Tag Archives: India

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!

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.

 Image

 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

PRIA’s President speaks to ‘Dainik Jagran’ on Urban Governance in the context of ‘new government’

In the light of new government at National level in India, in an interview with ‘Dainik Jagran’ a national newspaper in India, Dr. Rajesh Tandon, President of Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) stressed on the urgent needs and issues in respect to urban development and governance. Some of the key issues raised by Dr. Tandon were:

  1. Need for a Comprehensive National Urban Policy: India with its 40% of population now in urban areas, still doesn’t have a national urban policy that looks into the aspects of urban development and governance. The urban sector has been much neglected, urban local bodies at urban level are not incapacitated, there is yet no means of addressing the need for jobs and livelihood for large influx of rural – urban and urban – urban migration, large villages that are pretty much ‘urban in character’ continue to be classified as villages, the socio- economic growth of urban areas at large is yet not addressed and neither has its true potential realised in respect to national growth. New government in coordination and consensus with State governments should formulate a ‘National Urban Policy’ that addresses these needs of the day.
  2. Need to strengthen the National Planning Process: In India planning process is implemented through five year plans since 1951. We are currently in our Twelfth Five year Plan. This planning tool of ‘Five year plans’ has laid much of its importance and outlook to rural development in the past for India. Now that the urban issues need to be recognised and focused upon, this tool of five year plans cannot be directly applied to ‘urban scenario’. The urban needs and characteristics with larger level of complexities require a strengthening of the National Planning Process. The planning process for urban areas need to recognise the critical need of infrastructure such as transport, water, electricity, housing etc in urban setup. At the same time at planning and policy level adequate attention needs to be given to the ‘informal economy’ that absorbs a large urban population in the most unstructured way. Our cities need to recognise and appreciate these informal workers whose faces we see in rickshaw pullers, vendors, rag pickers etc. A large number of ‘youth’ are migrating to urban areas and job creation becomes a critical and urgent need. Infact lot of crime and violence in the city can be reflected back to the lack of adequate employment opportunities in our cities.
  3. Adequate institutional strengthening at National level: At present the urban development is divided in the two ministries of ‘Ministry of Urban Development’ and ‘Ministry of Housing and Poverty Alleviation’. A single body that looks into and combines the visions of these two ministries is much needed for a holistic development of our urban centres. At the same time a dedicated nodal member at the Planning Commission that looks into matters of ‘urban development’ in specific is also required. Such institutional strengthening at the National level to address urban issues is the need of the hour.
  4. Capacity building at the state and local level: Even though decentralisation came in being at policy level in India long back, its translation on the ground is still missing. Urban local bodies do not have adequate capacity to plan, implement and finance urban development projects which are a clear mandate of these bodies. A lacking cadre in our urban local bodies also results in the staff being unwire of urban issues or with adequate training and capacity being designated responsibilities in these ULBs.
  5. Adequate attention to small and medium towns is required: Small and medium towns and cities have been most ignored in respect to national’s attention for planning, capacity building and financial support. Flagship programmes such as JNNURM focused only on large cities and ignored these small towns and cities. Towns such as Barely and Moradabad might offer great potential but are unfortunately ignored at both policy and planning level. Infact these small and medium towns are large catchment areas which not only see large influx of population from nearby villages but also offer an economical cost of entrepreneurship for these migrants when compared to their cost of living in large cities like Delhi. States like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar etc. need urgent attention to these small towns that are quickly urbanising. This again reiterates the need for a comprehensive national urban policy.
  6. Integrated infrastructural development for urban areas: Technology and infrastructure needs are high in urban areas. Unfortunately these sectors do not work in unison as a result our urban areas lack basic level of services. Three sectors require urgent attention and their related departments need to work in an integrated fashion. The first sector is the energy sector. Here its various departmental sub-divisions such as nuclear, power, un-conventional sources etc. – all need to work ‘together’ to come towards a valid and sustainable solution for our urban areas. Similar is the case with ‘transport sector’ – here the railways, roadways, aviation, ports – all need to work in unison such that the urban user is catered to well. The third sector is housing where again the planning and development needs to be more integrated.
  7. Recognise the ‘potential’ of urban areas: Urban areas are not just significant for urban GDP but also for national growth. Once adequate attention is given to small towns and cities that are actually ‘source’ of various products to large cities such as agricultural produce – there can be a holistic development at national level.

Catch the youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRz5C3NKtrc&feature=youtu.be