Monthly Archives: October 2012

Slum Welfare Committee- PRIA’s initiative in Raipur

PRIA has taken initiative in Raipur and Bilaspur to RAY cities of Chhattisgarh to Mobilize the slum dwellers to get collectivize and raise their voices for getting benefits of all the services and schemes for which they are entitled and intervened into 10 slums of Raipur named as Shakti Nagar, Tarun Nagar, Kashiram Nagar, Chandrashekhar Nagar, Durga Nagar, Gandhi Nagar of Kalimata Ward, Gandhi Nagar of Shankar Nagar Ward, Indrabhata-Kushta Basti, Parwati Nagar and Ganesh Nagar along with the partners Chetna Child and women welfare society . PRIA and the field staff made regular visit to this slums, conducted preliminary meetings in all these slums and discussed about the existing issues of the slums, motivated them to get organized to express their voices and demands based on their needs. In this initiative PRIA is sensitizing the slum dwellers towards power of being organized in any form may be in the form of Slum Improvement Committee and empowering this  committees with the knowledge of various schemes.

Find below the initial step of organising slum welfare committee in Raipur:

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Parvati Nagar: Wrestling with the Challenges of Organizing

Shared by Eric, Deepika (PRIA, Raipur)

According to the 74th Amendment to the constitution, the Indian government has tried to establish strong “Urban Local Bodies” (ULBs) and has assigned 18 responsibilities to them to provide proper services to urban citizens. But, even though this devolution was meant to more firmly institutionalize people’s participation in their own governance and service provision, it has almost universally excluded the urban poor living in slums. Thus, while the government claims to be empowering people, in practice, they have not promoted the conditions or capacities to make this a reality. People have become so dependent on the government that they cannot imagine raising their voice against it.

As part of PRIA’s Strengthening Civil Society Voices on Urban Poverty project, a team visited Pavarti Nagar, a slum along a section of railway track, to discuss the possibility of organizing a slum improvement committee for participating in government schemes such as RAY. The meeting took place during the days of Durga Puja, and the community had constructed a beautiful Durga display. Bhajan worship music played over massive speakers as people washed and socialized after a day’s work. This was obviously a community capable of working together.

The first people who met us as we gathered for a community meeting were women who had organized themselves into a women’s committee. We asked about life in the slum, and she shared that they had just received eviction notices from the government. She said that the women’s committee wanted to do something for the slum dwellers, but they couldn’t figure out what to do. She was eager to hear what we had to say about creating a more powerful slum improvement committee.

The slum dwellers understand that they are living in hazardous conditions by the rail lines. They are willing to go if they are evicted, but this raises many troubling questions: Where will they be sent? What kind of housing complex will it be? How far away from the city will it be? Will there be any opportunities for livelihoods there? To what extent can they be agents in finding answers to these questions?

So we gathered on blankets around the Durga and began to talk about opportunities for organizing a Slum Improvement Committee to raise their voice. Suddenly, a man stood up and asked:

“Why should we fight against the government? Because government is the one who is giving us everything. If government wants to evict us and dump us in the place outside the city, I’m ok with their decision. At least they are giving us houses to live in. If we oppose them, we will not even get this.”

This sparked a disagreement among the people, and the crowd grew more restless. We struggled to get them to settle down and speak in an orderly fashion. Some, like the women in the women’s committee, were convinced that action should be taken to organize. Others, like the man, were afraid of the possible repercussions.

What would make this man stand up and say so adamantly that he doesn’t want to oppose the government? Has the government won his loyalty through steadfast support? Or has the precarity inherent in slum life made him too afraid to step out of line? The man is right to be wary of the consequences of action. The women are also right to be wary of the consequences of inaction. The process of organizing in this community will mean holding these two impulses in tension. By wrestling with various courses of action, the community will work out who they are and where they want to go together.

If they ultimately decide to take the risk of raising their voice, PRIA will be there to help them understand clearly the political challenges and opportunities available through government schemes. We will help them connect with other people in other slums also wrestling with the same issues. We will help them connect with other organizations with resources and influence.

The practice of organizing requires pragmatism. The community may, in fact, not choose to see the government as the enemy at all. It is clear that at least some parts of the government sincerely want what is best for the urban poor and want their voices to be part of decision-making processes. It is only a strong community, however, that is capable of more than simple rage or resignation. Only once organized can a community claim the right to hold government accountable while also offering to be a partner in the task of governance and service provision. This power is born in slum-level organizing and is consolidated through strong relationships with other civil society groups at all levels. 

