Monthly Archives: September 2012

Empowering the urban poor – PRIA’s efforts in Raipur

PRIA is taking necessary steps towards empowerment of the urban poor and raise awareness among various stakeholders on various aspects of Urban Poverty in the state of Chhattisgarh. Recently, PRIA had undertaken a ‘Slum Survey’ that estimated number of slums in Raipur, Bilaspur, Bhilai and Korba, level of services in these slums, tenability analysis and an understanding of community engagement and participation based on active community groups in the slums.

The survey helped to highlight the following aspects:

  • According to the 2011 census, population of Raipur was 10, 10,087 with 50% of its population living in slums.
  • Population in Raipur has grown 61% from 1991 to 2001 with one main reason as rural to urban migration
  • Raipur Municipal Corporation (RMC) recorded 282 slums in Raipur, while the survey which was conducted by the community and volunteers through PRIA registered only 232 of these slums, and instead recorded 66 slums which have not been registered in the RMC list
  • Survey also highlighted that 33.4% of slums had active community groups established

With the above snapshot, it is evident that Raipur is suffering from serious housing shortage. Housing is being provided now under JNNURM and envisioned under RAY. However, as Terraurban has traced in many of the earlier entries – the process of providing housing under JNNURM in the city has been inappropriate – no community participation was considered, slums were evicted overnight and the conditions of the newly constructed houses is inadequate.

Taking lessons from JNNURM and the potential of community participation (with already about 34% of slums having active community groups)- the new scheme of Rajiv Awas Yojana should be centred around community led slum development program.

Recently, Hitvada paper also traced the efforts towards strengthening civil society voices on urban poverty by PRIA in Raipur. Find the article below: 


Shanty rentals hit roof, but conditions remain sub-human!

Jayashree Nandi TNN (Times of India, 23 September 2012)

New Delhi: Square foot for square foot, your maid probably pays more than you to live in Delhi. A rent of Rs 2,500 a month might seem meagre, but when you consider the typical shanty room measures only 8x10sqft or less, the unit rate comes to more than Rs 30 per square foot. That’s like paying Rs 30,000 a month for a two-bedroom 1,000sqft apartment. Unlike apartments, though, shanties lack toilets and bathrooms, wall sockets and running water. They are neither weather-proof nor earthquake-safe. 
    A recent study by the School of Planning and Architecture’s (SPA) National Resource Centre to assess the capital’s rental housing options for low-income groups has made shocking findings. It shows that even after spending half their monthly earnings, poor families cannot rent anything better than a j h u g g i. While SPA found the rents go up to Rs 1,200, TOI’s visits to some slums showed the rents touched Rs 2,500 in places. 
    Rents vary with a slum’s proximity to the city centre. For instance, a shack in Sarojini Nagar or Jal Vihar fetches a higher price than one in Barapullah. But the land mafia makes a killing regardless of the area. 
    In the ‘Madrasi Camp’ shanties in Nizamuddin, rents hover around Rs 1,000. But go south to an area like Jal Vihar, and every j h u g g i is rented out for Rs 2,000 or more. “For new migrants to Delhi, there is no option but to rent j h u g g i s. You can get a room for nothing less than Rs 5,000, which most of us cannot afford. People have started renting out j h u g g i s to augment their income,” says Ganesh Prabhu, a construction labourer from Tamil Nadu. He has been staying in the Nizamuddin squatters’ colony for 25 years. 
    Sanjiv and his wife Bela came to Delhi from Benaras for better employment opportunities. Sanjiv did get a job as a courier delivery boy with a salary of Rs 4,000. “But we did not anticipate the steep rents. We pay Rs 2,000 a month as rent for our j h u g g i. I am thinking of working as household help,” says Bela, who lives in a 7×10 feet j h u g g inear Jal Vihar. 
    Slums near Jal Vihar, behind Lajpat Nagar market, have higher rents. “Here rents for j h u g g i s hover around Rs 2,000. Most of the families living in rented j h u g- g i s earn about Rs 4,000. We are a family of five. The room is too cramped, but we try to keep it clean. In many parts of the city the conditions are even worse,” says Rajesh, a scavenger. 
    The rents have increased drastically over the last few years. “Earlier, very few migrants would rent a j h u g g i. But due to lack of space, people now have no option but to stay on rent. A few years ago, rents were not higher than a few hundred rupees. They have tripled, or increased four times in some cases. People also have to pay in advance. I know of people who have paid Rs 10,000 in advance for a j h u gg i,” says Sunil Kumar Jaiswal of Mumbai-based Society for the Promotion of Area Resources Centres (SPARC), who works with slum dwellers in Delhi. 
    Professor of Housing at SPA, Neelima Risbud, says this trend is disturbing, especially when the rents are eating into the occupants’ meagre income. “J h u g g i s are rented out in most of Delhi’s slums. What do these j h u g g i s offer for a rent of Rs 1,200? Nothing. We have sent our report to the ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation and recommended that rental housing facilities be provided to low-income groups,” Risbud adds. 
    Mumbai’s slums are infamous for rents as high as Rs 10,000 per j h u g g i, but Delhi may also follow suit, and add to the burden of the poor.


