Monthly Archives: June 2013

National Consultation on Urban Poverty held at Delhi

The much awaited National Consultation on Urban Poverty, learning from the work of PRIA and SPARC during the last two years for ‘Strengthening Civil Society Voice on Urban Poverty’ and inputs of various experts, policy makers, community members successfully concluded in Delhi on Friday.

The consultation was greeted with enriching participation of various stakeholders and also saw coverage in major newspapers and online media.

Find below some of the excerpts from the media coverage:

From ‘The Hindu’: A project carried out by the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) and PRIA (Society for Participatory Research In Asia) in 34 cities in 11 States brought to fore issues that affect the urban poor, for instance there is no identity of the urban poor, despite the fact that 40 per cent of them live outside of slums.

PRIA president Rajesh Tandon said one-third of the country’s population is estimated to be living in urban areas and of this at least 50 per cent can be categorised as poor. “As per secondary data, cities’ economic contribution towards the GDP is two-thirds, of which the urban poor contribute nearly 25 per cent, yet resources for their problem alleviation is not even two per cent of the GDP,” said Dr. Tandon.

Speaking on the sidelines of the consultation, ‘Urban Poverty: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities’, he said the basic needs of the urban poor categorised as domestic helps, rickshaw pullers, daily wagers, hawkers, etc., cannot be ignored as a large percentage of this population make a major contribution to the economy.

“Ironically, these people are considered a burden on the city rather than equal citizens. Better urban governance is therefore a necessary condition for empowering the urban poor and improving their opportunities and security. Unless the implementation of these programmes is improved, it would be very difficult to bring the urban poor out of poverty. Policies addressing income and affordability, sanitation, health, etc. should be well structured and monitored,” he said.

The recommendations of the consultation, Dr. Tandon said, will be sent to the Planning Commission and the State Governments for forming coalitions at the city, State and Central level for meaningful engagement with the policy-makers.

Read more at:

From ‘The Business Standard’: The meeting on “Urban Poverty: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities” saw a gathering of people studying the issue come together in the national capital Friday.

Participants drew attention to the fact that a large percentage of the city population belonged to low income groups, and their needs could not be ignored.

Rajesh Tandon, president, Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), said people belonging to low income groups including rickshaw pullers, vendors, hawkers and daily wage labourers were “considered a burden on the city rather than equal citizens.”

“Better urban governance is necessary for empowering the urban poor and improving their opportunities and security. Policies addressing income and affordability, sanitation and health should be well structured and monitored,” he said.

Tandon said 40 percent of urban poor stay outside slums and the rate of inward migration was higher in smaller cities than in metropolitan ones.

Sheela Patel of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres ( SPARC) said efforts were being made to evolve a coalition of federations of urban poor.She said there cannot be a uniform solution to problems of the urban poor, and it had to be city-specific.

Aromar Revi of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) said the rate of migration to cities could increase if there was collapse of agriculture.He pointed to other situations that could offer insights, saying that India’s rate of urbanisation was slower that in some Latin American countries.

Read more at:

Stay tuned to Terra Urban for more updates and learnings from the Consultation!


Session 3: National Consultation on Urban Poverty, Delhi

Schemes and Services for the Urban Poor: Issues and Challenges

 2011 census has indicated a growing urban population and continued migration from rural to urban areas. Urban centers are bursting to their seams, with lack of planning and services for its inhabitants. These urban centers are facing a very big problem, where a high proportion of the population lives in informal settlements lacking basic infrastructure and services and the right to live in the city. The institutions of urban governance are constantly battling with this challenge as rising urbanization is also leading to increasing ‘urbanization of the poverty’.

The third session of the Urban Poverty consultation to be held in Delhi on 20 – 21 June will explore the understanding and current state of schemes and services for the urban poor.

Highlights of the Third Session: Schemes and Services for Urban Poor

Urban poverty is multidimensional and the inherent vulnerability of the poor is manifested by their lack of access to economic and livelihood resources, land and housing, physical infrastructure and services, health and education facilities, social security networks and empowerment. At present there are various State and Central level programs that are working towards urban renewal, city upgradation, housing for the poor and several announcements have been made by the central government about its policy commitments towards urban development. These include such populist slogans as ‘slum-free cities’, ‘inclusive cities’, ‘cities without  poverty’, etc. New schemes are launched such as Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) which aims to  guarantee security of tenure for the urban poor.

Here are the few important questions which this session will raise:

(1)   Are schemes and services for the urban poor designed in the most appropriate and realistic manner? (refer,,

(2)   What challenges/difficulties are faced by the urban poor in availing various government schemes and services?

