For bringing better changes in the lives of urban informal settlers, PRIA is running a Pre-Election Political Awareness campaign on urban poverty issues in different states of India to ensure enough coverage and importance in the manifestoes of different political parties of India. Under this campaign a State Level Consultation was organized by PRIA- Jaipur in collaboration with Nehru Yuva Mandal on March 7, 2014. For the event, invitations were extended to all major parties of Rajasthan and national parties like BJP, Congress, BSP, AAP, RJP, Indian National Lokdal Party, Yuva Shakti Party and Jago Party. Slum dwellers from 20 slums and CSOs working in Rajasthan were also invited for the event. However, Inspite of several follow ups with the political parties, the consultation was attended by representative of BJP and Congress. Representatives of other parties could not attend sighting their engagement in other work.
The consultation was attended by 50 participants which included Ms. Jyoti Khandelwal, Mayor, Nagar JMC, representing the Congress Party; Mr. Lalit Kishore, Pradesh Sanyojak, Kachchi Basti, Prakosht, Mr. Chain Singh Shekhawat, Sanyojak, Kachchi Basti Prakosht from BJP; and Mr. Nafees Khan, Zila Adhyaksh- Jaipur, representing the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The representatives of CSOs; urban poor community, social activists and town planner also participated in the event.
In the consultation the importance of urban poverty and its governance were highlighted by PRIA by showcasing the voter’s base in this segment and how if their issues are taken up the political parties in their manifesto can enable them for the success of their win. Issues like access to education, water, sanitation, electricity and provision of food security; social security, transportation and land rights were tabled during the consultation.
Honourable Mayor, Ms. Jyoti Khandelwal, accepted that sometimes political issues dominate the issues of common people and that the responsibility of urban poor rests with the government and also pointed out the reasons for migration of people. She also admitted that the problems at community level could be solved best by involving them and giving them the responsibility.
Mr. Lalit Kishore representing the BJP, accepted that a large percentage of urban population lives in slum. He put forward some of the points in their election manifesto like reducing the rate of electricity, supply of potable water to every household, survey of BPL families and providing of ration card, reducing the rate of gas cylinders, construction of toilets, providing pension and the minimum amount would be Rs. 1500, provision of water tank, starting a single window system for providing ration card, BPL card, birth certificate, and rights, water supply and electricity connection etc.
One of the participants suggested incorporating the issues of women particularly focusing on their social security, education and toilet facilities. The communities from slum also presented their problems which were as follows:
- Ration is not available in ration shops and is available only when the ration card has a stamp of Municipal Corporation. The Municipal Corporation has stopped putting seal on the ration card
- All sorts of Pension for has been stopped
- 46 medicines which were free for urban poor has been stopped
- Travel for senior citizen which was free of cost has also been stopped
- Ambedkar kachchi basti had already been surveyed and were assured of proving land rights but till date there has been no allotment
The suggestions were positively received by BJP and the Congress parties. The representative from BJP discussed their manifesto with the participants, listened to their problems and also assured of including their issues in their manifesto. Mayor, being the representative of the Congress Party assured the communities of solving their problem.
However, not all parties were as positive. A representative of BSP arrived, took his seat on the dias but before addressing people left the consultation without even informing the organizers. This did not only show insensitivity of BSP towards problems of urban poor but also lack of political will even in listening to their problems.
The next day a follow up visits was conducted at the offices of political parties regarding the inclusion of urban issues in their manifestoes. The representative of AAP (who was also a member of manifesto committee) who also avoided attending the consultation received it half heartedly and informed that their objective was to solve all the problems the common people face but refused to commit addressing the issues of urban poor in their election manifesto.
Even during the follow up Pradesh Adhyaksh of BSP made severe allegations on the work of other political parties as “Manifesto banana to chor ucchako ka kaam hai.” He also asserted making slums- an issue is the business of people and also claimed that the slum dwellers are not poor and there is no problem in the slums. The organizations working for the slum dwellers are agents. He further alleged that Shri Arvind Karjriwal worked on the same line. He made an issue of Urban poor in Delhi and protested against the government. On seeing a large gathering he formed a party and entered politics, deceived people and resigned. The CSOs work in the same line. He kept the Mang Patra but said that their party cannot do anything on it and if we have to say something we should say it to the government.
Overall, there has been a mixed response from political parties on urban governance. While national parties like BJP and Congress are positive with respect to the issues of urban poor and urban governance, new parties like AAP which are promising to be a game-changer, have received the issues in a Luke warm manner and did not commit the inclusion of issues in their manifesto. Regional parties of national ambitions like BSP, who are banking on dalit and caste based voters, are on a contrary negative to the urban poor issues to an extent that they are in a denial mode that any such issues are even in existence and are claiming it to be NGO driven and politically motivated without any ground reality to it.