Monthly Archives: November 2012

Encouraging participation of slum dwellers in Nagar Swaraj Abhiyan-Raipur

PRIA in 10 slums of Raipur has initiated ‘Slum Improvement Committee‘ that represent each of these slums and comprises at least 6 representatives from that slum itself. The committees are being encouraged and provided necessary hand holding such that the representatives can initiate a positive dialogue with the governing bodies regarding various issues affecting their slum community.

One such effort is being made in encouraging participation in the Nagar Swaraj Abhiyan Campaign being run by the State Government of Chhattisgarh in Raipur and other cities.In this campaign, camps are organized by the government official in every ward of the city on the determined dates and asking for the applications regarding the problems and demands of the common people.

Slum committees that have been initiated in 10 slums of Raipur  are playing active role in availing the requisite benefits of this campaign and have also submitted an application in the Nagar Swaraj Abhiyan. Such efforts that encourage participation of the community in government schemes is a positive sign and a much needed effort. Most often than not, slum dwellers are either uninformed about their rights or get misguided. This for certain results in conflicts both for the community and the governing bodies too. For any scheme to be successful – participation of the community is utmost essential.

Find the news clipping of the same below:

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State level consultation on Strengthening Civil Society Voices on Urban Poverty West Bengal, 8th November, 2012

Shared by SPARC

CINI in collaboration with PRIA and SPARC organized a consultation in Calcutta where participants from diverse fields,  government officials, NGOs, academicians, consultants and community members were invited to share there experiences and bring a diverse perspective on the issues and problems of Urban Poverty. Speakers included Manoj Rai, Director PRIA said that objective of the workshop is to evolve a collective understanding through dialogues on methods and approaches to address the issues of urban poverty in the state where as Mandipa Ghosh , Assistant Director CINI shared the current scenario of Urban Poverty issues in W.Bengal. Sundar Burra, Advisor SPARC shared some of the experiences of JNNURM- BSUP scheme

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Mr. Shaktiman Ghosh, Secretary, Hawkers’ Sangram Committee said that there is a need to prioritize the issues of housing and livelihood to address urban poverty. He expressed concern that there are no social security benefits for the informal sector laborers and recommended a social audit to assess the percolation of services and programs. He concluded with mentioning the need of a people’s movement which could bridge the gaps.

Mr. P. Ramesh Kumar, Prin. Sec., Labor Department and Acting Link Officer of the Municipal Affairs Department discussed the urgency of collaborative approach at the civil society level to deal with the issue of urban poverty. He critically analyzed the parameters of liberty. He delivered his speech on city specific strategy formulation to deal with the issues and provide detailing on existing poverty alleviation schemes and initiatives like SJSRY, Social Security Benefit of the unorganized laborer etc. from the government level. He briefed the participants about the new initiatives of the department through establishment of “Employment Bank”.  This program has been launched in July, 2012 where government is aiming to open ample employment opportunities for the beneficiaries.

Dr. Paromita Chakraborthy, Jadhavpur Univ shared her concern that there is no protocol and platform in terms of meaningful engagement between Govt. and Civil Society. She stressed on developing modalities of representation and systemic process of development. She reminded everyone of the diversity within communities and mentioned the importance of acknowledging diverse interests of communities to ensure their true inclusion. She spoke on broader dimensions of civil society and its involvement. She also highlighted the importance of conceptual clarity over the concept of urban poor and poverty as a whole at all levels, and to create a forum for joint consultation.     

During the discussion the issue of “IDENTITY” and “RECOGNITION” of urban poor came out significantly where community members expressed the plight of not getting birth certificates because the address they have is that of a slum.

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9/11/12 Newspaper “Bhorer Barta” has published an article which says that there are still many people in West Bengal who do not have their Identity cards. This fact is revealed by CINI (Child in Need Institute). They stated that there are thousands of people who are living on streets around the city but are unable to access the facilities provided under Govt. schemes as they do not possess identity cards.