(3)   Do issues of identity, caste, class, gender etc., have implications on the accessibility of these schemes and services?

(4)   What roles can associations of urban poor play in efficient delivery of services? (,,

Moderator and Speakers of the Session:     

Ms. Sheela Patel, Director of SPARC, Mumbai shall moderate the session. Mr. Brij Kumar Agrawal, Joint secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Government of India shall share the concrete ideas and inputs from the government side on various schemes and services, Mr. Vignesh Jha (FIUPW)- Federation of Rickshaw Pullers of India and Mr. Shashi Bhushan Pandit (FIUPW)- All India Kabadi Mazdoor Mahasangh   shall represent the community and bring forth the challenges faced by urban poor in availing these government schemes and services. Ms. Twinkle Uppal, Enactus, Shri Ram College of Commerce, New Delhi She will raise the issues of how urban non-poor youth mobilization can help us in creating buzz on urban poverty issue in metropolitan cities like Delhi and Mr. Aromar Revi, Director, Indian Institute of Human settlement (IIHS) Bangalore will bring forth his vast knowledge and understanding of urban poverty issues in India.

Redefining Urban Poverty: Session 1- National Consultation on Urban Poverty, Delhi

In Development as Freedom, Amartya Sen defines poverty as the deprivation of basic capabilities that provide a person with the freedom to choose the life he or she has reason to value. These capabilities include good health, education, social networks, and command over economic resources, and influence on decision-making that affects one’s life.

Defining Urban Poverty

From this perspective, poverty is a condition with many interdependent and closely related dimensions which can be summarized in three broad categories:

  • Lack of regular income and employment, productive assets (such as land and housing), access to social safety nets;
  • Lack of access to services such as education, health care, information, credit, water supply and sanitation;
  • Lack of political power, participation, dignity and respect.

Urban poverty reduction requires different kinds of approaches, because it is different from rural poverty in many respects: the urban poor are affected by the highly monetized nature of urban living, which forces them to spend far more on accommodation, food, transport and other services than the rural poor; unlike rural poverty, urban poverty is characterized by the regulatory exclusion of the poor from the benefits of urban development. Moreover, the nature of urban communities is distinct and urban poverty is not easily addressed by the community-based approaches developed for rural poverty reduction. (Read more at

The Three Aspects of Poverty

ESCAP paper on Facing the Challenges of Urbanization and Urban Poverty in Asia and the Pacific has articulated that Poverty essentially has three closely interrelated aspects: “poverty of money”, “poverty of access” and “poverty of power.” These make the working, living and social environments of the poor extremely insecure and severely limit the options available to them to improve their lives. Without choices and security, breaking the cycle of poverty becomes virtually impossible and leads to the marginalization and alienation of the poor from society. The various dimensions to these aspects of poverty as articulated by UNESCAP are

Poverty Alleviation Strategies

ESCAP paper has highlighted various strategies that are used as ‘poverty reduction strategies’ and should be aimed towards the three kinds of poverty as mentioned above. The strategies highlighted include:

  • Alleviating the Poverty of Money: Integrating the Economies of the Poor, Providing Access to Credit, Investing in the Knowledge-based Economy, Promoting Community-based Safety-nets,
  • Alleviating the Poverty of Access: regularization of existing settlements, self-constructed housing, tenure rights, rights to services, upgradation of existing settlements, participatory planning
  • Alleviating the Poverty of Power: Supporting Collective Mechanisms, Increasing Access to Information

As highlighted on Terraurban, Society for Participatory Research In Asia (PRIA), Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers (SPARC) and Forum of Informal Urban Poor Workers (FIUPW) are organising a National Consultation on Urban Poverty at Delhi on 21-22nd June at India Habitat Centre. (

The first session of this consultation aims to show light on all the above mentioned aspects with grassroots experiences shared by PRIA, SPARC and associated partners. The details of the first session are mentioned below:

Technical Session 1: Redefining Urban Poverty: Issues and Challenges

 Moderator and Speakers of the Session:                       

Prof. Amitabh Kundu, a renowned academician with expertise in the issues related to the urbanization and urban poverty shall moderate the session.

