Monthly Archives: January 2014


By Shivani Singh, PRIA

In order to have a clear understanding towards the concept and definition of ‘what is urban’ we need to look into the fact that how different entities have defined the word ‘urban’. This will help us in selecting indicators for urban area and ultimately answering the big question are we urban enough?

The Encyclopedia Britannic[1]: It defines city as, relatively permanent and highly organized centre of population, of greater size or importance than a town or village. The name city is given to certain urban communities by virtue of some legal or conventional distinction that can vary between regions or nations. In most cases, however, the concept of city refers to a particular type of community, the urban community, and its culture, known as “urbanism.”

The Registrar general of India: As per the census of India 2001 urban is defined as all places with a municipality, corporation, cantonment board or notified town area committee, etc. b. A place satisfying the following three criteria simultaneously:

  • a minimum population of 5,000;
  • at least 75 per cent of male working population engaged in non-agricultural pursuits; and
  • a density of population of at least 400 per sq . km. (1,000 per sq. mile).

UNICEF[2]: The definition of ‘urban’ varies from country to country, and, with periodic reclassification, can also vary within one country over time, making direct comparisons difficult. An urban area can be defined by one or more of the following: administrative criteria or political boundaries (e.g., area within the jurisdiction of a municipality or town committee), a threshold population size (where the minimum for an urban settlement is typically in the region of 2,000 people, although this varies globally between 200 and 50,000), population density, economic function (e.g., where a significant majority of the population is not primarily engaged in agriculture, or where there is surplus employment) or the presence of urban characteristics (e.g., paved streets, electric lighting, sewerage). In 2010, 3.5 billion people lived in areas classified as urban.

National Geographic[3]: An urban area is the region surrounding a city. Most inhabitants of urban areas have nonagricultural jobs. Urban areas are very developed, meaning there is a density of human structures such as houses, commercial buildings, roads, bridges, and railways. “Urban area” can refer to towns, cities, and suburbs. An urban area includes the city itself, as well as the surrounding areas. Many urban areas are called metropolitan areas, or “greater,” as in Greater New York or Greater London.

Wikipedia: An urban area is characterized by higher population density and vast human features in comparison to the areas surrounding it.

So are we urban enough?

On the basis of above mentioned definitions the basic features of an urban area can be understood on the basis of following indicators:

  • Size: The size of an urban area is greater than the size of any village or town.
  • Population: In an urban area the population is greater than any town or its village.
  • Municipality: An urban area has municipality, corporation, cantonment board or notified town area committee, resident welfare associations, mayor association etc.
  • Non-agricultural work: The majority of population is engaged in non-agricultural jobs.
  • Urban characteristics: An urban area has paved streets, electric lighting, sewerage facilities etc.

Considering at the above indicators that define an urban areas I need to pose a question to the readers – ARE WE URBAN ENOUGH?

Does the city/areas you live in qualify to be urban area? Or is it still considered as rural in government records?

How does the municipality in your area works? It is people centric? What are the challenges in front of your municipality?

What are the non-agricultural jobs people are involved in? How many people are from informal sector in your state? What are the different kinds of trades they are involved in?

Does your city have paved streets, electric lighting, sewerage facilities etc and in what condition?

Do share some example from your own city, place, locality, and workplace. To find out what we need to change around in order to be fully urban!

See similar query raised at Terraurban:

Are ‘Slums’ Urban?


Why So Many Emerging Megacities Remain So Poor


he big story of global economic development over the past several decades has been the steady march of urbanization and the development of mega-cities around the world. As I noted earlier this week, the percentage of the world’s population that lives in cities has grown from less than a third in the middle of the twentieth century to more than half today.

Economists and urbanists have generally considered increasing urbanization to be a good thing. The long history of global cities — from ancient Rome to London and New York today — is a story of increasing progress and prosperity.

But those concerned with the “Global South” have rightly pointed to the persistent poverty in some large, dense cities of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Consider the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kinshasa — a booming megalopolis of 8.4 million in a country that has a GDP per capita of only $410.

If urbanization really helps drive economic development, why do many global cities remain poor?

