Category Archives: Forum of Informal Urban Poor Workers (FIUPW)

How smart is the Smart City Idea !! A Thought on World Town Planning Day

Indian Towns sans planning!

by Ananta Prasad

The main challenges of urbanization in India are shortage of housing which is 18.78 million according to the 2011 census which Mr Venkeya Naidu, also stressed at the Plenary Session of Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference of Housing and Urban Development (APMCHUD) in Seoul recently.

The official statement of Minister emphasized stating that though accommodating slightly less than one third of the total population, the urban centres in India contribute a substantial part of the Gross Domestic Product already with 63 per cent in 2007 and the same is expected to increase to 75 per cent in 2021. However, the new Modi govt has their vision of Houses for all by end of 2012.

It is expected that by 2050, almost 50 percent of Indian population will constitute the urban areas and the Government of India is charged up with comprehensive urban up-liftment through improving quality of public transport, providing drainage, sanitation, waste management, water recycling and wi-fi facilities for public and commercial areas, added in the official note.

It is noted that World Town Planning Day is being celebrated in 30 countries of four continents on 8th November. It is a special day to recognize and promote the role of planning in creating livable urban communities. For fast growing countries like India the scenario of Town Planning is a myth. Sadly the town planners are yet to bring inclusive city planning. It has been a major issue in Indian cities that the urban planners have continuously ignored urban slums and the children in specific. Children and adolescents living in slums have been ignored as active stakeholder of urban renewal policies and programmes.

 According to HUPA, in India, 70.6% of urban population is covered by individual water connections while in china this is 91%, in South Africa 86% and in Brazil 80%.  Duration of water supply in India cities is between one to six hours. According to 2011 census, 13% of urban population defecate in the open, 37% are connected by open drains and 18% are not connected at all. 7.6 million young children living in urban poverty in Indian sufferer due to improper town planning in the country.The air quality has also deteriorated sharply carrying with it concomitant health costs. It has impacted directly to the children causing several diseases.

 Strategy to integrate networking of slums to city infrastructure and developing investment plans for slum infrastructure should be given priority as facts shows that slums have 20-25% of population but use less than 3 percent of land. The poor especially the children do not have any formal stake over land and hence are not a part of the planning process indicates the gap between the planners and the reality. Time has come for the planners to visioning the world class cities with proper inclusion of urban poor and young children living in it.

  It is noted that the central government has two major policies such as JnNURM and RAY for urban development where there has been plans to redevelop slums and to make India free from slums. But civil society members across India are now advocating for an inclusive development for all where women and children have equal share in the planning process and ensure a safe living condition for all.

 Keeping in mind the above statistics and information, if we analyse the statement by Naidu at Seoul things are very much superficial. The government has plans to adopt modern scientific methods of town and country planning practices based on Geographical Information System (GIS) in urban development. It is worth mentioning here that many programmes such as RAY and BSUP is facing issues like ownership of land as many slums in India are in forest lands or having such dispute. Any such relocation of people from existing set up to a farer place is simply not solving the issue of achieving Slum free India.

Again plans of extension of metro services to important and major urban centres, development of twin cities and creating infrastructure in satellite cities are other priority areas where now the new government is focusing on which is in other way ignoring the middle class which constitutes more than 40 percent in any urban settlement.

While the last budget it was announced for 100 new smart cities, now many civil society organisations have been questioning on the smartness of this smart city idea. However, every single day poor living condition is forcing most inhabitants of urban India to a unhealthy and unsafe well-being. Despite strengthening the existing plans in terms of hassle free execution of Urban Developmental plans, the new idea of smart cities seems very unreal in terms of implementation as the budgetary allocation is not sufficient.

The existing issues  that every urban set up in India is facing is going to be doubled of these smart city plans execute because of the obvious reason of non inclusiveness of such an idea.

(The writer is a Bangalore based development journalist and researcher on Urban Planing and Slum Development in India)


Participatory design is not trying to ask people to validate the ‘right’ answer!

ELEMENTAL SA led by prominent Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena was presented with a Global Holcim Awards Finalist 2012 certificate for the Sustainable post-tsunami reconstruction master plan, of Constitución.

The master plan was developed after the 2010 earthquake and tsunami that struck Constitución, a city of 46,000 people located on the shore of the Pacific Ocean and 300km southwest of Chile’s capital, Santiago. 8.8 Earthquake Chile – Sustainable reconstruction master plan proposes a public-private strategy to respond with “geographical answers” to the “geographical threats” of the earthquake and tsunami risk.

