Monthly Archives: April 2013

Urbanising India and Lacking Behind Governance!

In a recent article on Terraurban, you read the debate of Urban and Rural Poverty at Urban poverty: its challenges and characteristics. With decentralisation celebrating a ‘two decade anniversary’, another interesting perspective is seen in this article on Mint: Panchayati raj: Failing the urbanization test, citing example of how inadequate are the present day municipalities and corporations, that a village under the Panchayati Raj system dreads being its upgradation to a small town and thereby being under the jurisdiction of the nagar panchayat or a municipality.

Reasons given are that corporations lead to a forego of participation and autonomy of the community, corporations are difficult to deal with, corruption and bribes are synonyms with corporations, panchayat leader is more empowered to take uplifting activities and projects in the community and panchayati raj system gives a direct interface with its people that completely lack in the urban setup. Municipal corporations/municipalities/ nagar panchayats find themselves ill-equipped to deal with the pressures of urbanisation that comes with economic growth. They find that the main weakness of the decentralised urban bodies is that we don’t work on the ‘mayor system’.

As quoted in the article, a resident of a newly formed ‘nagar panchayat’ is quick to say: “It was better when we were part of the panchayat than the corporation,” Raja complains. “We had direct access to the centre of power who got things done. Now, our taxes are doubled and when we take our complaints to the councillor, he says he has no power to do anything.”

And on the other hand, one of the people’s representative- a councillor is also quoted saying: “People want quick solutions to their problems. In a corporation ward, to lay drainage, I have to get clearances from six people before this gets to the mayor for his approval,” he says. As a panchayat president—for three terms between 1996 and 2011—“I could sanction projects. I had the autonomy to make my own decisions. Development was faster. Depending on the funds available we would concentrate on one thing and execute it”
Reality of the situation is that India is urbanising and the governance has to catch up!!

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Power of awareness and collectivisation against forced eviction-Patna

PRIA-Patna

More than 100 slum-dwellers facing threat of eviction without adequate compensation or rehabilitation gathered together and peacefully held a demonstration on 22nd April at Patna, urging the governing authorities to respond adequately to their plight.

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The slum dwellers were the affected residents of various slums abutting the Roopaspur Road in Patna, such as Prem Nagar, Abhimanyu Nagar, Chulai Chowk etc. Roopaspur Road is presently seeing great influx of development and under its proposed road widening scheme would involve demolition of various slum communities that abut it at present. The proposed road widening is for construction of  927m-long Rupaspur-Bailey Road railway overbridge which in name for easing traffic for one sect of society represented by new posh housings and apartments.

PRIA,under its initiative of Strengthening Civil Society Voices on Urban Poverty, has been working along with Dalit Mukhti Mission in these and other slums of Patna. Over the last year, the activities carried out in these slums had informed the slum dwellers of present Slum Policy of Bihar, Mission programmes such as JNNURM and Rajiv Away Yojana etc. The slum dwellers thereby were equipped with awareness of their rights and the accountability of the governing bodies.

On 22nd April when the slum dwellers held a demonstration, it was due to their acquired knowledge that there can be no eviction of the slum dwellers without adequate compensation or rehabilitation either in-situ or at an appropriate location, even if they are not legal residents of the said piece of land.

The residents of these slums were in fact given an ad-hoc ‘notice’ through loudspeakers by said authorities on 18th April to evict their homes within 24 hours. Residents revolted against this fake notice and correctly demanded for a rehabilitation scheme to be discussed with the residents prior to any eviction or demolition.

This situation in Patna is not unique, rather is one of the common challenges of the urban poor throughout the country, who become the victim of disparity under the name of development and progress. However, what is unique is the strength and power of knowledge and collectivisation that the slum dwellers of these communities depicted in their courageous demonstration against dubious actions of the State!

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Dissemination and Outreach through Media –Efforts of Slum Improvement Committees

PRIA-Raipur

Through facilitation and handholding by PRIA and Chetna Child and women welfare society, 7 Slums of Raipur over the last two years have been able to formulate ‘Slum Improvement Committee’ in their own slums which is a democratic body, selected by the slum dwellers themselves such that it represents the issues faced by the slum dwellers, assists all the inhabitants as and when required and becomes an interface between the governing bodies and the slum dwellers.