Power of being organized

 

Shared by Eric and Deepika (PRIA-Raipur)

In the city of Raipur, 50% of the population lives in slums. According to the CDP of 2006, the total number of slums was 282-283 inhabited by 61449 families. However, PRIA conducted its own comprehensive survey of Raipur slums in February 2012 and found 299 slums. Out of these, PRIA is intervening in 10 Raipur slums to enhance the citizen participation by strengthening the voices of urban poor. To provide a platform that can bring together both the demand side as well as the supply side of urban service provision. For this purpose, the PRIA-Raipur team had a dialogue with the slum dwellers of a slum named Ganesh Nagar, settled along a railway track. During the discussion the slum dwellers shared that a few months back the Railway Authority had issued letters to all the slum dwellers asking them to respond with a signature indicating their consent to being evicted. The railway authority also tried to entice the community by offering compensation and jobs if they would willingly vacate the area. Some of the people began filling out the forms without enquiring about the details, but some were suspicious and decided to inform the Ganesh Nagar development committee. This committee is an informal group that the slum had organized as a way to address concerns of the residents. The members of the committee discussed the notice and decided not to sign the notice until they could be sure about the Railway Authority’s true intentions. The residents asked to the officers to visit later. They also sent one of the slum dwellers who works as an Auto-rickshaw driver to take the officials to their office. In this way, the driver tried to explore the actual intentions of the officers by listening to the conversation they were having regarding the slum visit. He came to know that there would be no compensation nor would there be any jobs. Those incentives had only been a ruse to evict the slum dwellers from the railway land. He shared what he had overheard from the Railway Authority officers with the slum dwellers and the members of the committee. Ultimately they decided to not to sign the forms and resisted the attempt by the Railway Authority to evict them. It is a good example of the power of being organized. Though their development committee is informal, the residents of Ganesh Nagar know it has given them the ability to stand up for themselves. With greater awareness of issues related to urban policy planning and government schemes like RAY, the residents of Ganesh Nagar would be even more empowered.

 

There are many slums looking for opportunities to assert their unified voices. This story disproves the myth that people of slums unorganized, helpless, and passive. People often know the importance of being organized, but the main structures may be informal or dormant. PRIA hopes to work with communities like Ganesh Nagar who are hoping to, and in some cases already are striving to help themselves.

 

Urban poor unaware of welfare schemes

The daily struggle of slum dwellers for getting basic amenities and the glaring deficiency in the reach of the much-touted urban poverty alleviation schemes as well as other programmes for welfare of widows, disabled people and destitute children were revealed during an awareness drive launched by two voluntary public service institutions in slum colonies.Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) and Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) members  interacted with the people residing at J. P. Colony in Vidyadhar Nagar zone and Baiji Ki Kothi slum in Jhalana Doongari area to apprise the slum dwellers of official schemes for housing, infrastructure development and social welfare.

Read more at: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/urban-poor-unaware-of-welfare-schemes/article4020725.ece

Participatory planning in Pune – Support of Mahila Milan, NSDF and SPARC

Mahila Milan and the National Slum Dwellers Federation, with support from SPARC, help the Pune Municipal Corporation plan and implement the new central government scheme RAY – which aims to make India slum free.

Read a bit about how the City is committed to a participatory process with the support of the Indian Alliance here: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/pmc-project-to-rehabilitate-5-slums-in-dhankawadi/922324/1

Slum dwellers denied basic rights -PRIA initiates an awareness drive

Published in ‘The Hindu’- JAIPUR, October 15, 2012

An awareness drive launched by two voluntary groups in the slum colonies of Jaipur has revealed women’s struggle for getting widow and old age pension benefits and glaring deficiencies in the maintenance of health and hygiene standards. The campaign also provided the slum dwellers with an opportunity to raise their voice against lack of civic amenities.

The latest interaction with the residents was held at Baiji Ki Kothi slum in Jhalana Doongari area of eastern Jaipur over the week-end. Over 30 women came together to protest against the “humiliation” they were facing while trying to get their basic rights. Women said the officers were not willing to hear their grievances or resolve the issues confronting them.

Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) programme officer Tripti Sharma and Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) members Deepmala Malhotra and Gopal Ram Verma interacted with the slum dwellers to apprise them of the official schemes for housing, infrastructure development, social welfare and provision for basic amenities.

Kailashini, a 35-year-old widow living with her four children, told the activists that she had been trying to get the widow pension for the past eight years, but her case was “entangled in [the] official maze” despite the completion of all legal formalities. Mangali Devi and Lalita Devi had similar stories to tell.

Ms. Sharma said these women had approached the ward member of their area several times, but he was unable to help them out.

“Our drive has made us realise that slum development cannot be done in isolation by high-flying consultants or technocrats. The involvement of locals to address the existing issues is a crucial component of the planning process,” said Ms. Sharma.

PRIA has been trying through the awareness drive to strengthen the voice of the urban poor and enable them to take part in the process of planning for their slums. Ms. Sharma said the interaction had helped the two groups in getting first-hand account of the issues at the grassroots and finding out low level of awareness about basic rights

 ‘Slum development cannot be done in isolation’

Catch the article at: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/slum-dwellers-denied-basic-rights/article3997856.ece

Ignorance is not bliss! –how JNNURM failed in Small and Medium Cities

By Nidhi S. Batra, PRIA

Pan-India ONE solution for Urban Poverty is failing. We have seen it in JNNURM and shall see it again in Rajiv Awas Yojana. Small and Medium cities are facing the brunt. These cities are one not equipped with know-hows and appropriate capacity and nor do they have enough focus of centrally sponsored schemes to solve the urban poverty issues in these cities.

Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), launched in 2005 was directed towards development of our cities and for the first time managed to have some bit of spotlight on even the urban poor. Within JNNURM there were/are on ground actual proposals and reforms at governance level that were to help ‘include’ the urban poor in the development context.

The scheme has two sub-missions: the sub-mission for Urban Infrastructure and Governance (UIG) administered by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) and the Sub-Mission for Basic Service to the Urban Poor (BSUP) administered by the Ministry of Housing and Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA). The latter sub-mission focuses on integrated provision of basic services including shelter and security of tenure to slum dwellers. In non-mission cities covered by MoHUPA, these activities are carried out under Integrated Housing and Slum Development Program (IHSDP)

JNNURM Funding has been provided making with conditions of governance level reform. Some of these reforms are mandatory while other are optional level reforms that have to be taken up by the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).( In this context , it is important to recall how urban planning has now become a mandate of urban local bodies with the 74th Amendment and ULBs are now to take charge of undertaking ‘development’ for the poor).

Two mandatory reforms at the ULB level those are necessary for the ULBs to undertake in context to the urban poor are:

1)      Provision of basic services to the Urban Poor, including security of tenure at affordable prices

2)      Internal earmarking within local bodies budgets for basic services to the urban poor

Optional reform at ULB level in context to urban poverty is:

1)      Earmarking at least 20-25% of developed land in all housing projects

And other related mandatory reform of municipal accounting which makes it mandatory for the ULBs to shift to the double entry accounting system which should reflect the separate municipal fund for services to the poor and recording of the targeted revenue expenditure of delivery of services to the urban poor per annum.

These reforms and projects have been prescribed in great spirits, attempting for the first time to dissolve all issues regarding the uncertainty that had been created due to institutional arrangement for slum improvement programs between different agencies – slum boards, housing boards, development authority, municipal body etc. that had led to problems in implementation and also the failure to provide for the poor in the urban planning process.

But, have these proposals really been working for Small and Medium Cities?

Small and Medium Cities are where there is at present a sudden boom of ‘Urbanisation’. These are the cities that are being hit by urban poverty at a rate that is not even conceivable. And at the same time it is here, in these Small and Medium Cities that a ‘preventive addressal of urban poverty’ can be taken up rather than finding ‘futile cures’ in the million plus cities. From the graph below it is visible how the share of urban poverty and slum population has been increasing in small and medium cities. It is interesting to note that about 50% of urban population are living in slums; the city is seeing unprecedented growth rate after it became the capital of the new state of Chhattisgarh.

Share of Urban Poor in large and small and medium cities

Source: data on poverty from Lanjouw and Morgain 2011 based on NSS data

But, has JNNURM really considered these aspects?