Instead of considering a construction ban or a massive barrier along the risk zones, the project proposes to plant the flood-prone areas in order to break the waves. Located behind this first line of defense are facilities that have specific restrictions on the use and layout of ground floor areas. These two interventions are accompanied by an evacuation plan as the third protection element. The aim is a long-term preservation of the city at its historical position next to the estuary mouth – a strategic location for the city’s economy. The complimentary concept is to create public open spaces along the banks of the river that alleviate the lack of inner-city recreation areas as well as support the dissipation of rainwater runoff in order to avoid further flooding.

Half a good house is better than one small one

“Participatory design is not trying to ask people to validate the right answer – but starts by understanding what is the right question,” says Alejandro Aravena.

Supplemented by empirical evidence from the most recent tsunami, the architects relied on mathematical models and laboratory trials. Implementing their master plan proved very challenging both politically and socially, because it required the city to expropriate private land along the riverbank. Elemental’s successful approach was to rely on participatory design to define the citizens’ needs and engage them in the planning process. Today, four years after the earthquake, the individual projects from the master plan are being implemented.

In Constitución, the population has managed to apply the necessary innovation to ensure its protection against future flooding. By adopting a bottom-up approach, in a very constructive way a joint decision has been reached regarding what the city should look like in the future. This exemplary concept is not restricted to Constitución, but could also apply in many geographies around the world that have been destroyed by natural disasters.
elemental Elemental proposed combining the funds available for temporary emergency shelters and social housing to provide better-quality shelters with a higher initial cost that could then be dismantled and reused in an incremental social-housing scheme. The architects designed the social housing units as half of a good house instead of a complete, but small one: building-in the possibility for residents to double the floor area of the house to 80 square meters. Next to each built section of the row house is an open space of the same size into which residents can expand their house. Higher quality social housing eventually increases in value and provides families with capital growth where the collateral can be used to guarantee a loan for a small business, or pay for higher education for children.

Innovation in the built environment in this project did not come from new materials, new techniques or new systems: it came from having the courage to follow common sense ideas, to understand the needs of the people of Constitución, and by viewing the problem in terms of both the micro- and macro-environments.


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.


By Shivani Singh, PRIA

India has over 40 labour laws but the irony is that the majority of labour force is in the informal sector and is deprived of legal rights. Though there are Labour Legislations that have provisions within the laws for the informal sector workers but majority of labour force is outside the purview of the Labour Legislations and hence are deprived of rights and protections. The write up elaborates the situation of informal sector in India and the limitation of Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008 to do justice to the informal sector workers.

I. Unorganized Sector in India

Majority of the workforce in India are in the informal economy, also referred to as the unorganized sector in the country. In 2004, the Government of India set up the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) to examine the issues of the informal economy. The NCEUS adopted the following definition of the “unorganized sector.” “The unorganized sector consists of all unincorporated private enterprises owned by individuals or households engaged in the sale and production of goods and services operated on a proprietary or partnership basis and with less than 10 total workers.” (NCEUS)

According to data available in 2005, the unorganized sector accounted for 395 million persons or 86 per cent of the work force. Most of these workers (253 million) were engaged in agriculture and who are mainly self-employed. Together with the 29 million in unorganized employment in the formal sector, there were 422.6 million persons in the unorganized economy (sector plus employment) who comprise 92.4 per cent of the work force. (NCEUS)

The lack of a comprehensive legislation to provide for a minimum condition of work is a severe lacuna, sought to be addressed unsuccessfully over several decades. Nearly every commission set up by the Government to study the unorganised sector has recommended it. The First National Commission for Labour (1991) proposed a comprehensive legislation for agricultural workers and the Ministry of Labour drafted a bill for regulation of employment, conditions of service and for the provision of welfare measures for agricultural workers in 1997. Likewise, the Second National Commission for Labour (2002) proposed an Act to consolidate and amend the laws relating to the regulation of employment and workers’ welfare in the unorganised sector in India and provided for social security cover and welfare, regulation of employment and conditions of work, as well as promotion of livelihoods. The legislation intended to cover employments, both in the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors, which were listed in the Schedule appended to the proposed Act. (Ministry of Labour and Employment)