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Slum Dwellers Disenchanted With Government Schemes But Ready to Organize

By Eric Kasper and Deepika Pandey, PRIA

Many of the people inhabiting slums in India are illiterate, but that doesn’t mean they can’t understand what’s happening around them, and like you, they know when they’re being duped. In the slum of Tarun Nagar, in Raipur’s Kalimata ward (ward 30), PRIA encountered a strong reaction when meeting with residents to discuss organizing a slum improvement committee.

This slum was settled 40 years ago under the guidance of then-Mayor Tarun Chatterjee on Nazul department land around a pond called Kustha Basti Talab. Some of the residents are from Orissa and some are from villages near Raipur, but they all came here to make a better life for themselves. The men of the slum tend to be rickshaw drivers and the women tend to work in the colonies as domestic servants.

On 19th September, they got word that Raipur Municipal Corporation (RMC) is planning to evict them to make room for a new fish market. After losing sleep over this for some time, the residents decided to demonstrate in front of the RMC office and try to find out the truth of the eviction plans. With the help of the ward councilor they surrounded the RMC offices, but they were ultimately able neither to secure any meetings nor get confirmation about the eviction plans. The story of their demonstration was even published in the local newspaper, but they have yet to receive a response to their query.

It was in this context that we showed up, suggesting that they organize and learn about the new opportunities under current government schemes like RAY. The slum dwellers responded that they don’t want the “benefit” of any government schemes. One resident said that the government actually creates schemes for the poor in order to rob them. Mrs. Sushila shared her experience of the government’s Smart Card program. This insurance program, part of the “Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna” programme, provided poor people with a Smart Card for only 30 rupees, and this would entitle them to health insurance coverage for up to 30,000 rupees per family per year in any government hospital and select private hospitals. This means that, in a typical slum of 500 residents, the government collects roughly 15,000 rupees. However, when residents of Tarun Nagar went to the hospital for checkups or for treatment they got a variety of responses including that the card was only valid in instances of hospital admission, that it was not for minor diseases or checkups, or that the computer was down and could not process Smart Card transactions so services would have to be paid for up front. Thus, the slum-dwellers of Tarun Nagar came to feel they had been fooled, paying 30 rupees for a card that would ultimately be worthless.

Another resident, Smt. Rukhmani Chaturwedi, spoke from a position of “political society[1]”. She reasoned that the slum was established as a vote bank and as long as it served this function, it would persist. No one, she said, will evict them before the next election two years from now. Of course, after the election, there is a good chance their homes might be destroyed without hesitation. Also, a privately owned office building, Singhania Complex, occupies the same land as the slum. If a new fish market were planned, this complex would also need to be removed, but it has not been given notice of eviction. It is obvious to the slum dwellers that it is only the power of private ownership that protects that complex, and their lack which makes them vulnerable. Perhaps this political value of slums is why, in spite of the supposed poverty-reduction schemes, the number of slums increases every year. Surely the well-educated bureaucrats could effectively implement a program if they wanted to.

Perhaps these slum-dwellers are right to be skeptical of any government scheme that makes demands on them in the name of helping them. However, the appropriate response to a hostile government is the same as to a friendly one: organize to have a strong voice, be your own advocate, and hold the government accountable. This is where civil society can play a role: helping motivated slum-dwellers to organize themselves, informing them of all the details of government schemes and activities so they can make informed decisions about the nature of their participation, and keeping close contact with government to continually urge them to efficiently meet their obligations. Meanwhile, the government should not approach the poor as helpless victims. They may not be educated, but neither are they fools. They are fully capable of being agents of their own development. In fact, the residents of Tarun Nagar decided to form a Slum Improvement Committee, and they selected 6 people to represent them, 3 women and 3 men. They have decided that, with the help of PRIA, they will use their committee to more forcefully demand in-situ housing from the RMC. PRIA, for our part, will try to bring the RMC and the Tarun Nagar Slum Improvement Committee together in one forum.


