the presentation by the commissioner, the World Bank team visited the residential colonies constructed under JNNURM at Phoolbagh (Basheerbagh), Unnikota (Musheerabad) and Chand-ranagar (Basheerbagh) and interacted with the beneficiaries.


State and City Level Consultations on Urban Poverty- Kerala by SAHAYI, PRIA and SPARC – May 2012

By Sri. G. Jose, Project Manager, Sahayi

With the intention of strengthening civil society voices on urban poverty in Kerala, Sahayi in collaboration with PRIA, New Delhi and SPARC, Mumbai has initiated a promotional and facilitative role in Kerala. . As first step of its intervention, Sahayi organised a city level consultation on urban poverty in Kollam Corporation on May 26, 2012 and 76 participants participated in the programme and a state level consultation at Thiruvanthapuram on the 28th of May with 30 participants.

Kollam saw participation of The Municipal Corporation Councilors, civil society organisation representatives, leaders of Community Development Societies and other community based organisations, residents associations , officials, representatives of different agencies which undertake poverty reduction programmes like RAY, KSUDP, Kudumbasree and media personnel. At Thiruvanthapuram participants comprised leading civil society organisations like Malankara Social Service Society, Trivandrum Social Service Society, World vision India, Loyola Extension Service; Community Development Society, corporation councilor, officials from urban poverty alleviation cell, residents association leaders, project officer from Rajeev Awas Yojana etc.

Director of Sahayi, Sri. G. Placid highlighted the current trend of growth of population in urban area and the issues related to high density of population such as increased urban poverty, Increase in the number of slums, unemployment, lack of basic amenities and services and increasing violence and crime. He added that the magnitude of urban unemployment is increasing due to the weakness of the economy, short sighted vision of the planners, non-sustainability of the initiated actions through different projects and programmes. He also stated that in Kollam Municipal Corporation area most of the urban poor are working in unorganized sector such as fishing, cashew manufacturing workers, domestic work; street vending etc. Their low economic status forced them to live in slums and colonies. He further  shared the availability and utilization of plan fund  by the municipalities and corporation during the  11th five year plan period in Kerala, and the low profile of spending in Corporations  during the  year 200-2008-2010-2011 especially in anti-poverty programmes, women component plans etc

Sri. A.A.Assis, Hon’ble Member of Legislative Assembly and State Secretary of Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) at Kollam mentioned that even though Municipal Corporations and state Government have developed policies, prepared programmes and budgets and implemented such programmes for urban poverty reduction those who are responsible for its implementation are implementing such activities without understanding the true spirit. The powers now vest in people but the people are not yet prepared themselves to take up and effectively make use of the powers. So he stressed the need for empowering the community especially the poor and marginalised and ensures the effective conduct of Ward Sabhas/Ward Committees with active participation of the community.

Adv. Lalu, Deputy Mayor, Kollam Municipal Corporation opined that the major challenges they faced with regard to the rehabilitation of slum dwellers/urban poor were shortage of land and rapid increasing land price and the unwillingness of slum dwellers to move into new premises, slums are on railway land and even the indicators developed for BPL identification are inadequate.

During the experience sharing session, the welfare standing committee Chairman of Kollam Corporation, who is in-charge of Kudumbasree activities, stated instead of allotting funds to pre-determined programmes, programmes to be developed on the basis of felt needs identified through participatory methods. Moreover, implementation of the programmes to be monitored and their efficacy to be evaluated by the community. But unfortunately no such intervention is happened so far. He further stated that the LSGs are preparing projects first and then think of beneficiaries and this is the drawback of many poverty reduction schemes.

Shri. Karthikeyan at Thiruvanthapuram, Programme officer, Rajeev Awas Yojana State Cell explained the activities of RAY in improving the living conditions of slum dwellers. Rev. Fr. Sabbas Ignatius, Director, Trivandrum Social Service Society(TSSS) and Rev. Fr. John Vilayil, Director, Malankara Social Service Society presented the work their respective organisations do on urban poverty issues.

The participants raised several key issues in connection with poverty reduction and pointed out certain remedial measures to address the issues. The major issues highlighted by them include; lack of coordination among various agencies working for poverty reduction, lack of sincere attempt on the part of authorities to ensure people’s participation, apathetic attitude of community members towards welfare/development activities, beneficiary oriented approach of urban poor, improper identification of the needs of the area and the beneficiaries, non accessibility of information on the status of urban poverty reduction programmes, limited involvement of community members in the implementation and monitoring of various programmes due to several reasons, lack of awareness among various stakeholders including urban poor regarding poverty reduction programmes and the components in each programmes, lack of unity and coordination among CBOs.