More recently, the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) in a bid to extend decent work to all in the unorganised sector recommended two comprehensive legislations for unorganised agricultural and non-agricultural workers, combining all aspects of the conditions of work, including social security. The draft bills recommended several minimum conditions of work for unorganized workers, thus prescribing minimum standards, including: (i) an eight-hour working day with at least a half-hour break, (ii) one paid day of rest per week, (iii) a statutory national minimum wage for all wage workers and home workers, (iv) penal interest on delayed payment of wages, (v) no deductions from wages in payment of fines, (vi) the right to organize, (vii) non-discrimination on the basis of sex, caste, religion, HIV/AIDs status and place of origin, (viii) adequate safety equipment at the workplace and compensation for accidents, and (ix) protection from sexual harassment, provision of childcare, and provision of basic amenities at the workplace. (NCEUS)
More recently, the first step to provide comprehensive social security cover to all workers was facilitated through enacting the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008. This Act has the potential to cover all “workers” including the self-employed for the purposes of ensuring access to basic social security although working hours, safety and employment relations continue to be unregulated for these workers.

One one hand the Act is respite but it comes with certain limitations. That are mentioned below:

II. Limitation of Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008 (Sankaran T. S.)

i. Neither agricultural labourers have been brought under the purview of the Act nor a separate bill for agricultural labourers tabled. But, the minister claims that they are also covered.
ii. NCEUS had prepared two Bills, one on social security and the other on working conditions. The latter has been dumped and the Bill passed confines itself only to social security in its most diluted/truncated form.
iii. The 2008 Act appears to have excluded vast sections of unorganized workers like agricultural labourers, the unorganized labourers in the organised sector including contract labourers and the informal labourers in the formal sector, the anganwadi workers, para workers like ASHAs and parateachers, and those the cooperative sector.
iv. The Act is applicable only to a small section of unorganized labourers whose income limit is expected to be notified by the government. There is every possibility that the subsequent notification will include parameters to exclude good number of unorganised workers from the applicability of the law and the schemes.
v. The passage of the Act is not accompanied by any legally stipulated guarantee for the establishment of a Central Welfare fund.
vi. There is no provision for penalties in the Act to punish those employers who violate it.
vii. “Social Security” to the unorganized workers has been narrowed down to ten paltry social security schemes. Most of these schemes like old age pension or maternity benefit (or even the meagre Bima Yojana, for that matter) is already existing/ongoing schemes and there is nothing new in them.
viii. As a result of dropping the Bill on conditions of work prepared by the Arjun Sengupta Commission, working conditions of unorganised workers including hours of work, mandatory holidays, industrial safety, job security, industrial relations and trade union rights, guaranteeing minimum wages, bonus etc., would remain unregulated and unenforced.
ix. The national and state boards for unorganised workers provided for in the Act are advisory bodies and like the National Labour Commission they are toothless bodies. While implementation is left to the district bureaucracy, there is no independent enforcement or watchdog/oversight body with representation from unions and there is no appellate authority even.
x. Not only there is no penalty against the defaulting employers, there would be no action against the bureaucrats who refuse to register any unorganised worker under any of the twin scheduled schemes.
xi. The special problems of migrant workers, especially inter-State migrants, among unorganised workers, especially the problem of security, has been totally ignored by the Act.
xii. The special problem of women unorganised workers do not figure in the Bill. The problems of security, sexual harassment, proper accommodation for migrant women workers, issues relating to nature of work and industrial safety, gender wage gap, non-payment of wages, childcare facilities at work spot etc., have been totally neglected.


Ministry of Labour and Employment. (n.d.). Retrieved from
NCEUS. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Sankaran, K. (2014). WIEGO Law Pilot Project on the Informal Econom. WEIGO.
Sankaran, T. S. (n.d.). South Asia Citizen Web. Retrieved from

Terra Urban Monthly Digest – June 2014

Terra Urban is your daily urban blog. Here are the snapshots of dialogues on Terra Urban in month of June




‘Good meaning’ development schemes fail to reach the urban poor

by Anshu Singh, PRIA

While Rajiv Awas Yojana states in situ development of slums for the slum dwellers on Government land, we came across a different story while working with the slum dwellers in Jaipur. The slum Poos ka Bangla, lies near Jaipur Railway Station, inhabited by people mostly engaged in hawking, wage labour, servants, rag pickers in the nearby area. People belonging to lower castes from the villages of the states of Bengal, Bihar, Nepal, Gujarat, Punjab etc. lives in the slum who are engaged in labour and hawking. Though they stay in government land, they pay rent to those who have encroached the land illegally.