The diverse range of speakers from urban arena in this session include: community representative from Patna’s slum, members from National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labor, Janpahal, National Alliance for Labor Rights and Civil Society, namely

  • Ms. Ranjana Chouhan, Community Representative
  • Mr. Subhash Bhatnagar, FIUPW
  • Mr. Dharmendra Kumar FIUPW
  • Mr. Rajesh Upadhyay FIUPW
  • Mr. Dunu Roy Civil Society

Few fundamental questions that the session shall raise are:

  • What are the various aspects/dynamics of urban poverty?
  • What makes urban poverty different from rural poverty?
  • How can the challenges of urban poverty be addressed?
  • What is the role of civil society in addressing urban poverty?

 If you are a community member, civil society actor, academician, policy maker or a concerned citizen – Terraurban values your experiences and hopes to encourage learning through peers. Share with us your thoughts, your projects and experiences and we shall have them uploaded here! Comment on this blog or mail to

Hand-Shake with poverty!

Reposted from, Some are more equal than others

FOR many migrants who do not live in factory dormitories, life in the big city looks like the neighbourhood of Shangsha East Village: a maze of alleys framed by illegally constructed apartment buildings in the boom town of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong. There are at least 200 buildings, many of them ten storeys tall. They are separated by only a metre or so, hence the name “handshake buildings”—residents of neighbouring blocks can reach out from their windows and high-five.

The buildings are China’s favelasbuilt illegally on collectively owned rural land. Rents are cheap. An eight-square-metre (86-square-foot) flat costs less than $100 a month. They symbolise both the success of the government’s urbanisation policy and also its chronic failures. China has managed a more orderly system of urbanisation than many developing nations. But it has done so on the cheap. Hundreds of millions of migrants flock to build China’s cities and manufacture the country’s exports. But the cities have done little to reward or welcome them, investing instead in public services and infrastructure for their native residents only. Rural migrants living in the handshake buildings are still second-class citizens, most of whom have no access to urban health care or to the city’s high schools. Their homes could be demolished at any time.

An unusually public debate has unfolded in think-tanks, on microblogs and in state media about how China should improve the way it handles urbanisation. Some propose that migrants in cities should, as quickly as possible, be given the same rights to services as urban dwellers. Others insist that would-be migrants should first be given the right to sell their rural plot of land to give them a deposit for their new urban life. Still others say the government must allow more private and foreign competition in state-controlled sectors of the economy such as health care, which would expand urban services for all, including migrants. Most agree the central government must bear much more of the cost of public services and give more power to local governments to levy taxes.

Any combination of these options would be likely to raise the income of migrants, help them to integrate into city life and narrow the gap between the wealthy and the poor, which in China is among the widest in the world. Such reforms would also spur on a slowing economy by boosting domestic consumption.

The problems of migrants and of income inequality are deeply entrenched in two pillars of discriminatory social policy that have stood since the 1950s and must be dealt with before real change can come: the household registration system, or hukou, and the collective ownership of rural land.

The hukou perpetuates a rigid caste system. Children of holders of rural hukou inherit their parents’ second-class status, even if they are born in cities. Many urbanites want to keep this system in place, to protect their preferential access to jobs, education and health care.

City governments, meanwhile, cannot afford to extend public services to migrants. Zheng Zhijie, president of state-owned China Development Bank, estimated in May that cities would require 50 trillion yuan ($8.2 trillion) in investment by 2020 to accommodate 100m new migrants and provide increased benefits to those already there. Shanghai’s schools give a sense of the scale of the problem: the city had 170,000 students enrolled in high school in 2010, all holders of Shanghai hukou; more than three times that many children—570,000 migrant children aged 15 to 19—were living in the city in 2010 without Shanghai hukou, most of them unable to attend those schools.

The collective control of rural land by local officials also impedes social mobility, by allowing local governments and developers to dispossess farmers of the land they lease—and to pay them far below market value for it.

At the same time, housing prices in cities are increasingly out of reach for migrants. The central government has encouraged the construction of low-cost housing in cities with limited success, since only local hukou holders are eligible.

The discriminatory policies continue to take their toll on migrants. China has 163m migrant workers who have left their home township (another 99m people are classified as migrants even though they have only given up farming without moving away). A higher proportion of those were co-renting apartments with others in 2012 than four years earlier (19.7%, up from 16.7%), according to data released this week by the National Bureau of Statistics. And fewer migrants are becoming homeowners—0.6% in 2012, down from 0.9% in 2008.

Some scholars say a solution lies in the handshake buildings of Shenzhen. Tao Ran of Renmin University in Beijing says the government should legalise such buildings around the country—allowing rural dwellers near cities to develop them and rent out flats to migrants—and then levy taxes and fees to pay for expanding services. It sounds like a reasonable proposal that would increase the supply of affordable housing and help more migrants become proper urban residents.

