PRIA under its project of Strengthening Civil Society Voices on Urban Poverty has initiated empowering activities in various urban poor communities across India. In Patna, it has been successful in formulating Slum Improvement Committees (SIC) of the community members themselves, who thereby represent their own community, become a voice for and to them. One of these ‘empowering’ activities that have been undertaken by association of slum communities, SIC and PRIA has been of facilitating the community to recognise and map exactly where and how they live.
Most often than not, in Indian scenario most urban poor settlements do not find a place on the city map and its various planning documents. The slums are reflected as black blobs in the city map, as if these settlements do not even withhold the many residents that it does. Also, when for specific government scheme a surveyor comes to map a locality, he is oblivious to the ground realties and does not always depict the true picture and excludes the community in the process. The proposed process wherein the community, who know their own locality best and better than any surveyor, shall map their own locality is being encouraged and was initiated as a pilot in Kettari Mohalla of Patna.
Process of Mapping by and with the community
PRIA introduced the benefits of community mapping to the slum dwellers with help of a presentation that highlighted that the slum dwellers themselves can now have the opportunity and the right to portray the slum, its resources, present infrastructure as it exists in reality and not how it may be depicted in the ward or zonal plan (if any). It was highlighted how at present various slum communities do not find any recognition in physical presence on various city maps and that for certain creates an issue of exclusivity of these slum dwellers.
Various benefits of the community mapping to the community were highlighted such as:
1. A map of your own community is an identity and a right
2. With a map there is tangible and physical presence of your community that can be shared with all – through the internet
3. Centrally sponsored schemes such as Rajiv Awas Yojana that is promoting a slum-free India requires that every slum should be located and mapped. When community themselves know what, where and how they live they shall be able to give correct information, participate in the survey and hold the surveyors and government accountable.
4. Community mapping is also a participatory activity that encourages and strengthen your own community participation and relationships amongst each other
5. It is also a fun activity
6. It is an activity that shall give you the pride and sense of ownership for you own community
The youth was encouraged to take up this activity of community mapping in the slum settlements. The process of slum mapping with help of using a GPS and plotting the same back on to google earth/map was also explained and a separate guidebook for the same in hindi was also prepared.
With this facilitation, the youth of Ketwari Mohalla took upon them to map their own community! The map that they plotted can be accessed here: https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF&msa=0&msid=215230729858609628543.0004d711acd95f304c6a7
What made the ‘mapping exercise’ work?
PRIA and the formulated Slum Improvement Committee in Ketwari Mohalla was able to introduce the idea of community mapping in the SIC-Community meetings and encouraged the youth to take up the activity- both boys and girls. Even though initially they seemed reluctant, but the inspiration of learning a new technology, holding a new type of instrument and doing a new task excited them to a point that both boys and girls were leaping to take up the activity!
What were the issues that came forward in the process of ‘community mapping’?
It was realised that even though a presentation of what ‘mapping’ can do for the community, the ability to comprehend a ‘map’ lagged. It is necessary to familiarise the community with what a map actually does! Most often in many PRA activities we see that community themselves is first encouraged to trace out on the ground a cognitive map of how and where they live. This physical understanding of how a locality is spatially formed could have been undertaken in this locality to give the community a greater understanding of what a map is.
Another aspect is that to translate a technology to physical reality is not as simple. It is important to provide the community with physical print of a map. A point in the GPS does not instantaneously translate to a point on the map, therefore the link between the GPS and the physical reality needs to be well explained in advance.
Also potentials of what all a map can show, depict and help tab the information of also should be further explained. For example the community initially did not have an idea of what all should they map in their slum. The fact that they can map the present social infrastructure, physical infrastructure, number of houses, where what facility is located to exact detail and then have a conversation with the governing institutions about lack of a particular facility should also be further explained.
Learning from the above lessons and together with the experience of the youth and SIC members of Ketwari Mohalla, community mapping activities are also being encouraged in other slums of Patna