[1] Political Society is a concept coined by Partha Chatterjee wherein the poor are seen to understand that in all practical senses, they are not full citizens under the law, but rather occupy a space of exception outside of legal norms. They accept that they do not have legal rights but instead assert that they have moral rights to life and livelihood, and they base their hopes on pragmatic political expediency rather than the support of a just legal framework.

Real Estate Regulation Bill : reserve housing for the urban poor- a far off reality?!

The Real Estate Regulation Bill, which aims to establish a regulatory authority for the realty sector, is likely to be tabled in the upcoming Winter session of Parliament, Union Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Minister Ajay Maken said. The draft legislation, pending since 2009, aims to establish a regulatory authority for the realty sector, ensure sale of immovable properties in an efficient and transparent manner and protect consumer interest.

The most important proposal in the draft Bill includes setting up a regulatory authority in every state. Maken said private builders will have to reserve 35 per cent of houses or 15 per cent floor area ratio (FAR), whichever is higher for the economically weaker sections (EWS), under the Rajiv Awas Yojana. He also asked the private sector to pass on the benefits to the EWS instead of only “maximising” their profit. Under the ambitious Rajiv Awas Yojana, the government has proposed an expenditure of Rs 40,000 crore, Maken said, adding that bank loans will be available for EWS without any collateral. Maken said a credit risk guarantee fund has been created for low-income housing and all states would have to implement these norms in all cities. “The need for housing is growing rapidly as there has been a rapid urbanisation,” he added. “The urban population has risen to 31 per cent from 27 per cent in the past six-seven years while the total number of towns also surged to 7,800 from 5,100 during the same period,” he said.

While real estate industry analysts have expressed largely unanimous approval for new minister for housing and urban poverty alleviation Ajay Maken’s edict that private developers will have to reserve 35% of houses or 15% floor area ratio (FAR), whichever is higher, for economically weaker sections (EWS) under the Rajiv Awas Yojana, builders say the move will inevitably lead to further escalation in property prices.

The builder’s apex body Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI) has submitted a memorandum to the housing ministry urging that Maken rethink his proposal. “Such a directive, without any incentives to the developer community, would only burden the open-market buyers, mainly from the middle-income group (MIG), who will be forced to cross-subsidise the lower-income group (LIG) or EWS,” it said.

“If we construct 100 homes, we won’t be able to sell 35 of them. We will have to hand them over to the government so they are passed on to the EWS. This means we are losing a large chunk of our profit. So, naturally we’ll have to sell the remaining flats at a steep rate,” said a builder on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, CREDAI chairman Lalit Kumar Jain says the government needs to look at the larger picture. “The government should come up with proposals where the EWS and LIG can be accommodated in flats that are in smaller buildings. Because, taller buildings mean lifts, and other maintenance costs. Who will pay these?” asked Jain. Jain termed Maken’s plan populist and said such proposals garner attention, even if they aren’t passed in the end. The CREDAI memo suggested that there’s a need for special housing zones with tax exemptions, and these zones should have tenements smaller than 80 sq m.

One Step at a time… towards a leap for Change

By Nidhi Batra, PRIA

Urban poverty is an issue which is so complex and intimidating that the government, social activist and even the community themselves are unable to address it in totality. However, it is important to continue to take small steps towards an equity based development of our urban towns and cities and responsibility lies on all of us for the same. PRIA and SPARC, through its project of ‘Strengthening Civil Society Voices on Urban Poverty’ are continuing to take small steps in this direction.

A three pronged tool for strengthening the voice of those impoverished in the urban milieu has been initiated, with an overall aim and goal that community themselves are the real stakeholders and can bring about the requisite change and development.

In Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Bihar – PRIA with its partners began by preparing an information base of existing slums, the situations therein, relevant government schemes and policies addressing urban poverty and also gathered information on participation levels of community in these slums. This was the first step towards a scenario building. This has been followed by a community empowerment exercise of providing the information gathered through this process back to the community.

The second step is to give the power of ‘knowledge’ to the community. Slum improvement committees or community leaders are being organised in various slum communities. These committees are empowered with relevant knowledge about the most pressing issue for that particular slum, and methods of how the community themselves can initiate a movement to resolve those issues. This committee act as an interface for the community and governing bodies.

The third step is to encourage dialogues between various slum committees and the elected representatives and all other stakeholders. These dialogues are one of a kind, since in most urban local bodies – there isn’t a mechanism where the poor can come together and discuss their issues out in the open with the decision makers. Lots of poverty alleviation schemes such as RAY speak of community participation, but all failed to formulate a tangible system for the same. Unfortunately the whole mechanism of decentralisation and mechanism of ward committees and area sabhas are also not active.

Of course, the biggest challenge for any social organisation – is to organise the community and it is even more challenging in an urban context. Urban situations wherein the value of time is seen in monetary terms, a context wherein men might be away for work or too drunk or wasted to participate, in situations where crime and politics might play together, also a situation wherein the vulnerability level is very high and fake promises should never be given – it is interestingly being realised that the sword of an equitable development lies mostly in hands of women!

Shelter and infrastructure projects have a direct impact on the quality of life of the whole population, but they certainly have a particular impact on the lives of women. They do this by reducing the female work load, as well as the material penury and health risks to which women are subjected to a greater extent than men. Also, an improvement in infrastructure and shelter usually reduces the incidence of psychological and social problems tied to poverty that hit women particularly hard: marital separations, domestic violence, and school abandonment. For all these reasons, the level of interest of women in urban upgrading and housing projects is very high, as shown by their key role and high degree of participation. As PRIA is initiating formation of slum committees in various slums of Raipur, Patna and Jaipur, it is realising how active is the participation of women community members.

The second aspect that attracts community to unite and work for their own community is knowledge and wants for empowerment. And the third aspect is power relations. Interestingly most leaders also have political aspirations and by working for the community, they want to gain their trust.

Whatever the reason of unity might be, the fact there is a step towards a community led development is a leap in the direction for an equity based living.

PRIA is acting like a facilitator for these slum dwellers and is learning along with them. Various issues are surfacing in these urban poor communities. For example, the residents of Tarun Nagar in Raipur want to discuss aspects on right of in-situ development. They have been recently given notice for relocation, since the Nigam is planning to build a whole sale fish market in the same location. But the residents are demanding to know the correct procedure for the same. They also have a valid argument. They are raising concern that a private building is also sitting on the same piece of land, and in all probability that building might get a registry and a right to exist. In the same fashion the residents are also demanding a registry. The same slum has also highlighted an issue for the governing bodies to deal with. Urban local bodies usually provide patta or tenure rights to slums. But slum dwellers with this right are now even selling their jhuggis. Is that permissible and how would the urban local body deal with this aspect, in case of rehabilitation?

In Patna, a cluster level meeting was held in September which brought together various representatives of slums, elected representatives, councillors, MLA and it gave a rich platform for a discussion which has never happened before! PRIA is actively tracing the effects of the State Slum Policy on ground in Bihar and empowering the residents about the services and facilities that are being promised but not yet delivered.

In Jaipur, PRIA is facilitating a process of providing relevant information to the slum dwellers about various schemes such as Prashasan Sehron Ke Sang wherein the residents can apply for regularisation of their housing communities. PRIA here is acting as a facilitator not just for the slum dwellers but also is an aid to the government which is still struggling with a lukewarm response from slum dwellers to avail this right, due to lack of awareness seen in the slum community.

All of these are steps in a direction where much still needs to be done. Participation of one and all shall boast this movement! It is time we act together – each in his own way – just one step at a time!!