PRICE OF POVERTY: The rent for this room in the Madrasi Camp slum is Rs 1,200


Gender sensitive poverty alleviation scheme – a faraway reality in Bhopal, M.P

Urban poverty is multidimensional and the inherent vulnerability of the poor is manifested by their lack of access to economic and livelihood resources, land and housing, physical infrastructure and services, health and education facilities, social security networks and empowerment. At present there are various State and Central level programs that are working towards urban renewal, city upgradation, housing for the poor and city beautification. Irony of these programs, which by aim are directed towards growth and development of all-, is that they are pushing the urban poor further deeper in the clutches of the above vulnerabilities.

Jeetesh Rai from PRIA shared his experience with TerraUrban, from a displaced slum in Bhopal- Sabari nagar basti, Kotara Sultanabad, Nehru Nagar, that has surfaced and questioned many of these forces, inherent power game, lack of accountability and inefficient governance that has resulted the women of this slum to be continuously subjected to sexual abuse.

Sabari Nagar Basti is home now to the resettled slum dwellers from J.K. road, who had been displaced two years back under the flagship scheme of JNNURM and city beautification.

The women of this basti have been continuously subjected to sexual abuse, fear and intimidation from the local goons and with no help from the concerned authority are living a traumatic life without any dignity. This might just be one of the cases to highlight why Madhya Pradesh has been the state that tops the atrocities and abuse on women.

The slum dwellers shared with Jeetesh, how by force they had been evicted from their J.K. road residence by police in 2009. In the afternoon of 14th March 2009 when the slum dwellers of JK Road, Bhopal had gone to their work place (most of them worked at BHEL(Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited)/BHEL area, Bhopal), Bhopal Municipality Corporation (BMC) warned women, children and girls, who stayed at home, to leave the slum at the same time without any delay, otherwise, BMC threat them to demolish their slums. By midnight the slum was bulldozed over by force and on request by the slum dwellers were given the present area of Sabri nagar basti which was a vacant land as a temporary location with a false promise that after 3 months these dwellers shall be houses in the new JNNURM housing. Three years hence, these slum dwellers have no home to call of their own.

The present location where the slum dwellers are residing in the most in human conditions is adjacent to lake, their homes are subjected to flooding during rainy season with no social and physical infrastructure or any employment opportunities offered to these slum dwellers.

The situation is further worsened, by the threat and fear of the ‘local goons’ that harass the women of this slum and the police authorities being silent on the issue. The women of the basti quoted how the local goons have connection with the local councillor and the MLA. They cited example of how a vagabond named Babu had beaten up a young girl in the slum since she refused to favour him. The goons are quick to use physical force against any men who raise concern and voice to protect the women of the slum. Unfortunately, when the slum dwellers approached the local police- Kamla Nagar Police station, the concerned officer instead of arresting the goon, arrested the vulnerable slum dweller and tortured him for three days. The goons have publically declared that they shall not shy away from ‘raping’ the women of the slums. These displaced slum dwellers who worked in BHEL factories which is now 25km away from their present address are now even in loss of any work opportunity, since the fear of leaving their women folk alone is preventing them to travel to such long distances.

The strategy that the women of this slum has adopted to protect their daughters- is to marry them off at very young age! Safety of their daughters comes before their education, growth and development.

Urban poverty and its alleviation appear to be in a vicious circle. In the disguise of rights to the slum dwellers, this case of Sabari Nagar has highlighted how the slum dwellers have been entrapped in unemployment, lack of housing and security, sexual abuse and fear. This is clearly a result of schemes that are unaccountable and non- participatory. Rights and voices of women especially have not been considered in many of these urban poverty schemes.

