Urban dialogue on poverty issues at Bodh Gaya

Dalit Vikas Abhiyan Samiti (DVAS) and Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) are jointly working on the issues of urban poverty in state of Bihar and in specific in the city of Gaya. DVAS and PRIA, on 16 July 2014 organised a unique forum to bring forth an exchange dialogue between community, civil society, service providers and academicians.

Executive from the ULB, Vice- Chairperson ULB, City Manager, Dy. Director Directorate of social security, Chairperson Bihar Economic Council Gaya, President Social Sciences Department, Magadh University, and Elected Representatives from ULB, Members of SICs and representatives from media houses actively participated in the consultation.

Objective of the urban poverty and governance consultation at Gaya

The city of Bodh Gaya is well known for its rich heritage and culture which draws thousands of tourists from all over the world. Over the period of time the city has given way to unplanned urbanization resulting in development of slums and slum like structures. If we refer the 2001 census data it says, there are 4672 HHs living in the slums of Bodh Gaya Nagar Panchayat , further according to Census 2011 data 249HHs are homeless , who are living in Bodh Gaya Nagar Panchayat. However, as per 2006 report of Nagar Panchayat Bodh Gaya number of households living in slums is 3500. As per the survey conducted under SPUR in December 2010, the town had 18 slum pockets housing 3109 households and a population of 20875.

With a new government at the centre which has a strong urban focus and an agenda of making 100 smart cities, issues of urban poverty need to be urgently addressed in the city of Gaya. However the government has shared no such plans as of now. Instead the talk is about large scale and green field developments in the country which the space and provisions for the urban poor in these larger schemes have not been articulated yet.

PRIA had recently done a research study to evaluate in ‘economic terms’ the contribution of the urban poor to the cities they belong to. The major finding of the study was that the urban poor actively contribute about 7-8% to the city economy, however are still neglected by the city in respect to provisions, services and infrastructure. In State of Bihar the state of affairs is no different. Centrally sponsored schemes of Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) and Swarna Jayanati Shahri Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY) for the urban poor have not been successful.

DVAS in collaboration with PRIA has been working in the slums of Bodh Gaya since past two and half years, for the collectivization and mobilisation of the urban poor community in Bodh Gaya. Exercise of slum listing and profiling, formation of settlement/slum improvement committees (SICs) in various urban poor pockets of Gaya have been the two major interventions by PRIA and DVAS. These interventions have helped in bringing forth various specific issues related to the urban poor in the city, has helped in generating a much needed database, understand the gaps in access to rights and entitlements of the urban poor in Gaya. SICs have been vital in the community to raise their voice on these issues and also to act as a bridge and mediator between the service providers and the community at large.

In the light of the above, the objective of this consultation at Gaya was twofold:
• To bring multiple stakeholders (CSO, State, Urban Poor, ULB, Academia, Media etc.) on a common platform to deliberate and discuss issues, challenges and way forward on urban poverty issues of Bodh Gaya and urban poor in general.
• To build alliances and explore collaborations in seeking solutions to urban poverty issues in Bodh Gaya
.

The consultation was successful in bringing forth various issues and perspectives of all stakeholders associated. Some of the key aspects discussed in the consultation were:

Community members elaborated upon various immediate issues and problems they are facing. Women in specific spoke about lack of sanitation, services, adequate health infrastructure and social evils. The community leaders recognised that all community members need to collectivise and raise their voice against such issues. Knowledge and participation is the need of the day for the urban poor to avail their rights.
It was bought forth into notice that failure of many schemes has often been due to lack of awareness and knowledge dissemination. The service providers (government) and the beneficiaries both should take onus for the same.
The service provider – Nagar Panchayat of Bodh Gaya, also elaborated upon the various governance challenges it faces and requested for a better coordination with the community. Nagar Panchayat’s representative also highlighted various on-going and forthcoming development activities in the city such as infrastructural development in 4 urban poor settlements, installation of solar lights, provision of social infrastructure, provision of urinals etc. in urban poor settlements. However, the issue of providing adequate housing to poor, as elaborated upon by the representative is dictated by the lack of available land in the city.
• Representative from Directorate of social security, Gaya shared several important information with the community dwellers that would facilitate them to avail various schemes and benefits under various schemes as applicable in the State and the city.
• The consultation as a whole was a successful step to bring forth all stakeholders on a common platform and to work in unison on urban poverty issues. This interaction however has to be continuous one to facilitate learning, appropriate service delivery, accountability and participation towards an equal and just development of Gaya.

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