The Buddhist pilgrim town of Bodhgaya caters to large international and domestic tourist, but also houses about 19 slums, holding about 8-10% of the total population of the town in these pockets of urban poverty. Unfortunately, these pockets of the urban poor have not found enough voice in the larger governance of the town and have not sufficiently been able to access their minimum rights.
Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) has been working with the civil society and the urban poor of Bodhgaya, facilitating their participation in schemes directed towards the urban poor. PRIA has over the last two years initiated various activities in Bodhgaya such as:
- Slum Listing: undertaken to evaluate the current scenario in Bodhgaya in respect to number and type of slums in the town, slum population and characteristics, applicable policies, present infrastructure and participatory strengths and potential of the community members in these slum pockets.
- City level consultations and regular interaction with media engaging multiple stakeholders in discussions around urban poverty issues, status and lacunae of popular urban poor schemes such as Rajiv Awas Yojana, role of civil society and development of an exchange platform wherein the service providers and the demand side are able to interact and facilitate a better delivery mechanism.
- Strengthening Community Participation through Slum Improvement Committees: Facilitating formation of a representative committee of the slum dwellers ( in 10 slums of Bodhgaya) . These slum improvement committees are being given necessary trainings, orientation and hand holding support to engage effectively with the government and bridge the gap between the community and the governing bodies. Through SIC, relevant information about various applicable schemes for the urban poor is also shared with the entire slum community. Empowered with knowledge and awareness, the slum community thereby is more equipped to get their rights.
On 15th May 2013, PRIA held another city level consultation as a dialogue platform between the governing bodies, slum dwellers, civil society, academia and the media in Bodhgaya. Present in the consultation, Dr. Hari Manjhi – Member of Parliament from Gaya reflected on how very few urban poor have been as of now been able to access the various development schemes for them, the main reason of which might be lack of awareness and information dissemination. Dr. Prem Kumar – Minister of State Urban Development and Housing Department shared that about 34500 youths in Bihar are being provided skill development trainings in 17 trades under SGRSY, CDP of 28 cities is being prepared under SPUR, and the minster assured construction of dwellings for urban poor through in-situ up gradation. He also mentioned about the urban poor women convention – Self Help Group, that has been formulated in Gaya under Support Programs for Urban Reforms in Bihar(SPUR).
Mr. Dine Kr. S h,Vice Chairperson Bodh Gaya, Nagar Panchayat expressed the delimmas and issues that confront the Nagar Panchayat for smooth functioning, coordination with District Administration, devolution of functions and the capacity of the Nagar Panchayat itself. These issues for certain also result in an inadequate address of urban poverty issues in Bodhgaya.
Interestingly, even though today in times of election and political change, the Bihar Government has been actively promoting and boasting its development report. This report however as highlighted by the academia present in the Consultation cater to the issues of urban poor very superficially and inadequately.
The consultation was also an opportunity for PRIA, Civil Society members and the community at large represented through SIC to share the various initiatives taken together by them and the main issues that the urban poor pockets are facing in the city. Such city level consultations are must to create the necessary accountable environment for the urban poor.