M.P. has seen JNNURM and is now taking leaps towards Rajiv Awas Yojana, but has it incorporated ‘participatory planning and accountability’ as a precursor for any action or development? Do authorities realise the impact of these haphazard unplanned and ill executed schemes on the lives of the slum dwellers, especially the women? Are urban poverty alleviation schemes- gender sensitive? Women use and experience urban space differently from men and are subjected to various other pressures, but our schemes have always been oblivious to this reality. Women need to be included in the planning and development of these schemes from day one. There is the urgent need to critically analyze the ‘State-citizen interaction link’ and how urban poor interact with state and state authorities, and how accountable is the state towards the rights of the urban poor.

Strengthening civil society voice on urban poverty in Kerala – Initiative by SAHAYI, SPARC and PRIA

SAHAYI with SPARC and PRIA has been taking necessary steps for poverty alleviation through collectivising civil society and people at large, developing the much needed database and empowering the people with the necessary knowledge about issues around urban poverty issues and its governance in Kerala. A consultation for the same was conducted in May 2012 and a follow up meeting with the participants/ CSOs in August 2012.

The consultation and the information base have highlighted the environment of urban poverty in Kerala with main issues such as:

  • More than fifteen lakh families of the state, alias ‘gods own country’ are still in the clutches of poverty
  • While rural poverty is getting concentrated in the agricultural Labour and artisan households’ urban poverty is in the casual labour households
  • Rapid growth of urban population, expansion of existing towns and cities and low investment in urban development have created deficiencies in basic amenities especially in the urban areas. The shortages are serious for the urban poor due to inequality in the access to these amenities.
  • Land tenure, environmental threat, development on untenable and environmentally sensitive sites of slums, lack of facilities, lack of proper data on urban poverty, absence of proper social support system, non-convergence of activities of various government departments and the lack of community empowerment are the issues that the urban poor of Kerala face.
  • Also it is a clear fact the funds released for urban poverty alleviation programes have only seen about 60% expenditure in Municipalities while only 45% in Municipal Corporations in Kerala


The consultations saw participation of CSOs, CBOs, community members and municipal councillors. SAHAYI took the opportunity of this consultation and disseminated knowledge and information about all urban poverty schemes- both central and state applicable to Kerala. The consultation stressed on the role of civil society for an accountable and participatory delivery of these schemes. During the consultation various issues in respect to community participation and awareness of the scheme of urban poverty surfaced, such as:

  • The CSO representatives and the councillors pointed out that non accessibility of the details of the schemes in Malayalam (local language), non-availability of a platform to discuss and deliberate upon the urban poverty and related issues, lack of resources including human resources, non-cooperation of the urban local bodies and urban poor, etc. were the factors which hindered their active involvement in urban poverty reduction intervention.
  • Municipal councillors that participated in the programme expressed their non-clarity regarding various provisions in the RAY scheme for community participation and CSO participation. They also stated that Corporations have given more emphasis in achieving physical targets rather than qualitative aspects.
  • CSOs also expressed the need for a direction and forum to collectivise on urban poverty issues in the State.

SAHAYI has prepared 7 learning materials in Malayalam on urban poverty/ urban development schemes, which are being implemented by Municipalities/ Municipal Corporations in Kerala and distributed the learning materials among the participants. These learning materials not only informed them about the schemes but also enthused their participation in discussions and deliberations. All participants thereafter took the opportunity to discuss these issues in focus group discussions and proposed the following steps towards strengthening the role of civil society to address urban poverty issues:

  • Formation of an informal urban development forum of civil society organisations to initiate continuous actions.
  • Mapping/identification of like-minded groups/individual by each CSO in their locality and discuss the issues with them.
  • Informal meeting with Community and organising of awareness generation orientation programme for them regarding poverty reduction schemes and other development programmes of Municipality and Municipal Corporations.
  • Media dialogue and sensitise them to cover urban poverty and related issues.
  • Capacity building of civil society organisations to strengthen the civil society voices on urban poverty and related issues.
  • Dissemination of learning materials on urban schemes/programmes and sharing of experience.
  • Discussions/interactions with elected representatives, officials and other actors at Municipality/Corporations.
  • Occasional meeting of civil society organisations and review the progress of the activities.
  • In Trivandrum district Joint meetings of CSOs, CBOs and other likeminded people at Trivandrum Corporation, Neyyatinkara, Attingal, Nedumangad will be organised.

These consultations have been one catalyst step in the realm of urban poverty and role of civil society to address the same, and shall be an impetus for a ripple effect to strengthen the role of civil society.

