Monthly Archives: May 2014

Yeh mera shaher , ya ‘unka’ shaher – the new urban India

By Nidhi Batra

Modi Sarkar is here. It is set to transform ‘urban India’. 100 smart cities, massive infrastructure, boast to real estate, affordable housing through developers, integrated technology and clean Ganga are few of its aims.

On paper, these visions seem all glossy and attractive, however my concern lies in the fact that how much of the ground reality to these top down proclaims really incorporate. Just after the announcement of victory from Varanasi – came the declaration that 60 flyover shall be built in the city. What backed that decision? Was an integrated transport study ever conducted? Are flyovers really a solution to solve traffic woes? Haven’t we still learnt from various other cities across the globe? Developed nations are busy tearing off their flyovers and India shall build 60 flyovers in just one city! Thoughts like these scare me – urban India is set for transformation but are the citizens directing that transformation?!

And then comes the idea of 100 new smart cities, like Dholera in Gujarat – bigger than even ‘Shanghai’. But then do we really want Shanghais in India?! Are Greenfield developments a solution for India? The concept of smart city is welcoming, sustainability is welcomed, transit oriented development is welcomed. But are we taking far too quick and impulsive decisions to make 100 new cities – without assessing the existing potential of these sites to carry these new cities. As highlighted by Ayona Datta in her recent article India’s smart city craze: big, green and doomed from the start?  , Dholera doesn’t have a ‘water source’ to hold the population it is envisioned to host. Twice the size of Mumbai, the ‘smart city’ of Dholera the critics say will be built in a flood zone and will dispossess farmers. And to make Dholera happen; a new Special Investment Region (SIR) Act was passed in March 2009. The act gives more power to the state to acquire land bypassing mandatory requirements of consent and compensation of the land acquisition act. Locals of course are revolting, but their plea reaches only deaf ears.

BJP manifesto also promotes the idea of twin and satellite cities. But what about all the small and medium towns, which are really the hub of urbanisation? Migration is rapid in these cities and the rate at which they urbanise is much more than the first class cities. Instead of focusing on new cities shouldn’t the attention be now given to these small and medium towns and equipping them in infrastructure, facility, services and governance to be the new urban centres? BJP has already made plans to scrap flagship program of JnNURM in light of developing ‘new cities’ and directing all investment towards them. According to our newly appointed Urban Development and Urban poverty alleviation minister, Venkaiah Naidu ; “if we want moderately livable cities, we need new cities, not old ones with crumbling infrastructure and sprawling slums where land costs are simply unviable (Mumbai, for example, is simply unaffordable even to the upper middle-classes). The additional 300 million people who will head for cities over the next 20 years can either cram the Mumbais and Delhis and Bhopals of the world, or be diverted to new, planned cities with better amenities – like Lavasa in Maharashtra, which got into a controversy over legal issues, or Dholera in Gujarat. Assuming one million to be a good size for viable new cities, we need 300 new cities over 20 years. This means we need 15 new Lavasas with one million capacity every year.” Did the new minister forget that Lavasa has not even included a ‘space’ for the poor and the fact that it breaks many environmental norms.

The next comes the idea of affordable housing through help of developers. India needs about 19 million low-cost homes—roughly defined as costing a million rupees ($16,700) and below—to shelter an urban population expected to nearly double to 600 million by 2030 from 2011. The strategy to be adopted is to make land more easily available to developers, and to provide them with incentives to build cheaper homes. Mumbai and Gujarat have already toyed with this strategy. Mumbai is overhauling its slum redevelopment authority (SRA) projects due to its failure, Gujarat is building on. To entice developers into low income housing can be a solution provided the rights of the poor are given and not compromised.

Modi sarkar is full of ideas. Do you and I have a say in those? I think more than ever, we should start voicing our concerns and hopes. Now is the urgency for civil society to collectivise and shape the tomorrow of urban India. And more than ever, now, is the time the government should value our opinion and learnings. Modi sarkar which has huge online presence, may be should immediately come out with its portal for community participation on ‘urban issues’.  The future of urban India should be carved out through a participatory process. Sarkar should listen to what the planners, designers and citizens (and not just those with lots of bucks) have to say for the urban India. Let’s not have top down decisions such as that of 60 flyovers woe away the urban citizens from what really is of importance. Let’s hope, ache din are coming – for all – built by us all, together!