New scheme to uplift semi-urban settlements

While the Planning Commission flatly classifies the country into rural and urban categories, India is witnessing a rapid rise in the number of a relatively new kind of settlement – census towns – which figure in neither the rural nor the urban categories. The population count in 2011 showed that census towns have nearly tripled over the last decade, from 1,362 in 2001 to 3,894 in 2011.

Census towns, by definition, are settlements that possess a population over 5,000 and have lost the characteristics of a village – primarily agriculture as the principal occupation. However, they have not reached the ‘municipality level’ to deserve categorisation as statutory towns.

Census towns have now become a challenge to planners. “Our policies have been either for rural or urban areas. We lack an approach to such trishanku (middle world) areas,” Jairam Ramesh, union minister for rural development, said.

Ramesh’s ministry, which is responsible for developing rural areas, is attempting to reach out to such settlements – providing urban amenities through the Provision of Urban amenities in Rural Areas.

“The Planning Commission has, in principle, agreed to provide Rs. 1,500 crore in the 12th Plan, through which we can develop around 50 such areas,” he said.

Pilot projects are currently being implemented in Thrissur and Malappuram of Kerala, officials said, adding that half-a-dozen projects of the kind would also take off soon. The ministry is now inviting private players for the second batch of 10-15 pilot projects.

West Bengal tops the list of states with census towns, adding 528 such towns in 10 years, followed by Kerala with 362 towns. While the number of such settlements rose from 66 to 267 in Uttar Pradesh, it has gone up from 127 to 279 in Maharashtra. Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu added 135 and 265 census towns respectively.

A failed food system: India’s grain piles up, yet the poor go hungry

Shared by Vinika Kaul, PRIA

Source: New York Times

Ranwan, India: In this north Indian village, workers recently dismantled stacks of burned and mildewed rice while flies swarmed nearby over spoiled wheat. Local residents said the rice crop had been sitting along the side of a highway for several years and was now being sent to a distillery to be turned into liquor.

Just 180 miles to the south, in a slum on the outskirts of New Delhi, Leela Devi struggled to feed her family of four on meagre portions of flatbread and potatoes, which she said were all she could afford on her disability pension and the irregular wages of her day-labourer husband. Her family is among the estimated 250 million Indians who do not get enough to eat.

Such is the paradox of plenty in India’s food system. Spurred by agricultural innovation and generous farm subsidies, India now grows so much food that it has a bigger grain stockpile than any country except China, and it exports some of it to countries like Saudi Arabia and Australia. Yet one-fifth of its people are malnourished – double the rate of other developing countries like Vietnam and China – because of pervasive corruption, mismanagement and waste in the programs that are supposed to distribute food to the poor.

· “The reason we are facing this problem is our refusal to distribute the grain that we buy from farmers to the people who need it,” said Biraj Patniak, a lawyer who advises India’s Supreme Court on food issues. “The only place that this grain deserves to be is in the stomachs of the people who are hungry.”

· After years of neglect, the nation’s failed food policies have now become a subject of intense debate in New Delhi, with lawmakers, advocates for the poor, economists and the news media increasingly calling for an overhaul. The populist national government is considering legislation that would pour billions of additional dollars into the system and double the number of people served to two-thirds of the population. The proposed law would also allow the poor to buy more rice and wheat at lower prices.

Proponents say the new law, if written and executed well, could help ensure that nobody goes hungry in India, the world’s second-most populous country behind China. But critics say that without fundamental system reforms, the extra money will only deepen the nation’s budget deficit and further enrich the officials who routinely steal food from various levels of the distribution chain.

India’s food policy has two central goals: to provide farmers with higher and more consistent prices for their crops than they would get from the open market, and to sell food grains to the poor at lower prices than they would pay at private stores.

The federal government buys grain and stores it. Each state can take a certain amount of grain from these stocks based on how many of its residents are poor. The states deliver the grain to subsidized shops and decide which families get the ration cards that allow them to buy cheap wheat and rice there.

