Tag Archives: migration

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!

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Village in the City – new slums? -China’s and India’s approach

By Nidhi Batra, PRIA

Urbanisation is a continuous process which involves expansion of the urban areas and also rural-urban migration. It is often assumed that the cause of urban poverty in Indian cities is the rural to urban migration. Instead as proved my many reports and studies, it is the growth of urban areas and engulfing of villages in the city boundaries – urbanising the villages that are more a reality in Indian situations.

These urban villages are not new to India. Most newly planned cities ignored these urban villages while planning for new cities. This can be seen right from the beginning in Delhi Master Plan 1962 where it did not have any clue on how to address urban villages that now lie in the boundary of the city. They just got left behind as ‘Lal Dora Areas’, hubs of no –regulation and close to slum situations. Gurgaon’s laissez faire development saw many of these urban villages being left as ugly eye sores with no addressal of growth and development of the existing villages. Naya Raipur plan of the city is no different, in the city limits are existing villages but wonder if there is an effective policy to regulate that these villages would not end up being the urban slums of this city. Raipur intense urbanisation over last few years has seen the boundary of municipal limit being revised again and again and villages on the outskirts now being officially ‘urban’. Though these villages maybe declared now part of the municipal limits, the City Development Plan was quick to term them as slums!

There is often a massive resistance to cling to the tag of rural areas, which attract a much larger share of welfare funds from the centre and escape higher taxation. This results in poor infrastructure development and administrative chaos, partly explaining why a large majority of urban poor continues to be concentrated in newly-developed small towns.

China’s Approach – Seal the village!

Recently I read about unfortunate policy that China has adopted for these urban villages – ‘ a sealed management’ policy for Chengzhongcun that are areas classified as rural villages which have been absorbed into China’s growing cities and are becoming thriving unregulated rental markets for rural migrants in the process (Ref: Shutting the poor by Constance Brehaut)

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The main street of Laosanyu, where Beijing’s “sealed management” policy was first trialled during the Olympic Games in 2008, and remains in force. Photo: Constance Bréhaut

The formation of these villages-in-the-city is characteristic of the Chinese dual land tenure system which distinguishes between rural and urban land, and separates land use rights from land ownership: urban land is generally state-owned, while rural land is owned by the rural collective, and cannot be transferred, sold or leased for non-agricultural use. During the urbanisation process, local authorities could buy agricultural land, but the ownership of the village remained collective, and villagers could still dispose of their land use rights on their housing plots. The villages maintained their status as “rural” areas, as the government did not want to deal with the potential relocation and compensation cost of the villagers.

But this administrative status does not match the reality anymore. To compensate for the loss of their agricultural land, a major source of revenue, many villagers redevelop their housing at high densities, creating an informal rental market, which matches the needs of rural migrants in search of cheap housing opportunities close to work. As the majority of migrants cannot afford to rent private accommodation in the centre of Beijing, they have to rely on alternative housing opportunities. Often, urban villages are the only affordable option available.

The physical environment of the village is characterised by narrow roads, face-to-face buildings, streets packed with shops, grocery stores and service outlets. Highly dense and unregulated, they are considered by Chinese authorities and media as a source of social disorder and neglected urban planning.

This policy of “sealed management” (封闭管理 or fengbiguanli in Chinese) first appeared in Laosanyu during the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Under the policy, selected chengzhongcun inhabited by migrant workers were fenced in and security stepped up: gates, walls, police boxes, 24-hour patrols and permits necessary for outsiders to enter the village. It is a pilot policy, first directed towards 16 urban villages in Daxing District in the spring of 2010, and then extended to other districts in Beijing. It has attracted much media attention, where it has been described as creating “gated communities for the poor”.

These measures, supporting the sealed management policy, are characteristic of the official will to eradicate any sign of informality and “neglected urban planning” in these villages. They also have a symbolic dimension: a clear sign to outsiders that they are entering a regulated, controlled and “protected” environment.

How does India treat its village in the city?

India does not stop its citizens from internal migration .People are free to move across states to escape destitution or in search of better opportunities, economic or otherwise. However, local governments and India’s middle class largely view economically poor migrants as outsiders making illegitimate claims to life in cities. Recently, scholars have started pointing out the growing hostility of urban governments, as well as middle class citizens, towards urban poor, especially migrants to the cities. The 2010 Common Wealth Games held in Delhi saw the forced eviction of large numbers of urban poor, mostly rural-urban migrants.(Ref:Urban migration and exclusion by Preeti Mann)

While most migrants would qualify as lawful citizens of the land, in urban India, the rights of citizens get operationalized through a host of official documents such as property lease or ownership papers, PAN cards, bank statements, bills, and voter IDs. Bereft of these, the paperless migrant accesses basic goods and services at a premium in the black market economy. Ironically, the most marginalized and poor also have to pay the most dearly. The underground economy is also indicative of the state’s absence in service delivery and lack of institutional support. From a migrant’s perspective it is the opportunity to enable a better life, economically or otherwise, that draws them to urban spaces. However, for a rural-urban migrant to move, there are additional costs that result from functioning in the informal economy. Opportunities cannot be readily undertaken if that means having to enable an entire environment that mostly depends on the back market economy and social networks.

Urban development, if done in an inclusive manner, can enable social mobility and integration of migrants in the real sense of the word by providing a renewed opportunity to challenge or change some of the traps or processes of impoverishment. This involves planning for services like access to safe housing, water, electricity, schools, and healthcare. Just as important, it requires a concerted effort by governments and civil society to identify and reduce structures and processes of exclusion in urban spaces. This, in turn, would be incumbent upon integrative planning, political will, and capability-enhancing policies that propagate access.

The Chinese policy of gated urban poor settlement is not a solution, but that does not ignore the fact that India needs a policy to address these transition areas. Prevention is still a possibility in small and medium towns which are undergoing fast pace urbanisation, while a cure needs to be recommended for the larger cities.