The people residing in adjoining area, engaged in Government services or self employed, have encroached the land using political connection. They have constructed houses- kachcha/ pucca and have given them on rent to the hawkers, rag pickers, labour etc. @ Rs. 1000/month. There are around 143 households in the slum and residents of adjoining area have encroached around 4-5 plots on the government land. Using their political connection and in connivance with the government officials they have got the names of their sons registered in survey list of RAY. So even if the slum redevelopment plan would be taken up under RAY, houses would be allotted to those who already own a pucca house and not to the destitutes as their names are not included in the survey list. The homeless will remain homeless even after the implementation of RAY.

The slum dwellers are daily wage earners and have very limited earnings out of which they have to pay rent to those who do not even own the land where they are living. Both male and female members of the family earn to make their living. Their children are malnourished and cannot even avail basic education. On one hand the slum dwellers lack access to basic services from the Municipality and on the other they have to the people who are not even the owners of the land.

The urban poor are exploited as they were in generations past which have helped in the creation of slums. Exploitation of urban poor has been a clear, direct, and systematic, cause of poverty and social suffering. As per the Planning Commission report 75% of slum households have not received any benefits from any of the governmental programmes designed to alleviate poverty (Report of the Working Group on Urban Poverty, Slums and service delivery system, 2011). The case, as mentioned above where poverty and exploitation are going hand in hand, are one of the reasons why even after several efforts by the government for eradication of urban poverty, in which housing is one of the priority along with food and livelihood, the poor remains poor and initiatives to make the city slum free seems to be a distant dream of the government.

A glimpse of the slum Poos ka Bangla through google map:,75.789039&spn=0.001368,0.002642




Non Poor Unites For the Poor – Indore Initiative

by Dr. Suman Bhanoo

Youth power is the greatest wealth and strength of any nation. The quality of its young generation determines the future of nation. To ensure prosperous future of country there is a need to unite, strengthen and empower youngsters. In every major change in society, there is direct involvement of youth either we speak about recent Anna movement or the movement that gained mass momentum after the Nirbhaya incident. In this direction similar step has been taken in Indore city where around forty members of mixed groups comprising youth from informal settlements, MSW students and volunteers have been united to form non poor groups. Youths from informal settlements are mostly engaged in daily wage jobs, rag picking and junk dealing. These groups have been continuously struggling for the informal settlers’ rights.

Deeb Bandhu Samaj Sahyoj (DBSS) organization’s Prof Anand is facilitating the whole process and providing support to these youngsters. These groups are engaged in street plays, community mapping, community meetings and scientific temperament programmes. Describing the journey of this group Prof. Anand has stated, “For last seven years without any big financial support group is working for the rights of urban marginalized section. Motivation to dissolve class difference and bring equality in society was the driving force. Due to financial constrains group had faced many hurdles during all these years and after prolonged struggle they have established themselves. Now these groups are the most talked group of Indore city”. Integrated non-poor group have been divided into seven sub groups to get concrete results.

S.No. Non Poor Group Functions


RTI Group


RTI group files RTI’s on all the social issues though some of them are not relevant now but they can be supportive in near future. This group also supports the youth groups of community in filling RTIs. Till now group has filed  RTI’s on RAY, BRTS, RTO office on transportation act, on violence against women, atrocities cases, for Ashray Nidhi Shulk of 15% land reservation provision (In DUDA), for the job card details of MNREGA etc
Cultural Group Cultural group Chingari conducts street-plays, puppet shows, revolutionary & progressive songs. Chingari group had played a crucial role in assembly and parliament election and performed 30 shows on 3 different scripts. BeforeLok Sabha elections it had performed street play in 10 different communities of Indore.
Study Group Study group conducts studies on relevant social issues like; public transportation, water & sanitation, housing, solid waste management, health and education. It also publishes periodic newsletters on these issues.
RTE Group RTE group conducts awareness camp in informal settlements and labour adda’s for the enrolment of their children in schools
Community Organization Group This group is continuously working to bridge the gap between local community forums to establish the mutual dialogue and interaction with development agencies and civil society groups. Group regularly organises public communication activities between the informal settlers and urban youth and has builtconsiderable rapport and mutual confidence with slum forums.


Advocacy and Lobbying Group This group builds up linkages with NGOs, civil societies, policy makers and planners for the rights and interests of urban poor.


Media Advocacy Group Mediagroup has collaborated with Times of India on women toilet issues, adequate housing issues, street play in favor of NOTA during assembly election, charter of demand & street play during parliament election.

npFormation of non-poor group is a humble attempt to bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots. These young groups are working diligently for the better society. All we need is to direct the energy of youngsters in constructive channels that leads to development and progress of nation.