The seven slums that have been successful in formulating these slum improvement committees (SIC) in Raipur are:

  • Durga Nagar
  • Tarun Nagar
  • Indrabhatta kushta
  • Chandrashekhar Nagar
  • Kashiram Nagar
  • Gandhi Nagar of Shankar Nagar ward
  • Gandhi Nagar of Kalimata ward

The SICs in these slums have been a focal point to mobilise the community, raise awareness about applicable schemes, take the opinion of slum dwellers to the governing bodies and undertake pioneering steps towards generating a valid knowledge base about their slums through mapping and survey of the slum conducted by the slum dwellers themselves.

These SICs are now further collectivising and holding joint meetings to learn from each other experiences and provide necessary hand-holding support to each other. Each SIC has also formulated a two member committee called “Jan-Jagran Samiti” that represents the SIC and the slum dwellers by acting as a ‘Voice’ in front of media, civil society, governing bodies and people at large.

On 23rd April, the Jan-Jagran Samitis of each of the seven slum, organised a joint media interface at Raipur and took the opportunity to disseminate the issues faced by their own slums, response of the relevant governing bodies to those slums, collectivisation of the slum dwellers under SIC, various initiatives taken by SIC and slum dwellers and various success stories thereof.

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Some of the issues that the Jan-Jagran Samitis elaborated upon are as follows:

  • Durga Nagar residents represented by Mr. Bhagwan Yadav, shared the present condition of the slum dwellers, wherein the slum dwellers who have been inhabiting land of Raipur Development Authority (RDA) since many years are now facing constant threats of evictions through false notices by business men who would like to take over that piece of land.
  • Tarun Nagar residents shared their plight, wherein even though Rajiv Awas Yojana assures of in-situ upgradation, this slum that is inhabited on the ‘nazul’ land is getting notices of eviction since Raipur Municipal Corporation (RMC) claims that tenure rights on the nazul land is not feasible. However, private corporates and business men have been able to get the requisite registry of land on similar nazul land in the area. Sanitation is another one big issue for this slum community for which RMC is yet to provide for.
  • Representatives from Indrabhatta Kushta Basti and Chandrashekar Nagar elaborated upon the challenge that their slums are facing. Both of these slums are situated on the Railway Land and are not included in the Rajiv Awas Yojana, which promises a ‘slum-free city’ and in-situ upgradation or rehabilitation of each and every slum in the city.
  • Kashiram Nagar, as shared by the representatives, also faces issues of ‘tenure rights’. While representatives of Gandhi Nagar, elaborated upon the lack of connectivity of the slum to the main road, that is at present blocked due to a private construction. While cleanliness and irregular services by RMC were daunting issues for residents of Gandhi Nagar

Despite of the challenges faced by these slum communities the Jan-Jagran Samitis shared the pioneering initiative undertaken in these slums to formulate SIC and the positive initiatives towards the development of the slum taken by the SIC and the slum dwellers themselves. Some of the success stories shared by them in the media interface were as follows:

  • Efforts of SIC towards information sharing and spreading awareness about the RMC initiative of Nagar Suraj Abhiyan and even helping the slum dwellers to fill the adequate forms for the same.
  • Information boards that the SIC have formulated in each slum to provide necessary and timely information to the slum dwellers is another positive initiative that has been undertaken.
  • SIC members also assist the slum dwellers in procuring their claims, ration cards, rights from other relevant schemes etc.
  • Efforts of SIC in being proactive about the rights and processes of Rajiv Awas Yojana and equipping the community to conduct its own survey and having a correct knowledge base about their community. They shared in detail the experiences of Chandrashekar Nagar who has been successful in conducting their own slum survey through GPS and google earth. Read more about the community led survey here at Terra Urban

This “citizen-media dialogue” was the first of its kind, wherein the slum dwellers finally gathered to have a ‘Voice’ of their own and shared the same, through media. Various leading newspapers of Raipur- Patrika, Central Chronicle, Nai duniya, Navbharat, Hitvada covered this dialogue. See the clippings below:

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Knowledge is power – Certificate Courses at PRIA

PRIA International Academy of Lifelong Learning (PIALL) is the academic wing within PRIA conducting educational programmes of human and social development. The primary clientele for PIALL courses is from the development sector—mid-career professionals; practitioners with strong field experience and informal learning; adult learners who want to develop an academic base to complement practical experience; young professionals wanting upward mobility within an organisation.