Read entire article at :

Street courts help women in Bangalore slums

Reposted from Urbim, by Carlin Carr, Bangalore Community Manager

Concerns for women’s safety in India have dominated headlines this year. Since the horrific gang rape in Delhi last year, stories about mothers, teenagers, and even young girls being subjected to violent attacks, rapes, and other physically and sexually gruesome incidents have been reported on nearly every week, if not every day. While the Delhi rape case was committed by men who were strangers to the victim, all too often women know the perpetrators of such crimes. A 2012 Indian Journal of Public Health article paints a grim picture of domestic violence statistics. The violence, in its many forms, cuts across social and economic strata; however, poor women face violence at significantly higher rates, and their position in society leaves them with few avenues for redress.

Community and family support were commonly missing among victims in the study. One of the recommendations was that women in slums need “more social support, awareness and income generation.” In Bangalore, an organization called Global Concerns India has been targeting its efforts in the slums to increasing social support to women, particularly those affected by domestic violence. “The many women’s ‘self-help’ groups in the slums are primarily economic,premised on capitalistic microcredit loans, rather than social empowerment,” says an article on GCI’s site.

One area of focus is a street court that, until GCI moved into the Bangalore slum of Lakshman Rau Nagar in 2009, literally took place outside in the narrow bylanes on straw mats. GCI says that a woman named Anu, 23, was the first person to bring her grievances to the Naari Adalit, or “Women’s Court.” Anu, who was more educated than her husband and had a good job, used to be beaten by her jealous husband. With the help of GCI Director Brinda Adige, a social activist, the community of Lakshman Rau Nagar gathered to discuss the issue and take collective responsibility.

In an interview on Radio Open Source, Adige chronicles her experience developing a system to help women in Lakshman Rau Nagar and her tough approach that grew the street court into a local institution: “They call the Office the place where, if you have a problem, it will get sorted out. There will be a solution that we can find for it… but you have to be responsible for it… It’s only when the women come here that they realize that the question, the answer, the problem, the solution lies within them… If you put up with nonsense, you get nonsense all the time.”

In addition to the Naari Adalit, CGI has worked with local self-help groups to expand their efforts to empower women. Most important, however, has been the role of the community in seeing that these programs, as well as the court, continue to make a positive impact. “Young men in the slum have also been keen to get involved,” says CGI, “and the Women’s Court is transforming into a ‘People’s Court.'”

The Women’s Court is a promising model that shows the power of community-led solutions to inspire change. That’s not to say that the state doesn’t play a key role. More stringent laws need to be enacted to protect women and more institutionalized education programs for men need to be integrated into schools. No matter the mechanism, one thing is clear: progress can only be made in a cooperative environment, and Naari Adalit shows that communities will take responsibility if clear avenues are created for bringing justice to the situation.

Photo credit: Meena Kadri

Planning: Why slums can’t be separated from Mumbai

Reposted from ‘FirstPost’, article by Mahesh Vijapurkar

From a scattered, notional presence in Mumbai till the 1950s, slums have become so dominant a feature that they can no longer be ignored when planning for the city. Hitherto, slums were where the ‘other’ lived, deserving of platitudes, and also of patronage for political purposes. They have been the ‘outland’.

It may change, if one goes by the city’s civic body’s chairman Rahul Shewale’s admission recently that the slums “cannot be left out of the planning process”. That is what Mumbai has been doing all along, side step the slums as a habitat where fellow citizens—or humans?—lived. But even now, while welcome, it remains a glimmer of hope.

That concession, of course, has come perhaps too late, after Urban Research Design Institute (UDRI) and other serious urban habitat activists put the pressure on the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) that it cease being careless with the marking of existing land use of the city.

UDRI’s version is that when omissions in DP draft were pointed out by 22 organizations, including an assessment of such neglected or ignored areas, Shewale recently acknowledged how compressive plan for the entire city was critical, and asked them to detail their views to the civic body. But that at least marks a reformed principle of town planning.

While formulating its development plan (DP) for Mumbai’s next 20 years, the MCGM had ignored large swaths of lands occupied by slums, which has been the case with earlier to one extent or other. In the process, the city had hurt itself in ways not acknowledged or measured so far.

Public consultations and meetings with civic officials and leaders has wrested this acknowledgement that if the city was to be planned and comprehensively developed, then it ought to be taken as a whole, not just the ‘formal’—a word for the legit housing—as well as the informal, the slums, together.

