by Eric Kasper and Deepika Pandey
Chandrashekhar Nagar is a slum nestled along a railway line in Ward 25 of Raipur. It is one of 7 slum areas where PRIA has been facilitating community activities under its 2-year long initiative to strengthen the voices of civil society on urban poverty. Each of these 7 communities has formed a Slum Improvement Committee (SIC) which has taken on the responsibility of representing the community and sharing all relevant information with residents. Residents of Chandrashekhar Nagar are working to mitigate the precarity of life in an informal settlement by building the strength to more effectively take collective action in their own interests. The log below highlights how the community of Chandrashekar Nagar are becoming agents of their own development.
One major feature of the current policy climate in Chhattisgarh is the on-going program of the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY), the central government scheme which aims to create “slum-free city”. It is to be the capstone project of the scheme related to Basic Services to Urban Poor (BSUP) and other housing schemes. The policy has received wide acclaim, but the details of implementation, as always, have the potential to derail the project and undermine the potential for real transformation. To this end, PRIA and the slum-dwellers of Raipur plan to be ready for the kind of meaningful community participation that will be absolutely necessary for successful implementation of RAY.
Raipur Municipal Corporation is the body that is responsible for the implementation of RAY in Raipur. However, in line with the policy guidance, which encourages public-private partnerships and technical assistance from civil society, most elements of the project are being tasked to contractors. Stasellite, a contracting organization has been hired to carry out the survey of all slums in Raipur to identify eligible neighborhoods and households. This survey has already begun in several slums. Communities have reported that surveyors enter the neighborhood and chalk numbers on houses without talking to anyone, even though one of the prime guidelines in RAY is community participation starting from the time of survey!
Slum Improvement Committees (SIC) that have been formed in certain communities are raising the concerns and voice of the community regarding this practice of surveying. For example in Kashiram Nagar, the SIC members objected on being not included in the survey process and not being provided enough and prior information regarding the same. They held a dialogue with the local councillor and demanded that the survey needs to be conducted again with involvement of the community members, and refused to sign on any survey form till then.
Various SICs together also facilitate knowledge and experience sharing. Durga Nagar slum for instance was able to familiarise itself with the process and requirements of RAY based on Kashiram Nagar’s experience prior to the survey activities. Chandershekar Nagar on other hand has initiated a self – survey of their locality, to be done by the community itself.
Chandershekar Nagar was facilitated by PRIA for this self-survey task, and a format for slum profiling that would include all relevant data about the residents, community resources, neighbourhood etc. was chalked out. This slum profiling was to be carried entirely by the community with the aim of self – knowledge and limiting any level of discrepancy at the time of RAY survey, such that rights of all are included. The slum profiling by the community themselves also aims to bringing in the community together and preparticiing them for the participation process in the RAY process.
PRIA introduced a Global Positioning System (GPS) device to the community and the SIC members. This GPS instrument was a tool for the community to map their own locality. The community was excited and eager to work with the GPS and prepare a database of their community. SIC members created a team of literate community members who could devote time to carry out the survey. PRIA provided a satellite image of the slum from Google Earth Maps with a GPS device and trained them to use the same. A questionnaire also supported this what recorded all RAY eligibility aspects along with other features of the slum such as residents’ access to electricity, toilets, water, Smart Cards, Shramik cards, and other things. The survey began in full swing in the month of February. The team was able to organise themselves and divide their tasks amongst themselves such as recording points on the paper map, filling questionnaires and recording points on GPS device.
Interestingly the team comprised mostly young enterprising mothers of the community! These young women were spending most time in the slums and the older women were able to support them and take care of their children while the younger women went for the mission of surveying their community!
GPS team making the boundary “track”
The team began its task by making a “track” to record the boundary of the slum. Carrying the GPS, the team walked ceremoniously around the entire slum, starting at the Hanuman Mandir, walking down the main street to the corner, turning right, walking along the Public Distribution System offices, and then carefully following the railway tracks back to the beginning. The group saved the “track” and gave it a name in the GPS, and the group cheered their first success. A small crowd had gathered around, and the team explained that the SIC was making the survey as a community resource, and that it would help prepare for participation in the Rajiv Awas Yojana that would be starting soon.
The team then started marking points in the GPS for each house in the slum. For each one, the team would ask the questions from the questionnaire to whoever was at home. It took three afternoons, but information was recorded for each house in the slum, noting all those eligible to participate in Rajiv Awas Yojana, and alerting the SIC members that many families still had not received Smart cards or ration cards.
Slum Survey in Action
The team of young surveyors of the community also built up their knowledge and strength of participation and communication in the process. Initially for explaining the task they had initiated in their won slum to the other community members, they would look for support from PRIA representatives. But by the second day itself, the team themselves were equipped with knowledge and became leaders for their community!
The team and PRIA have also uploaded the GPS points on Google Earth and now the slum has a permanent and valid record of their existence and identity! The SIC and team members of Chandershekhar Nagar have a new vigour and zest in them. The believe that this whole self-mapping and survey experience has been transformative, giving them invaluable knowledge of their own community as well as the confidence to engage with others on technical issues. They are prepared to assist the RAY surveyors, and they are eager to help other slum communities carry out their own GPS-based slum survey.
Chandershekar slum – marked and mapped by the community
GPS team marks the points on Google Earth and reflects on the experience