The participation of CSOs in the Consultative meetings has created an interest and commitment among different CSOs, working collaborates in the area of urban poverty and related aspects. Initiation of an informal urban development forum of CSOs has taken place and it will create opportunity for continuous dialogue and knowledge sharing through consultations with other stakeholders. Several CSO leaders that participated in the meeting have taken up urban poverty and related issues as one of their major agenda of operation in the coming period. SAHAYI is keeping in touch with each CSOs participated in the programme and are providing follow up support to plan and organise activities at their local level. Occasional meeting of the civil society organisation are planned to review the progress of the planned activities

Sympathising with poverty- promoting passive religion?!

There was a debatable, yet interesting personal note by Shombit Sengupta in Indian Express yesterday where he called for ending the fake sympathy with poverty- instead urged to instill a desperate urge in poor people to oust poverty with their own initiative.

Some of the excerpts of the article are highlighted below:

Every individual, poor or rich, has freedom to enjoy the sun, moon, nature and sex. Being born poor doesn’t mean you’ve to submit to poverty as an inherited religion. Getting people’s sympathy is drowning in a tsunami of self-pity that sucks you inside out….

Quoting an incident of sexual abuse in brickfields, he writes….A friend later told me that women workers in many such brickfields are virtually bonded labourers; men who come to dump mud or take delivery of bricks often have abusive sex with them. Unless the poor avoid passive, submissive poverty, and claim their own rights by pressing for modernising the brick-making process that respects their dignity, no brickfield owner will change this situation…

On the other hand he cites an example of an entrepreneur ‘samosa wala’, who says….“Sir, there are many people like you who dress well, speak fluent English and work in air-conditioned rooms. But I don’t think you earn as much as we do wearing dirty clothes and selling samosas.” 

Summarizing, Sengupta argues, Sympathising with poverty is promoting a passive religion, it earns people no money. My message won’t reach the poor or non-English readers. Politicians professing to be their torchbearers don’t teach or inspire them to exit poverty without charity and begging, they merely tap them for votes. The main point is how to instil a desperate urge in poor people to oust poverty with their own initiative.”

Maybe there is some direction here.. May be a blind subsidy in food, cheap rice and benefits are not enough of a solution.. Do centrally sponsored schemes have the capacity to ‘instil’ the urge and voice to the poor?

The article can be read here:

“How Feasible and Effective would Mohalla Samitis be in Urban Madhya Pradesh”?

By Shyam Singh – Samarthan- Center for Development Support

Article published by the Mainstream Weekly magazine

In the wake of the unprecedented growth in the urban population, the existing system of citizen participation has been found ineffective in providing equal opportunities to all people to participate in the process of urban governance. Unlike rural areas, urban areas have two-tier system of local self-governance, that is, munici-pality and wards. The representation ratio (population per elected representative) in urban areas is very high. In Bhopal city, according to Census 2011, a Councillor of a ward, on average, represents 25,652 citizens. In this case, interactions of elected representatives with citizens become rare and difficult. Similarly, possibilities of citizens’ participation in public governance also get lower. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) has proposed a solution of this problem by suggesting the enactment of a Community Participation Law (CPL) in all those states which are taking benefits of the JNNURM. The CPL proposes division of a ward into smaller units with lesser segments of population, so that citizens can be involved effectively in planning and governance activities in their localities. To abide with this provision, the Madhya Pradesh Government has passed the Madhya Pradesh Nagar Palika Mohalla Samiti Act in June 2009. This Act provisions the constitution of Mohalla Samiti (MS) as the lowest unit of local self-governance in the urban areas. But questions regarding the ability of this Act in addressing the concerns that are central to the participatory urban governance remain unanswered.

Mohalla’ in this Act is defined as a portion or sub-set of a local body, a colony, an apartment or a hamlet where a minimum of 100 households reside. This definition does not provide a homogeneous structure of the MS and that raises concerns over the uniformity of jurisdiction and the distribution of power and resources to the MS. For instance, a colony can be a larger hamlet while an apartment is a tiny residential settlement. The problem exists as to what pattern or framework should be adopted to assign functions and distribute resources to the MSs so that the sense of equality among the MSs remains unquestioned. A ward in a city, generally, is constituted of 20,000-25,000 population. It means that the number of MSs to be constituted would be higher.