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Jaundice an epidemic engulfing the urban life in Raipur

By Deepika Pandey, PRIA

In Raipur half of the city is under the grip of Jaundice which is dispersing like epidemic in the city. Mostly affected areas are the slums of the city, Dindayal Upadhyay Nagar and Waman-rao lakhey Nagar ward area. More than 25 deaths have been followed, out of which half of the patients were pregnant women, died due to this disease.

 Although the ultimate cause of scattering of this syndrome was not actually diagnosed but it is estimated that the poor sanitation & sewerage system of the city, pitiable water supply system and lack of proper cleanliness of drains, canals & water tanks are responsible for the dispersion of the disease because after notifying 2-3 cases of jaundice from DD Nagar, the Member of Parliament  Mr.Ramesh Baise supervised the area and investigated the water tank where he found worms and germs in the water and a thick layer of sludge within the water tank. After testing the water, the virus of Hepatitis E & A found in the water responsible for Jaundice, which  is a water borne disease occur due to the consumption of contaminated water affecting the liver and reduces its tendency to filter, ultimately resulted into various diseases like liver psorisis etc. Chief Minister Dr.Raman Singh has allotted 19 crores 68 lakh rupees for the repair and maintenance of the pipelines and sewerage system in Durg and Raipur  forJaundice free campaign, 41 lakh 73 thousand rupees was allotted to Raipur Municipal Corporation and 9 cores 26 lakh 42 thousand  rupees to Durg Municipal Corporation.

In this situation to address the role of civil society, a workshop was organized on “The role of civil societies in current situation of Jaundice affected people & area for better health” participated by the representatives of different civil society organizations, slum dwellers and the Doctors were also invited to provide information for precaution from this disease. Dr. Biplav Bandopadhyay said that the jaundice basically occur due to the mixing of faecal contaminated water with drinking water the only remedy to get rid from the virus Hepatitis E is to consume boiled water.

It was discussed in the workshop that Municipal corporation is responsible for all this misfortune their lethargic behavior towards providing basic facilities led into the occurrence of this situation. It is the responsibility of Municipal Corporation to provide cleanliness and safe water to the city and to ensure the cleanliness of the sources of water. The following steps were taken as per the discussion in the meeting:

  • A memorandum was entrusted to the Governor and the commissioner of the municipal corporation to take immediate action for cleaning the water tanks and other sources of water & to organize health camps at slum level.
  • A  JANSABHA was organized against the municipality under the banner of Chhattisgarh slum initiative in Budha-talab Raipur and demands were raised for an Integrated Water policy, a Charter from Municipal Corporation regarding the health facility.
  • A Public Interest Litigation was also filed in the court against Municipal Corporation for supplying polluted drinking water in the city

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PRIA is also a part of the Jansabha where the voices were raised. After the Jansbaha PRIA discussed about this workshop with SICs, they got inspired by this & few SIC’s such as Kashiram Nagar have taken initiative and given application to the commissioner of Raipur municipal corporation to organize camp. The commissioner immediately issued letter to the councilor of the concerned ward to organize a camp in the slum. The camp was successfully organized on 21st May.

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Health checkups in slums with effort of Slum Dwellers!

by Mahesh Dhandole, PRIA

Slum Improvement Committee (SIC) organized Free Eye Check UP camp in Joint Collaboration with MGM Eye Hospital, Raipur

Since last two year, PRIA along with partner organization Chetana Child & Women Welfare society is making an effort to collectivize and strengthening the urban poor and their groups (SICs) by providing information and various platforms so that they could raise their voice in front of various authorities and stakeholders. As a result, various interfaces with govt. & other institutions are happening by SICs for improving the condition of slums in Raipur.

