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.