Mapping of the ignored areas about which Shewale appears serious as of now does not in any manner imply a sudden change of fortunes for the slum dwellers. Frankly, they are too large a size for any, even serious, effort to make a quick difference. It would need years, even decades, to be felt.

Not all slums are serviced by the civic body; they are if only such habitats are on civic lands though this is slowly easing thanks to the intermediation of the politicians, more out of self-interest to keep the vote banks alive than a civic consideration. Not all slum clusters are entitled to free rehabilitation under slum rehousing programmes unless they predate 1995.

Even statistics on the basis of which the civic body claims certain level of services, like for instance per capita water supply, is flawed. The total water supply divided by the total population, including the unserviced slums is the per capita water made available to the city!

The slums are useful only when some builders have to be benefited and the benefactor government comes up with plans for their redevelopment. They are, as any survey would indicate, the priority, not the slums and their dwellers. The slums are only incidental or collateral beneficiaries.

From virtually no, or only nominal slums, to rapid increases in their numbers and the strength of the populations contained in them, they have grown to an alarming size. In 2001, the Census put figures on slum and non-slum populations. That was the first time some quantification.

During 1976, an effort was made to identify the slum component in some way. The findings of what is passed off as a ‘census’ is unavailable despite the best effort s of this writer. A part of it was called only a ‘survey’—as being less official—because the slums were on private lands. The 2001 alone was definitive and findings publicly known.

This census put number at 5,823,510 out of 11,914,398 persons in the headcount, which was 54.6 per cent of the city residents. Even the fact that only C Ward, despite being most overcrowded among all, was without slums. Even that did not jolt the city planners and managers. They remained in their slumber.

The subsequent census in 2011 came up with a provisional number, of 44 per cent of all households were slum dwellings. That does not necessarily mean that 44 percent of households translates to a less than 2011’s 55 percent proportion. Slum households can be extremely overcrowded, people sleeping in turns.

Mapping of the ignored areas about which Shewale appears serious as of now does not in any manner imply a sudden change of fortunes for the slum dwellers. Frankly, they are too large a size for any, even serious, effort to make a quick difference. It would need years, even decades, to be felt.

A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development

The High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda released “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development,” a report which sets out a universal agenda to eradicate extreme poverty from the face of the earth by 2030, and deliver on the promise of sustainable development. The report calls upon the world to rally around a new Global Partnership that offers hope and a role to every person in the world.

The Panel was established by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and co-chaired by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron.

In the report, the Panel calls for the new post-2015 goals to drive five big transformative shifts:

  • Leave No One Behind. After 2015 we should move from reducing to ending extreme poverty, in all its forms. We should ensure that no person – regardless of ethnicity, gender, geography, disability, race or other status – is denied basic economic opportunities and human rights.
  • Put Sustainable Development at the Core. We have to integrate the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability.  We must act now to slow the alarming pace of climate change and environmental degradation, which pose unprecedented threats to humanity.
  • Transform Economies for Jobs and Inclusive Growth. A profound economic transformation can end extreme poverty and improve livelihoods, by harnessing innovation, technology, and the potential of business. More diversified economies, with equal opportunities for all, can drive social inclusion, especially for young people, and foster sustainable consumption and production patterns.
  • Build Peace and Effective, Open and Accountable Institutions for All. Freedom from conflict and violence is the most fundamental human entitlement, and the essential foundation for building peaceful and prosperous societies.  At the same time, people the world over expect their governments to be honest, accountable, and responsive to their needs.  We are calling for a fundamental shift – to recognize peace and good governance as a core element of wellbeing, not an optional extra.
  • Forge a New Global Partnership. A new spirit of solidarity, cooperation, and mutual accountability must underpin the post-2015 agenda.  This new partnership should be based on a common understanding of our shared humanity, based on mutual respect and mutual benefit.  It should be centered around people, including those affected by poverty and exclusion, women, youth, the aged, disabled persons, and indigenous peoples. It should include civil society organizations, multilateral institutions, local and national governments, the scientific and academic community, businesses, and private philanthropy.

The report builds upon the historic advances of the Millennium Development Goals. It also harnesses the incredible passion and diversity of voices heard in the Panel’s consultations with people around the globe. The Panel interacted with more than 5,000 civil society groups from 121 countries in developing its recommendations.

The report was presented to the United Nations Secretary-General, as an input in the process of consultations being conducted by the U.N. in crafting the development agenda to succeed the Millennium Development Goals following the 2015 deadline for their achievement. The Secretary-General is expected to present his own vision for the world’s next development agenda to U.N. member states in September 2013.

Download the full report :