MGM eye hospital is one of biggest eye care hospital in Chhattisgarh state, which was established with the mission of providing most advanced eye care to all segments of the society, especially the underprivileged. During the time, PRIA had shared their initiatives with the outreach team of MGM and organized interface meeting between SICs and team of MGM in PRIA office, on 12/05/2014. Mr. Soumya Ranjan, Programme Manager of MGM had shared information about their hospital and outreach activities.  Members of SICs and MGM were discussed the various aspects of organizing free eye check-up camp in slums and fixed the scheduled for camps in different slums. It was jointly discussed, the field level mobilization will be done by SICs and team of doctors and other materials will be available by MGM hospital.

On 20/05/2014, one day free eye check camp was organized at Govt. Primary School, in Kanshiram Nagar slum of Ward no. 44 in Raipur. A five member team of doctors, lab technicians and assistants were present in the camp. Around 120 citizens did their eye screening through various processes in the camp. Slum Improvement Committee of Kanshiram Nagar actively facilitated the camp in their slum. Ex. Ward Councillor Mr. Kuber Safa also visited the camp and appreciated the effort of SIC. During the camp, 15 citizens were identified who had the critical eye disease like cornea & Anterior Segment and 35 patients of reflective diseases were identified. Out them, 5 citizens were referred to the hospital for free operation surgery. In the evening, MGM hospitals arranged the vehicle and send these 5 patients to their hospital for free operation surgery of eye. However, all the other SICs will organize free eye check-up camp in their respective slum. A next camp will be organized on 25/05/2014, in Tarun Nagar Slum of Ward no.30.         

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Stories from Slums of Railway Lands -Power of less spoken stories

By Swathi Subramaniam

India’s population density has risen from 325 per square km in 2001 to 382 per sq km in 2011. There has been an increase of 17.5% during the decade with land size remaining the same.

Out of 304 million hectares of land in India for which records are available, roughly 40 million hectares are considered unfit for vegetation as they are either in urban areas, occupied by roads and rivers, or under permanent snow, rock or desert[1].

During 2004-09 when Shri Lalu Prasad Yadav was Railway minister, Railway Land Development Authority was formed for acquiring lands for the purpose of railway expansions and for enhancing  revenues through commercial use of unutilized lands. While there is no reliable statistics available about Public land ownership, it is estimated that Indian Railway owns the maximum land.

RLDA also aims to prevent encroachment on railway lands and augment railways resources by exploitation and management of the valuable Railway Land in Metropolitan cities and major towns for commercialization and other revenue generating activities.

RLDA is the statutory body for generating nontariff revenue from vacant and surplus railway lands. For example, many Indian hotels through the process public private partnership will set up multi-functional complexes at 75 railway station in the first phase (Business Line, Hyderabad, Sept 12)[2]. 

The PPE Act of 1971, says that encroachments cannot be made in the public lands of India and is applicable in whole of India. There is the Rehabilitation and Resettlement policy of RLDA but there are no figures as to how many have been rehabilitated. The various areas in which RLDA provides land for leasing are:

  • Licensing of tanks and borrowed pits to cooperative society set up by railways or Fishermen’s cooperative society
  • Licensing of land for the purpose of carnivals, melas, circus shows
  • Container Cooperation of India
  • Leasing of land for the development of shopping complexes
  • Licensing of land to oil companies for setting up retail outlets
  • Providing of surplus land to Kendriya Vidyalays and building up of KVs in areas where there are no schools or lack of education institutes
  • Licensing of railway land to welfare organisations and private schools
  • religious institutions/ staff welfare of organizations/ handicraft centres, social welfare centres and Bharat Scouts and Guides.

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 When we travel in train we find numerous slums mushroomed along the railway tracks. These slums are particularly found when we approach a major city or town.  It is understandable since cities and towns provide livelihood for slum dwellers who otherwise cannot afford the rentals in the cities. Below are some of the examples of slums along the railway tracks.   

