Identity, Dignity and Social Security for Urban Poor
Rapidly changing scenario of urban area is the matter of concern and attention. There are various issues associated to the urbanization and in India urban population is expected to hit 600 million by 2030 with urbanization of 40% (in fact in practical terms the urban population would be about 60% if we take into account floating urban population). As per reports of Planning Commission of India, cities contribute about 63% of country’s GDP. According to 2011 Census, one fifth of the urban populations live in non pukka houses. One third of the urban household (120 million people) in the big cities of India live in single room houses, with 3% having no room to them. Also, 19% of them have no latrine facilities inside their houses. Almost one-third of population of an average city lives in slums and other poor pockets. It is an irony that voting percentage in slum areas is highest in most of cities but the slum issues remain politically and administrative neglected.
No doubt there are many schemes and services for urban poor, but due to lack of implementation largely because of stiff criteria for selecting beneficiaries these schemes don’t serve their purpose. Urban poor struggle with many issues such as: lack of identity in the eyes of governments, distorted identities in society, lack of employment opportunities, informality of work, inadequate and insecure housing, unhealthy and inhuman environment, lack of social security, limited access to health services, and limited education opportunities.
India is the largest democracy in the world. Like any democracy, political parties in India have greater say in bringing enabling policies and programmes for urban poor. Since elections are approaching in Delhi, FIUPW would like put forth following issues for the consideration of political parties with request to include them in their respective election manifestos.
Forum of Informal Urban Poor Workers (FIUPW) is a coalition of various associations, federations and civil societies at national level. FIUPW is consistently working on the neglected areas of unorganized sectors and informal settlements. It is one of its own kinds. It’s comprised of 8 NGOs and 18 associations and federations. Delhi Jhuggi Jhopri Ekta Manch, Hawkers Joint Action Committee, National Campaign Commttee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour, Federation of Rickshaw Pullers of India, All India Kabadi Mazdoor Mahasangh and Janpahal are few of them. FIUPW aims at providing basic rights to all neglected sections of Indian society.
Demands for Manifesto
Informal urban workers are valuable citizens of city contributing to city’s growth and its well-being. They have equal rights to access all the resources of cities which other citizen can access.
A. Basic Minimum Needs
- Government should proactively and compulsorily provide comprehensive identity card to all informal workers and their families (All inclusive card in support of citizenship of city and rights over services)
- There should be quantifiable and judiciously justifiable norms of employment guarantee, non-employment allowance, pension, monsoon/drought allowance, child care and accidental relief to all informal workers
- All informal workers and slum dwellers should be provided basic housing facilities with securities of tenure under existing or future schemes of government
- Under Right to Education there should be special provisions for children of informal urban workers
B. Proactive Legislative Actions
All the above should be legislative schedule and kept for periodically review
C. Institutional Reforms
- There should be separate budget allocated in the annual plan and budget of the city for informal workers
- Independent boards and committees comprising representatives of informal sectors and slum dwellers should be constituted for recommending, monitoring and implementing social security measures e.g. there should be a formation of Town Vending Committee (TVC) and Hawkers board and at every municipal level
Basic Minimum Needs
Provision of Identity Card: Indian citizen’s living in a place and for working in same or other place should get government recognized certificate in support of her/his identity and the address. Informal workers often face constant harassment from local police and municipal authorities due to this identity (card) problem. Poor are not eligible for receiving services if they don’t have relevant identity proof. So, there must be provision of providing identity cards to the informal settlers. For example domestic workers should be given government ID proof that is recognized all over the country so that they get their benefits when they retire or change the job. Same is applicable to waste collectors, hawkers, construction workers, vendors and other such informal workers. In case of Cycle Rickshaws, they should get consideration as the only eco-friendly mode of public transportation. Similarly, children of urban poor workers have a right to identity in order to avail various services provided by the government of Delhi. Therefore, children of urban poor workers may be provided birth registration certificates.