PIALL is at present offering 6-month duration online Certificate Courses on the following subjects:

  • International Perspectives in Participatory Research (in joint certification with University of Victoria, Canada)
  • International Perspectives in Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (in joint certification with University of Victoria, Canada)
  • Occupational Health and Safety
  • Understanding Gender in Society
  • Participatory Training Methods
  • Local Self Governance
  • Social Accountability
  • NGO Management (Basic)
  • Urban Poverty

The certificate courses are self-learning courses which are facilitated by an instructor who is accessible to the student for any advice or issues.

For more details about these courses access: http://www.pria.org/about-pria/our-divisions/piall/piall-distance-learning-courses/overview-current-course-offers/certificate-courses

The last date for applying for these courses is April 2013 and the courses are envisioned to be completed by October 2013. Apply Quick!

Poverty of the Informal Sector – Consultation at PRIA

India is a rising economic power, even as huge portions of its economy operate in the shadows. Its “formal” economy consists of businesses that pay taxes, adhere to labour regulations and burnish the country’s global image. India’s “informal” economy is everything else: the hundreds of millions of shopkeepers, farmers, construction workers, taxi drivers, street vendors, rag pickers, tailors, repairmen, middlemen, black marketers and more. Experts estimate that the informal sector is responsible for the overwhelming majority of India’s annual economic growth and as much as 90 per cent of all employment. This informal sector called ‘informal’ because economists have difficulty in measuring it, often loses its voice and rights in the larger working of the city. The government till present hasn’t provided enough for this sector.

On 2nd April 2013 at Delhi, PRIA had an opportunity to interact with various organisations that represent these very different dimensions of poverty, the inherent issues and problems therein.  PRIA held a joint discussion with;

  1. All India Kabadi Mazdoor Mahasangh: Delhi based organization of waste collectors with more than 17,000 collectors and small junk dealers as members in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) working towards its mission of organizing the informal recycling sector for social justice and livelihood security.
  2. Nirman Mazdoor Panchayat Sangam which is an organisation of informal workers and raises issues of security and employment.
  3. National Hawkers Federation which is working since 2000, includes 550 independent hawkers’ unions and 11 Central Trade Unions representing 15 lakh hawkers across the country
  4. Delhi Hawkers Welfare Association
  5. FDI watch which is further working for hawker’s rights.

The federations and representatives shared a common view that urban poverty needs to be addressed through working on the following issues:

  • Awareness and education of the urban poor: more often than not at present the urban poor is unaware of their rights and various government schemes and therefore is unable to take advantage of the schemes as present
  • Social security of urban poor is of utmost importance and not enough government support exists for the urban poor at the moment for the same
  • Employment opportunities for urban poor are extremely important. The unrecognised informal sector exists because the urban poor who are usually migrant population find it extremely difficult to be absorbed in the formal economy and therefore a parallel economy with no financial security has existed in cities.
  • Skill Training for urban poor is a much needed demand of the present day. The urban poor who is unequipped with knowledge and skill of finding its base in a city needs handholding that shall strengthen its skill and facilitate him/her being absorbed in the  formal economy of the city
  • Privatisation and globalisation have come with its own pros and cons and there is a need for more inclusive developmental approach that caters to the need for this sect of society
  • The urban poor further need to organise themselves and interact with various organisations and federations that shall further assist in strengthening the collective voice.
  • This collective voice needs to further use the available tools of social media, meetings and consultations to spread their issues across various borders.

