Towards ‘Inclusive cities’ with poor and non-poor- Bihar

A city needs to be developed at social, economic and aesthetic levels. Ideally in a developed city the poor,non-poor and government should work in tandem. However, in India, poor are left out in the planning process, the non-poor do not act and government is shackled in its own bureaucratic structure.

To address this felt problem and need as expressed by the poor and non-poor a multi-stakeholder dialogue was organized by PRIA Bihar on 15th September 2014 in SBC Hall, Patna. The objectives of the consultation were:
1. To sensitize the people on common problems faced by urban poor, non-poor and government,
2. To provide a platform for interface and dialogue between the poor, non-poor and government

The consultation saw enthusiastic participation from various stakeholders such as Mr. Samrat Choudhary, Ms. Pinki Kumari, Ward 21, Counsellor, Minster for Urban Development, Govt. of Bihar, Amrita Bhushan, President Patna Favorite Lion’s Club, Govind Kumar Bansal, BJP former Chairperson, Jhuggi Jhopari Manch, Dr. C. P Tahkur, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, Gazaffar Nawab, Member, AITUC Patna, Mr. Johagar, Mr. Ranjan Sinha, Chief Functionary, Nidan, Mr. Nikhal Ranjan, WASH, Mr. Vishwa Ranjan, PPP Expert, Plan India, the community members and PRIA and its partner NGO.

Mr. Choudhary and Ms. Pinki, representing the service providers of the city and the State, gave an insight on the ground realities. Mr. Choudhary, a futuristic and visionary officer, has the hope that Patna should one day be compared to Sweden which re-uses 90% of its waste. He highlighted that we need to focus on four aspects in Bihar:
• Political Democracy
• Efficient Bureaucracy
• City Planning
• Single window clearing system

Mr. Ranjan Sinha of NIDAN, discussed at length the fate of various programmes and schemes for urban poor in Bihar such as the un-successful JnNURM and RAY. Land allotment to slum dwellers was and is a major issue in the state and the city. It is obvious that the voices of the poor are not being recognized fully in the current planning and policy environment. However, there have been some initiates such as the pioneering slum policy, vendor policy and upcoming builders act which are positive ray of hope in including the poor. He stressed on the need to have many more of these initiatives to integrate the poor and non-poor in developing an inclusive city.

The ground reality and issues of the urban poor and unrecognized informal workers was raised by many speakers including Bansalji, Nawabji, Johagarji. Other speakers and participants also highlighted how the need of the hour is to concentrate on schemes for water, sanitation, housing and employment for the poor.

The community members also raised many of their concerns such as:
Prakash stated: “Settlement improvement committee has been formed in our slum settlement. We all got collectivized and even mapped our area. However, the maps that we uploaded are not being recognized by the government. The government says that schemes like Rajiv Awas Yojana are not redundant. But they haven’t given us any alternative!’

Shankar Dev Mehato articulated that ‘traditionally the work of cleaning toilets is done by Mehtar caste in Bihar. Today people from other castes are doing this work. We do not have work which is why we are not able to educate our children. Other caste people are given jobs by the government. Today the work done by us is taken over by others. We are not able to do traditional work. We are deprived of our traditional work. The government deprived us of government job. Today in the government we have people from upper class also cleaning the toilets mainly due to corruption. The poor should be asked about the poverty not the rich’

The dialogue led to an exhaustive discussion and concluded with few recommendations for ‘inclusive city building’. Some of these are as follows:

From Poor:
• Availability of basic amenities in slums, water and sanitation facilities as priority needs
• Eviction shared as huge cause of concern and source of insecurity by poor
• Generate avenues of gainful employment in the city for urban poor

From Non-Poor:
• More initiatives from non-poor to be taken up to work for and with poor
• Micro-financing for urban poor to start their own small scale businesses
• Right to land as the basic rights for poor, other needs as house, employment, water, and sanitation will come into picture once the land is allotted to poor in their name
• Computer Literacy Programs for urban poor
• Evaluation of schemes that failed to achieve their objectives like RAY, JNNURUM, slum development programs etc.
• Awareness programme on newly emerged concepts like ‘smart city’
• Conducting survey and researches on issues of urban poverty and urban governance. PRIA conducted a path breaking study to find economic contribution of urban poor has dissolved many myths such as poor spend majority of money on liquor. Instead they spend majority of their income on food.

From Government:
• Need to develop a skilled labour force
• Training need to be identified by the NGOs and logical plans needs to be prepared
• Political Democracy, Efficient Bureaucracy, City Planning and Single Window clearance shared as pillars to achieve city development objective.

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