Livelihood and Social Security: Informal workers and/or slum dwellers are citizens of India and so, have constitutional rights for social and life securities. Thus government must provide them social security in terms of employment opportunities, decent working condition, safety, and security at work places and also at habitation levels. There should be provision for employment guarantee, non-employment allowance, pension, monsoon/drought allowance, child care, and accidental relief to all vulnerable sections. The traditional livelihood opportunities of these vulnerable sections should be protected against unequal competitions such as waste collectors should be given exclusive rights for door to door collection at the housing cluster and neighborhood levels (instead of allowing entries of more resourceful private players). Same in the case of hawkers who feel threatened by rapid emergence of corporate chain retailers in Delhi. All hawkers/vendors should be served and registered and be protected from unequal competition by having adequate regulations including of location and reserved goods. Equal pay for equal work for both men and women in order to reduce economic inequality not only among individuals but among different groups. Similarly, the government should ensure proper working conditions for workers, with full enjoyment of leisure, social and cultural activities.
Housing Facilities: As per United Nation’s –The Universal Declaration of Human Rights; everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services. So Housing is the most basic need of every individual and informal workers/slum dwellers are also entailed to avail better housing facilities. All informal workers (for example hawkers) and slum dwellers should be provided basic housing facilities with securities of tenure under the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). An independent committee should be constituted to monitor the functioning of all homeless shelters. Systematic and accountable efforts must be taken to improve the functioning of temporary shelters to make them habitable, including providing electricity, fans, drinking water, toilets and basic healthcare.
Education: As we all know India joined a group of few countries in the world, with a historic law making education a fundamental right of every child coming into force. Making elementary education an entitlement for children in the 6–14 age group, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act will directly benefit children who do not go to school at present. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that every child of the age of six to fourteen years shall complete his/her elementary education in a neighborhood school. Special provisions for children of urban poor workers for not admitted to, or who have not completed, elementary education should be made in terms of special training, transfer to other schools in case of displacement from one work place to another, no denial of admission, relaxation in proof of age for admission etc. Privatization of government schools need to check and proper mechanism should be in place to prohibit such process of privatization.
Some Possible Ways to Address the Needs
1. Proactive Legislative Actions: There should be re-implementation of National Urban Transport Bill-2006. There is a need to constitute central monitoring task force to implement The Street Vendors policy (2009) as directed by the Honorable Supreme Court of India on 9th Sept. A central legislation that makes it mandatory for state and local governments to guarantee livelihood and social security, space and welfare services to waste collectors, hawkers, rickshaw pullers and other informal sectors should be immediately enacted. Government should constitute unorganised worker’s policies and there should be provision of unorganised labour specific law. Besides that Unorganised Workers Social Security Act- 2008 needs a push. Retail giants should be required to recognize unions and bargain collectively and separate National Wage board should be established for workers in the retail trade services.
2. Institutional Reform: There should be separate budget allotment for urban poor; it should be 70% of annual budget. Independent boards comprising representatives of informal sectors and slum dwellers should be constituted to ensure timely enactment and implementation of appropriate policies’ and programmes for urban poor. For example; there should be a formation of Town Vending Committee (TVC) at every municipal corporation level, which should include 40% elected representatives of street vendors out of which 30% should be women. Elected representatives of street vendors belonging to Widow, Handicap, SC, ST, OBC and Minority community should be given priority to represent street vendors in town and other vending committees. A special Hawkers Board should be constituted to provide social security schemes to hawkers. Natural, traditional, weekly, neighborhood markets should be promoted and protected through adequate policy initiatives. The areas of licensing, urban planning competition, procurement, local control and respect for the environment are all critical concerns and should be taken into consideration while allowing large chain retailers in Delhi and in case of domestic workers a Tripartite Board should be the instrument for implementation of the Act. The composition of the Board and its lower formations must be tripartite in nature and give the pride of place to workers through their elected representatives with proportionate representation for women workers. The Board should undertake:
- Registration of workers and their social security contributions
- Regulation of conditions of work
- Social protection
- Registration of employers and collection of their contribution for social security
 UN-Habitat and WHO, 2010.Hidden Cities: Unmasking and Overcoming Health Inequities in Urban Settings.
 Ghosh, J and Chandrasekhar, C.P. 2013. The Changing Face of Urban Poverty in The Hindu, Business Line, Online Edition, Available online at: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/columns/c-p-chandrasekhar/the-changing-face-of-urban-poverty/article4379020.ece