The consultation on 2nd April was the first springboard for facilitating talk and discussions amongst various federations and civil society members. This consultation is now attempting to further work for its cause and will be organising a much larger consultation in May.

TerraUrban would like to take this opportunity to invite all those who would like to connect to the issue of Strengthening Civil Society Voices on Urban Poverty to contact us and share their experiences such that together we can chalk out a direction for our common cause.

11th PASCAL International Observatory Conference in Hong Kong, 18-20 November 2013

In the spirit of learning partnerships, the European Union Centre at RMIT is organising a conference in conjunction with PASCAL and in partnership with the host, Hong Kong Institute of Education, and with CITYNET,  the Society for Participatory Research in Action (PRIA), the Hong Kong United Nations Education and Vocational Training  Centre (UNEVOC), the Asia Pacific Universities Community Engagement Network (APUCEN), the Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education (ASPBAE) and the East Asian Forum for Adult Education (EAFAE) towards present and future action, mainly within local neighbourhoods in big cities, to build green, safe, healthy, communities which are economically viable and sustainable.

Conference Theme:

Cities Learning Together – Local Communities in the Sustainable and Healthy Learning City

  • Can integrated effort and partnership within and between sectors, organisations and urban centres lead to a viable and sustainable future for the urban majority who now inhabit the planet?
  • How can city administrations, voluntary bodies, business and universities work together to overcome the multiple crises facing us and develop healthy cities that can survive and self-improve?
  • Does city learning really matter? How do cities really learn?  How can we create learning spaces and processes that encourage people to learn and plan consciously as groups linking up with other learner-actors across all sectors and institutions in the city?  How and where does devolution really work? How can local responsibility and wisdom be engaged to meet global and national ecological and economic priorities? How is high-level intent translated into practical action?
  • What is the role of local communities and neighbourhoods in addressing the big issues confronting cities?

It will explore tensions, connections and syntheses between:

  • Central policies and administration, and local, collaborative action, involving public, private, academic and civil society sectors;
  • Economic growth and balanced social development;
  • Short-cycle problem-solving and long-term action to contain and reduce global warming as aspirations and economic activity in the non-OECD world continue to outstrip those of the old West.

The success of the conference will be measured by the growth in instances of cities engaging to learn from each other in pursuit of resolving key challenges.

For more details see: http://conference.pascalobservatory.org/

Exclusionary urbanization of India

In an op-ed today in Hindustan Times , http://www.hindustantimes.com/ViewsSectionPage/ColumnsOthers/Is-the-glass-half-full-or-half-empty/Article1-1046670.aspx  , Amitab Kundu speaks of the exclusionary urbanization of India, a phenomenon well explicit with the census 2011 report recently published. The report cites that Slums have reported significant improvement in terms of access to basic amenities and possession of consumer assets, reducing thereby gaps between slum and non-slum areas over time and that the percentage of slum population has come down drastically during the past decade.

However what the report ignores according to Kundu is the fact that this decline in the growth rate of slum population, people below the poverty line and even that of total urban population are clear indications of an exclusionary urbanisation in the country. This process of exclusion is much stronger in metropolitan cities that provide high quality infrastructure to attract national and global entrepreneurs and build commercial and residential complexes for the upper middle class and the middle class. The process of ‘sanitisation of cities’ is operationalised by pushing the slums from the central areas to the peripheries, particularly in metro cities. This has led to demolition of slums that did not have the basic amenities or those where poor migrants lived in extremely unhygienic conditions. The percentages of households having access to amenities and assets have, thus, gone up through elimination of slums at the lower end.

Also, the data provided on basic amenities by the Census captures the availability of the amenities and assets but not the quality variation. People do not survive without drinking water and even if they get a bucket or two after waiting for two hours in front of a public stand post, they are placed in the category of people having tap water. The same is true for all other facilities.

Kundu correctly questions whether the statistics as mentioned in the Census Report should be taken at face value as an indication of inclusivity of the cities and opportunities they offer to migrants in slums to get integrated with city lifestyle or rather as a dilemma whether the glass is half full or empty!