75% of the assistance has been committed to 65 mission cities under UIG and BSUP under JNNURM; 25% is for the rest 640 small and medium towns under IHSDP and UIDSSMT. On an average, bigger cities have had a higher per capita investment. Also, the percentage of urban population covered under these two schemes decreases with the size and class of towns.

Committed Central Assistance by Scheme

Source: IIHS Analysis based on data from JNNURM website

Population covered under UIG and UIDSSMT by City-Size

Source: IIHS Analysis based on data from JNNURM website

How has JNNURM then through its mechanism attempted to ‘serve’ small and medium towns differently?

For certain, slums are a problem in larger cities but in smaller towns the question of poverty alleviation is more pressing but has seen much lesser focus, funding and appropriate approach. These small and medium towns are struggling to provide for housing for the urban poor and are also unable to undertake the governance level reforms.

Most of these towns have not even shifted to a double accounting system; there is no separate entry for services being catered to urban poor. Nagar Panchayat such as Sanawad in Madhya Pradesh, and many others in their books state that 25% of the total revenue is utilised on services for the urban poor, but at present there is no mechanism to check this expenditure. Other municipalities directly have put the central sponsored allocations under this and show complete expenditure as required. Small and medium towns at present do not even have their books digitized and require far greater hand holding than larger cities.

Also, wrongly so, most ULBs believe that optional reforms are actually optional! Therefore optional reforms such as earmarking 25% of land in all new housing projects for Economically Weaker Sections and Low Income Groups do not see the light of the day. The fact is under JNNURM, optional reforms are not optional- just that they are not the most priority reform that should be taken up by ULB; however, the phasing of these reforms would be at the choice of the ULB/ state. Two reforms need to be carried out every year over the mission period.

Other municipalities and corporations find it difficult to implement this reservation reform. Infact most of the corporations such as Indore complain of how they saw loss in housing investment over last few years when the shelter fund was stopped and it was mandatory for private housing projects to designate the land/ houses for urban poor in their schemes. They clearly stated how ‘Shelter Fund’ mechanism wherein the Private builder had the obligation to contribute a portion of the land developed by them or CASH proportionate to the land value towards Ashraya Nidhi (Shelter Fund) for pro-poor housing. Most builders obviously offered to give CASH! Of course this model doesn’t allow an equitable city with no apartheid class divided zones to be created within the city and has also created a shortage of land for the corporation to even undertake pro-poor housing!

Other criticisms of JNNURM that has been articulated in the public domain is:

Mission is said to suffer from the lack of an integrated approach; related issues like land, health, education and employment are being handled by separate Ministries at the central level and no strategy towards convergence of the same has been formulated.

Complete failure in respect to ‘community participation’. Overnight slums have been removed and housed in ‘flats’ that have already been created, even the slums that were not even in the ‘listing’ under the BSUP housing in cities like Raipur. In the same city, no example of in-situ slum rehabilitation has been successful. The only model the corporation attempted was the case of Telibhanda, where in the community was deceived and shifted to far off transit homes and even after 3 years still do not have their in-situ houses back in the land that belonged to them! Also, JNNURM even lacks an articulated clear resettlement policy. There is great ambiguity in the air, which and why slums are being removed overnight, are market forces acting up?!

Cities have also chosen not to invest in BSUP extensively; thrust of JNNURM has been on infrastructural and buses instead! Options of micro-financing and role of PPP for housing urban poor has not been explored.

ULBs of small and medium towns also faced a peculiar situation wherein the State Local Nodal Agency (SLNA) did not provide the necessary ‘capacity’ to the ULB in time. Small Nagar Panchayats and Municipalities are not equipped with qualified staff or know-how of how to include the cause of urban poor within their new mandate after 74th Amendment.

JNNURM in its vision is essential, it has attempted to focus on issues that are crucial for Indian Cities, but it has failed in its approach. One size fits all solution does not work in a country like India wherein the level of urbanisation differs exponentially across the nation.

There is a need for far greater bottom up planning, far greater capacity building and far greater hand holding in small and medium towns, than what is at present being offered. The future of a sustainable urbanization is in these towns and the only way to address it is to ‘take care of the excluded – and work towards an inclusive society”. Ignorance is not a bliss for these cities – we need to empower them!

A boy in slum of Raipur,   photograph by Nidhi Batra