The sprawling system costs the government 750 billion rupees ($13.6 billion) a year, almost 1 per cent of India’s gross domestic product. Yet 21 per cent of the country’s 1.2 billion people remain undernourished, a proportion that has changed little in the last two decades despite an almost 50 per cent increase in food production, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute, a research group in Washington.

The new food security law could more than double the government’s outlays to 2 trillion rupees a year, according to some estimates.

Much of the extra money would go to buy more grain, even though the government already has a tremendous stockpile of wheat and rice – 71 million tons as of early May, up 20 per cent from a year earlier.

“India is paying the price of an unexpected success – our production of rice and wheat has surged and procurement has been better than ever,” said Kaushik Basu, the chief economic adviser to India’s Finance Ministry and a professor at Cornell University. “This success is showing up some of the gaps in our policy.”

The biggest gap is the inefficient, corrupt system used to get the food to those who need it. Just 41.4 per cent of the grain picked up by the states from federal warehouses reaches Indian homes, according to a recent World Bank study.

Critics say officials all along the chain, from warehouse managers to shopkeepers, steal food and sell it to traders, pocketing tidy, illicit profits.

Poor Indians who have ration cards often complain about both the quality and quantity of grain available at government stores, called fair price shops.

Other families do not even have ration cards because of the procedures – and often, bribes – required to get them. Some are denied because they cannot document their residence or income. And critics say more people would qualify if the income cutoff were raised; in New Delhi, it is 2,000 rupees ($36) a month, regardless of family size, a sum that many poor families spend on rent alone.

Ms. Devi, who lives in the Jagdamba Camp slum in south Delhi, said she was denied a ration card four years ago. She said her family’s steadiest income is a disability pension of 1,000 rupees a month she gets because of burns suffered in an accident a few years ago. While her husband sometimes earns up to 3,000 rupees a month as a labourer, she says she should be entitled to subsidized grain since they must often get by on 2,000 rupees or less.

“Sometimes, we just have to sit and wait,” she said. “My mother-in-law gets subsidized food and she gives me some when she can.”

Indian officials say they are addressing the system’s problems. Some states, like Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh, have made big improvements by using technology to track food and have made it easier for almost all households to get ration cards. Other states, like Bihar, have experimented with food stamps.

Reformers argue that India should move toward giving the poor cash or food stamps as the United States, Mexico and other countries have done. That would reduce corruption and mismanagement because the government would buy and store only enough grain to insure against bad harvests. And the poor would get more choices, said Ashok Gulati, chairman of the government’s Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices.

“Why only wheat and rice? If he wants to have eggs, or fruits, or some vegetables, he should be given that option,” Mr. Gulati said. “You need to augment his income. Then, the distribution, you leave it to the private sector.”

But most officials say they are worried that if India switched to food stamps, men would trade them for liquor or tobacco, depriving their families of enough to eat.

“It has to improve, I have no doubt about it,” said K. V. Thomas, India’s minister for food, consumer affairs and public distribution. “But this is the only system that can work in our country.”

Officials say Parliament is likely to vote on a new food policy at the end of the year. In the meantime, the government is working on temporary solutions to its grain storage problems, putting up new silos and exporting more rice.

Still, much of it is likely to keep sitting on the side of the road here in Punjab.

“It’s painful to watch,” said Gurdeep Singh, a farmer from near Ranwan who recently sold his wheat harvest to the government. “The government is big and powerful. It should be able to put up a shed to store this crop.”

Rajasthan is listening – House urban poor and give them the land title – says State Principal Urban Development Secretary

Shared by Prakash Pathak, PRIA and Rajasthan-PRIA
Source: The Hindu on 8 June 2012

On June 2, PRIA and SPARC held a State Level Consultation at Jaipur for Strengthening Civil Society Voices on Urban Poverty in India. Various aspects about Rajiv Awas Yojana, facilities to the slum dwellers, number of slums, participation of the slum dwellers themselves in the development process and aspects of tenure and livelihood were discussed.
Mr. Sandhu, the State Principal Urban Development Secretary was positive and declared that a the government is undertaking a ‘Pilot Project at Sanjay Nagar in Jaipur’. He was of the opinion that the State Government should not just provide housing but also give tenure rights to the slum dwellers and should prepare an Act for the same.
Hope Civil Society keeps a watch on these plans by the government and ensures active participation of the slum dwellers and the civil society at large!!

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