Read more : click here


By Shivani Singh, PRIA

As urban areas are sprawling more in comparison to rural areas, similarly urban poverty issues are also gaining momentum in development sector. There is seen a change in outlook towards the urban poor and their contribution towards building the city. Hence referred as ‘city makers’ by a Delhi based NGO named IGSSS working with the mandate for a humane social order based on truth, justice, freedom and equity.

In order to understand urban poverty a two day event was being organized by IGSSS. The objective of the workshop was to understand the existing initiatives of IGSSS and those of other organization working in the urban domain as well as to understand the existing legal framework applicable for various categories of urban poor in India so as to explore programmatic opportunities for IGSSS. The discussions contributed towards broadening IGSSS’ urban poverty programme.

In the event representatives from various organizations came to share about their experiences. Mr Dunu Roy from Hazards Centre, Ms Shivani Singh from PRIA and other NGO partners of IGSSS shared about their activities with urban poor workers. In the discussion various issues emerged mentioned in detail below:

  • Urban poor are workers this needs to be realized that urban poor are workers. They do work in order to earn. The population is engaged in various works that builds the economy of city. They are hawkers, vendors, rag pickers, rickshaw pullers, home based workers, cart pullers and the work they do is remains invisible.
  •  Unsuitable schemes for urban poor: There are many schemes for improving the living conditions of the urban poor, but they haven’t yielded desired results and helped the nondescript and invisible people. Schemes for Urban poor such as urban livelihood mission, Urban renewal mission, urban poverty removal scheme, skill development mission, JnNURM, Basic Services to the Urban Poor (BSUP), Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programme (IHSDP) are having their own limitations. For example the schemes ‘urban livelihood mission’ doesn’t recognize traditional skills of people who are migrating from rural areas. They migrate due to unemployment and the employment they get in urban areas is not incognizance with their traditional skill set. This needs attention.
  •  Citizenship & Identity: The poor take care of their documentary proof more than themselves. There is need to merge different kinds of identity poof such as Voter ID cards, Ration Cards, UIDs into one. As poor who migrate in search of employment face a challenge in preserving the documents given the situation in which they live.
  •  Urban Local Bodies: The way Gram Sabha plays an important role in a rural set up. Similarly ULBs should play an important role in urban set up. But they are not decentralized up to slum level. This brings in the need to have a group that will represent the voices of urban poor at the community level. For example Molalla Sabhas.
  •  Labour Laws not for unorganized: In India there are over 45 labour laws. But they cater to the laborers of organized sector. Despite of 93% of working population in India being from unorganized sector. However there is an Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008 is an Indian Act related to Industrial law enacted by the Government of India, to provide for the social security and welfare of the unorganized workers (meaning home-based workers, self-employed workers or daily-wage workers). But still there is a long way to go.

The discussion ended with IGSSS partners sharing about their experiences working with urban poor.  They mainly highlighted the state specific problems faced by the urban poor such as: unionizing the migratory urban poor problems, shelter for homeless, police atrocity on urban poor, and evacuation or displacement.

In nutshell urban issues needs to be viewed from four directions Rights, Entitlements, Services and Welfare and the people who are working should take up any of these direction in order to realize the objectives set for the development of urban poor.  The strategies or tools in hand can be Direct, Indirect (through partners), Organizing and through Advocacy.

Making the Urban Poor Safer: Lessons from Nairobi and Mumba

Vulnerability and Poverty: Making the Urban Poor Safer: Lessons from Nairobi …: By Jean Pierre Tranchant

Nairobi and Mumbai are very good examples of highly unequal megacities. 40% of Nairobi’s inhabitants and 60% of Mumbai are slum-dwellers ; in Nairobi it is estimated that half of the people live on about 1% of the land area. Yet both cities are also very modern metropolises with plentiful opportunities to offer; are key engines of growth, and are poised to recieve even more people coming from rural areas or smaller towns.