Stories from Slums of Railway Lands

Surat

In Surat district, 14 slums were identified by an NGO near the Railway tracks. These 14 slums house a population of 15,000. While these slums have electricity they lack potable water and sanitation facilities. The people staying here are marginalized communities of Muslims and Dalit struggling every minute of their life. Their condition is very pathetic when compared to urban informal slum dwellers of city. For the process of R & R any slum undergoes a survey according to RAY and JNNURM. Railway slums are not considered for R & R even if they are located adjacent to RAY identified slums. There is always a tussle between Private land, railway land and Surat Mahanagar Palika.

  • Frequent visits by Government officials threatening to demolish these slums are very common.  They become easy prey for extracting money due to threat from any Government official.
  • Usually before demolition no notice is given to the slum dwellers. The notice is very informal in nature. Example: notices are issued only a day before the demolition. Notices are pasted either on walls or somewhere else. 
  • Slum dwellers are psychologically affected always living under the fear of demolition. When demolition happens then there is a lot of violence. The most traumatized are the children and women.
  • A common phenomenon noticed was that many Municipalities never listed the new slums on Railway lands as slums but only considered and gave all the attention to the old ones for planned development.
  • Safety is also one big issue. The ladies and children of railway slums have to cross the railway tracks frequently for various purposes such as fetching water,going to schools etc.
  • The railway slum dwellers of these places have their livelihood usually within 1kms of their homes in nearby power loom industry.
  • Surat is a place where liquor is illegal; as a result the children of the railway slum dwellers are used for selling illegal liquors.
  • All the railway slum dwellers possess documents like identity cards, aadhar cards, ration card etc.

Dhanbad

According to an NGO survey, only 10% of railway slums get notification of demolition. A slum named Vinod Nagar in Dhanbad underwent a small survey by a local NGO whose findings say that- eunuchs and other socially marginalized communities live in the railway slums of Vinod Nagar. When an R & R of Vinod Nagar was undertaken the resettlements including schools were shifted to far away Forest lands. None of the people could relocate because it affected their livelihood.  Usually after the findings reveal that the R & R in Dhanbad shift the school to areas far away like in Forest lands. All these people have voting rights as well.

Ranchi

In Ranchi, a phenomenon is very common of Floating homes. Their homes are made up of plastic sheets. The railway slum dwellers due to the problem of demolition always fold their plastic bags and carry with themselves. During night they settle anywhere along the railway track and make their plastic homes.

Pul Mithai, Old Delhi

In Delhi we have public lands owned by various authorities like Railways, defence, airport, metro, forest lands etc. There are no water, electricity or sanitation facilities. The slum regularly suffers victimization.

Due to sanitation problems, all slum dwellers both men and women are forced to defecate on the railway tracks. The women hence are vulnerable to regular abuses and struggles. 

Man Sarovar Park, Delhi

This slum dwelling composes of Nomadic tribes of Uttar Pradesh. This slum dwelling is demolished every year. A very specific component noticed here is that when one authority demolished this slum dwelling then another authority takes responsibility of its R & R. For example – when Delhi Metro authorities demolish one slum then another authority like DUSIB rehabilitates those slums.

Vizag

Sewanagar is a railway slum in Vizag district. The people of Sewanagar have their livelihood in Railway itself as housekeeping and as contractual laborers. This slum was about to be demolished and resulted in job losses due to eviction. An NGO got associated with the slum and helped it to rehabilitate. A Land transfer proposal was issued where the land ownership from Railway was transferred. These households were allotted homes under JNNURM in Vizag.

From the above stories the following conclusions and recommendations can be derived: 

  1. Railway has surplus lands in India. Only ‘very marginalized’ and totally secluded communities live in slums near railway tracks.
  2. Reluctance among Municipal Corporation with respect to notifying new Jhuggi Jhopri particularly when it is located outside the municipal area such as railway. There is a need to include all slums for planning purpose. The survey of slums happen only under the JNNURM and RAY.
  3. There is a need to identify appropriate officials for issues relating to such slums and promote accountability. There should be a common guidelines for handling R & R of all types of slums irrespective of their location.
  4. Many houses are evicted after Rehabilitation as there is lack of coordination among the various departments working in this area.
  5. Accountability mechanisms during Relocation and Rehabilitation are very ambiguous. Over a period multiple agencies have got involved in housing for city’s urban poor resulting in overlapping accountability. Coordination issues between various authorities need improvement.