How street vendors and urban planners can work together?! – National Policy on Urban Street Vendors

Sally Roever shows how an inclusive attitude towards street vendors and an understanding of how they fit into the urban economy and streetscape has improved livelihoods dramatically in Bhubaneswar and Durban.

Below are the few excerpts of the article. Catch the entire article at http://globalurbanist.com/2012/11/13/vendors-planners-work-together

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Street vending has persisted for centuries all over the world, despite a multitude of efforts to curtail it. Its ease of entry offers an option for generating a subsistence income for many, but its potential as an engine of growth also attracts better-off entrepreneurs who can capitalise on the easy access to consumers that working in the streets provides.

But they don’t just work in any old streets, and there’s the rub: street vendors strategically locate their workplaces in urban areas with steady pedestrian flows, often in central business districts or near crowded transport junctions. In doing so, they rankle big businesses, real estate developers, and other elites who want access to the same space. Overcrowding of vendors in these areas can also exacerbate broader problems in urban governance, such as traffic congestion, solid waste management, and public health risks.

To address these problems, city governments need a way to define and enforce rules governing who gets access to what space at what times. But they won’t get anyone to follow those rules if they aren’t appropriate to the way the city’s retail economy works. And they won’t get buy-in from vendors unless vendors are collectively invited to the policy table, and can find a common voice. The challenge here, however, is that most street vendors are self-employed workers who bear all the risks of doing business individually, and often prioritise securing their own individual space over longer-term collective goals.

In September 2012, India’s Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation introduced the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill in the country’s lower house of Parliament. This historic bill is one of the only efforts in the world to protect street vendors’ rights at the level of national law. The bill follows on a National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, passed in 2004 and revised in 2009.

The national policy, and now the bill, came about after years of struggle on the part of the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) and the Self Employed Women’s Asssociation (SEWA), membership-based organisations who became involved in all stages of policy formulation. In contrast to efforts to manage street vending by making it go away, the bill recognises that street trade is here to stay.

Though it is too early to know how the bill will perform once it is made law, it addresses key points where conflicts between vendors and governments typically arise. The bill, modeled after the policy, defines a registration process for vendors, their rights and obligations to work in authorised vending zones, and a statutory bargaining forum called Town Vending Committees in which vendors are represented through their associations. Notably, the bill also allows for evictions, relocations, and confiscations of merchandise, but defines the conditions under which they may take place. Most significantly, the bill recognises street vending as a right and as an urban poverty alleviation measure, while acknowledging the need for local authorities to regulate it.

The National Policy in India have had a considerable impact on urban livelihoods. In Bhubaneswar, India, where the city partnered with member-based organisations to implement the policy, 91 per cent of vendors reported an increase in their income.

The key innovation in  Bhubaneswar was to recognize that it makes sense to keep street vending in natural market areas of the city. That’s where vendors are going to go anyway. By working with vendors’ organisations to develop sensible rules, city officials can rely on vendors to help make those rules sustainable and end the need for costly punitive actions.

Tangles of undelivered JNNURM housing – Shimla

Shared by Anshuman Carol, PRIA

Municipal Corporations under JNNURM are to provide for social housing for the poor, but most often than not we are seeing examples of incapability of the local governments to provide for the same. Reasons are many such as not enough financial capability, not enough technical know-how, not enough hand holding provided by the central government to ULBs to undertake these projects, inefficient and non-participatory methods adopted by ULBs etc.

Municipal Corporation of Shimla is in a similar situation wherein it is being unable to provide the promised number of housing units to the urban poor. Due to cost escalation over the years the corporation no longer has the financial capability to build all the units. The options left for the Corporation is either to obtain the escalated amount from the beneficiaries or reduce the number of units. Either of the two options result in the urban poor being much more ‘victimised’ than they already are. The third option that Corporation might explore is taking support from State or Central Government.

Punjab Kesari of 3.11.2012 covered this news: 

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