Both cities are also affected by urban violence, including crime and (ethnic) riots. These different types of urban violence are inherently linked. In both Nairobi and Mumbai, neighbourhoods where riots or post-electoral violence occurred tend to have prevalent crime and gang activities rooted in poverty.
Research was done by IDS researchers in urban Maharashtra and IDS and CHRIPS researchers in Nairobi, which included the use of original data, the participation of key local actors, and extensive desk-based review, on how we can make the urban poor safer. A policy brief summarising the main lessons learned has now been published as well as two longer evidence reports for each case study
IDS EVIDENCE REPORT No 17 Addressing and Mitigating Violence
Unemployment, Service Provision and Violence ReductionPolicies in Urban MaharashtraJean Pierre Tranchant 2013
IDS EVIDENCE REPORT No 39 Addressing and Mitigating Violence
Missing the Point:Violence Reduction and Policy Misadventures in Nairobi’s Poor Neighbourhoods
Mutuma Ruteere, Patrick Mutahi, Becky Mitchell and Jeremy Lind November 2013 [1]

Glaring Loopholes: Delhi Government’s Guidelines for Rehabilation/Resettlement of Slum-Dwellers

Source: Economic and Political Weekly, by Subhadra Banda and Shahana Sheikh 

If the Aam Aadmi Party government wants to keep its promise to the slum-dwellers to resettle and rehabilitate them with dignity and humaneness, then it must act quickly to plug in the various loopholes and iron out the ambiguities present in the resettlement guidelines which were issued by the previous Delhi government in 2013.

While addressing the Delhi legislative assembly on 2 January 2014, preceding the trust vote, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal put forward a seventeen-point agenda for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government. The rehabilitation and resettlement of people living in unauthorised colonies and jhuggis was one of the issues mentioned by him. He said that unless the newly elected assembly finds a solution for them, their jhuggis will not be demolished. Just like the other political parties, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has promised in-situ resettlement, i.e., residents of jhuggi jhopri clusters (JJCs) will be given plots or flats at the same site where they are currently residing. The residents would be relocated to transitory accommodation, flats would be constructed on the cleared land, and “eligible” residents would then take possession of flats allotted to them. Only if this process was not feasible, would permanent relocation be undertaken.

Two attempts to demolish JJCs were undertaken in December 2013. The Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA’s) attempt in Mayur Vihar was foiled by the one of the AAP leaders Manish Sisodia, but the Railways managed to demolish one in Mansarovar Park in the last week of December. If the newly formed  Delhi government wants to fulfil its promises to residents of JJCs, it will need to act quickly.

Guidelines for Relocation and Rehabilitation of Slum-Dwellers

Any resettlement of JJCs, by default, implies demolition and eviction. Many researchers have found that a number of these evictions have been carried out without following adequate procedure. In 2010, even the High Court observed that “it is not uncommon to find a jhuggi dweller, with the bulldozer at the doorstep, desperately trying to save whatever precious little belongings and documents they have, which could perhaps testify to the fact that the jhuggi dweller resided at that place”. Subsequently on 25 February 2013, the Delhi government issued “Guidelines for implementation of the Scheme for relocation/ rehabilitation and allotment of flats to the Jhuggi Jhopri dwellers under JNNURM-2013”.

These guidelines list the duties of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), which came into being with the promulgation of the DSUIB Act, 2010. The Slum and Jhuggi Jhopri Department, earlier a part of the  Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), was transferred to this Board. These guidelines detail how DUSIB should survey households in JJCs and who should be eligible for rehabilitation. However, several ambiguities are present in the guidelines.

Read more here

Job Opening at PRIA

PRIA, an international centre for learning and promotion of participation and democratic governance, invites applications for the following position urgently for its head office in New Delhi.
Senior Programme Officer 
Key responsibilities:
·         Conducting research on themes related to the projects
·         Conceptualization and designing of programme components
·         Project monitoring, reporting, networking, liaisoning, etc.
·         Analysis and documentation of case studies and preparation of reports
·         Collection and collation of data from field/other information/ documents
·         Other tasks as assigned from time to time
·         PhD/M. Phil/ Masters in Social Sciences/Urban Development or related discipline withminimum five years of demonstrable research experience.
·         Excellent analytical writing skills in English & Hindi
·         Ability to collect and collate data from field/other information/ documents
·         Familiarity with social research techniques
·         Willingness to travel extensively
·         Understanding and knowledge of working with Civil Society Organizations, dealing with government officials, media and academicians will be an added qualification