 

[1]http://www.pacsindia.org/key-themes/sustainablie-livelihoods/revenue-land/land-use-ownership

[2]http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/companies/indian-hotels-eyeing-biz-opportunities-around-railway-stations/article5120391.ece

The Space for Urban Poor in BJP’s Manifesto

Shivani Singh, PRIA

 BJP has come to power. It was able to harvest the anti-congress wave that was propelled by Anna’s movement and later by Aam Adami Party (AAP). AAP was in power in Delhi Legislative Assembly Elections by capturing people’s mandate by use of social media despite of lesser seats than BJP. They exhibited a different kind of governance which was proactive and non-bureaucratic. AAP party’s chief who resigned due to non-passing of Swaraj Bill showcased a governance model of 47 days in Delhi and was ready to fight the mighty and wealthy politicians of BJP and Congress in the Lok Sabha Elections 2014. The PM candidate of BJP contested from two places Vadodhara and Varnanasi fearing the fate they faced in Delhi Legislative Assembly Elections. But on the other hand the AAP’s chief fought only from Varanasi and undoubtedly gave a tough fight to the BJP’s PM candidate. But with the unaccountable money flowing towards the advertisement and promotion of one man in BJP, the party with meager resources was sure to lose. Politics concern us as PRIA was actively involved in giving platform to the urban poor during the formation of political party’s manifesto.

 

PRIA conducted many state level consultations across the intervened states under the urban poverty and reformed governance project. Now that BJP has come in power by securing majority seats it becomes important to view the space they have provided for urban poor and urban issues in their manifesto. These are as follows:

 Neo-Middle Class – Meet their Aspirations

India has a large middle class with immense understanding, talent and purchasing power. In addition, a whole new class has emerged. Those who have risen from the category of poor and are yet to stabilize in the middle class, the ‘neo middle class’. This class needs proactive handholding. Having moved out of poverty, their aspirations have increased. They want amenities and services of a certain standard. They thus now feel that Government facilities and services are not up to the mark, and hence resort to the private sector for things like education, health and transport. This is obviously costly, putting the neo middle class into a daily dilemma. As more and more people move into this category, their expectations for better public services have to be met. We have to strengthen the Public Sector for providing efficient services to our citizens. In particular attention will be paid on government providing:

  • Educational scholarships and educational facilities
  • Medical insurance and quality healthcare services
  • Middle-income housing
  • Efficient public transport systems

 Rural Areas – High Priority

Two-thirds of our people live in villages. Lack of amenities to live and opportunities to work, however,  are restricting our rural life. Both these factors are the result of prolonged neglect. A full-fledged programme for ‘Rural Rejuvenation’ will be made and implemented which will comprise of integrated strategies for personal, economic and social well being of the villagers. Through the idea of Rurban, we will bring urban amenities to our rural areas, while retaining the soul of the village. Agriculture, rural development and poverty alleviation go hand in hand. Major thrust area for rural development would be to improve village level infrastructure in terms of roads, potable water, education, health, supply chain, electricity, broadband, job creation, security in rural areas and linkage to markets.

 Urban Areas – High Growth Centres

More than one-third of our population is already living in our cities and towns. Soon, the urban areas will cover half our people. Moreover, our cities should no longer remain a reflection of poverty and bottlenecks. Rather they should become symbols of efficiency, speed and scale.

 We will look at urbanisation as an Opportunity rather than a Threat.