This is good from the point of view that if the MS is smaller in size, access of citizens to functions of the MS would be high and effective. But at the same time, accommodating the demands and aspirations of all MSs could be a herculean task for the authorities. On the other hand, the CPL proposes to form an Area Sabha (AS) in one or more polling booths. A polling booth generally comprises of 1200-1500 population. It means that in a ward there could be 15-20 ASs, while in case of the MS, this number can go up to 50. Therefore, the proposed arrangement of the MS puts a question on the feasibility of the application of the Act.

Another important aspect of urban governance is the devolution of power and financial autonomy to the lowest formation of urban local bodies. The Act does not give power to the MS to prepare annual plans and annual budgets for the Mohalla. Similarly, the MS has not been given control over the financial resources such as house and market taxes. The only ways through which the MS can generate funds by its own are either through contributions made by its members, MLAs and MPs or getting supervision charges for the work carried out on the behalf of the local body. The executive functions and duties assigned to the MS in this Act are not as substantive as provided in the CPL. The functions assigned to the MS in the Madhya Pradesh Act are generally about providing assistance rather ownership of the activities such as sanitation, water, road, drains etc. The Act clearly provisions that the MS has to work as an agency of the local body. But such provisions introduce the MS as an agent or outsourcing agency, instead of an independent and effective stratum of decentralisation. It is to be noted that the number of duties assigned to the MS are more than what has been provided in the CPL, but assigned duties and functions to the MS do not assure an effective implementation of such functions by an effective institutional arran-gement.

Similarly, the CPL gives power to the AS to identify beneficiaries of developmental and welfare schemes in their areas, so that irregularities in the distribution of such benefits can be checked. But, the MS does not have the power to carry out such activities. This has been proved to be a contentious point as experiences reflect that more often, at the ground level, the real beneficiaries remain excluded from the list prepared through national/Statewide surveys. The ASs have also rights to seek information from the municipality and officials who are associated with works being carried out in the Area and the work influence/affect the Area. The MS does not possess this right.

More importantly, the Madhya Pradesh Act does not talk about the structures and functions of the Ward Committees as the CPL does. The Act does not mention whether the MS representatives would be members of the Ward Committee or not. Since no specific channels for interface between the MS and Ward Committee have been proposed in the Act, a doubt prevails on the liasoning between these two layers of the urban local self-governance. The establishment of the MS as the lowest strata of local self-governance in the urban areas can only be effective when it has acquired autonomy in performing the given functions and managing its financial needs an its own. The Madhya Pradesh Nagar Palika Mohalla Samiti Act is still to be enacted. The seven-year tenure of the JNNURM (2005-12) is over now; no Mohalla Samiti has been created in the State so far. Let’s see how feasible and effective it would be in enhancing the real participation of citizens in urban governance.

Cause of the Urban Poor- M.P.

British High Commissioner in India David James Bevan today called on Madhya Pradesh Urban Development Minister Babulal Gaur and informed that the UK government has provided Rs 265 crore grant for uplift of poor in the state.

Bevan told Gaur that the British government has given a grant of Rs 265 crore for the Madhya Pradesh Urban Services for the Poor (MPUSP) – Project Uthhan, for infrastructure development and improvement of slums of the state’s 14 municipal corporations, an official release issued here said.

Started since 2006, the project is slated to be completed by December this year.

The High Commissioner also informed that the British government will make available grant worth Rs 220 crore for the infrastructure and development of the state’s municipal corporations in the second phase, the release said.

Gaur also apprised the High Commissioner of developmental efforts taken by the state government in Bhopal and other cities of the state, it added.

Also, ten more cities of Madhya Pradesh have been included in Rajiv Awas Yojna launched by the central government for the welfare of urban poor.

According to state government authorities, the cities have been included in the scheme on the initiative of urban administration and development, minister, Babulal Gaur. With this, the number of cities included in the state has gone up to 16. Under the scheme, houses will be constructed to make cities slum-free.

Of the ten cities included in Rajiv Awas Yojna by the central government, eight cities have municipalities having over one lakh population and two municipal corporations. The newly included cities include Burhanpur, Dewas, Khandwa, Ratlam, Rewa, Satna, Singrauli and Mudwara (Katni) and Neemuch and Chhindwara.

Earlier, six cities of the state were included in Rajiv Awas Yojna including Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Gwalior, Ujjain and Sagar. There is 50 percent Central share and 20 per cent state share in the construction of houses built for the urban poor. Remaining 30 per cent cost is borne by beneficiaries.