  • Major steps will be undertaken in Transport and Housing for ‘Urban Upliftment’ in India.
  • We will initiate building 100 new cities; enabled with the latest in technology and infrastructure – adhering to concepts like sustainability, walk to work etc, and focused on specialized domains.
  • The approach to urban development will be based on integrated habitat development – building on concepts like Twin cities and Satellite towns.
  • Upgrade existing urban centres, transitioning focus from basic infrastructure to public utility services like Waste and Water Management – for a clean and healthy city life.
  • Cleanliness and Sanitation will be given priority – efficient Waste and Water management systems will be set up. Model towns will be identified for rolling out integrated waste management infrastructure.
  • Wi-Fi facilities will be made available in public places and commercial centres.
  • Urban poverty alleviation scheme would be a key thrust area.
  • Use technology for scientific, strategic and long term town planning – including GIS based mapping.
  • Build quality integrated Public Transport systems, discouraging usage of private vehicles.

BJP has recognized a new class middle class as ‘neo middle class’ hose who have risen from the category of poor and are yet to stabilize in the middle class, the ‘neo middle class’. This shows that they have not just divided the population among the rural and urban but have recognized a class that is in transition. Secondly by giving high priority to rural areas and have also recognized within itself the importance of ‘Rurban’ and have talked about bringing in urban amenities in these areas. Lastly BJP is planning to create urban areas as high growth centers by fueling it with modern technologies. Let’s keep the above promises made by BJP in mind hope they adhere to it during their tenure. 

No one owns the city | The Indian Express

Urban turnouts are rising. But urban issues are yet to enter political agendas

Read more:

No one owns the city | The Indian Express.

Baudelaire — The Eyes of the Poor

From Paris Spleen, 1869 –  a prose poem by Baudelaire entitled ‘The Eyes of the Poor’. Baudelaire opens the poem by asking his lover if she understands why it is that he suddenly hates her. Throughout the whole day, he says, they had shared their thoughts and feelings in the utmost intimacy, almost as if they were one. And then:

Ah! So you would like to know why I hate you today? It will certainly be harder for you to understand than for me to explain, for you are, I believe, the most perfect example of feminine impermeability that exists.

We had spent a long day together which to me had seemed short. We had duly promised each other that all our thoughts should be shared in common, and that our two souls henceforth be but one — a dream which, after all, has nothing original about it except that, although dreamed by every man on earth, it has been realized by none.

That evening, a little tired, you wanted to sit down in front of a new cafe forming the corner of a new boulevard still littered with rubbish but that alreday displayed proudly its unfinished splendors. The cafe was dazzling. Even the gas burned with all the ardor of a debut, and lighted with all its might the blinding whiteness of the walls, the expanse of mirrors, the gold cornices and moldings, fat-cheeked pages dragged along by hounds on leash, laughing ladies with falcons on their writs, nymphs and goddesses bearing on their heads piles of fruits, pates and game, Hebes and Ganymedes holding out little amphoras of syrups or parti-colored ices; all history and all mythology pandering to gluttony.

On the street directly in front of us, a worthy man of about forty, with tired face and greying beard, was standing holding a small boy by the hand and carrying on his arm another little thing, still too weak to walk. He was playing nurse-maid, taking the children for an evening stroll. They were in rags. The three faces were extraordinarily serious, and those six eyes stared fixedly at the new cafe with admiration, equal in degree but differing in kind according to their ages.

The eyes of the father said: “How beautiful it is! How beautiful it is! All the gold of the poor world must have found its way onto those walls.” The eyes of the little boy: “How beautiful it is! How beautiful it is! But it is a house where only people who are not like us can go.” As for the baby, he was much too fascinated to express anything but joy — utterly stupid and profound.

Song writers say that pleasure ennobles the soul and softens the heart. The song was right that evening as far as I was concerned. Not only was I touched by this family of eyes but I was even a little ashamed of our glasses and decanters, too big for our thirst. I turned my eyes to look into yours, dear love, to read my thoughts in them; and as I plunged my eyes into your eyes, so beautiful and curiously soft, into those green eyes, home of Caprice and goverened by the Moon, you said: “Those people are insufferable with their great saucer eyes. Can’t you tell the proprietor to send them away?”

So you see how difficult it is to understand one another, my dear angel, how incommunicable thought is, even between two people in love.