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Addressing Urban Poverty and Reformed Urban Governance

Addressing Urban Poverty and Reformed Urban Governance

National Campaign

Speaker Hall, Constitution Club of India

28 March 2014

The event Urban Poverty and Reformed Urban Governance was jointly organised by PRIA (Participatory Research in Asia) and FIUPW (Forum for Informal Urban Workers). The objective of the National Consultation is to bring together different stakeholders from the local to the national level, who play a crucial role in the governance and management of cities as well as those who are engaged on issues of urban governance, especially urban poor. It is an effort to bring together organizations of the urban poor, local NGOs, research institutions, media and other coalitions in creating a buzz in Lok Sabha 2014 elections on the issues of urban poverty.

The participants included the following:

There were about 120 participants who included people from media, CSOs and representatives of informal slum dwellers. The CSOs which participated were PRASAR, Delhi Forces, JJEM, B.V.S, Janpahal, Jivan Sudha Samiti, Samanata, RUPOEM, Matri Sudha, Hawkers Joint Action Committee, Pahel, Delhi Hawkers, Madhyanan, AIKMM etc.

The discussion was moderated by Mr Manoj Rai, Director, PRIA


The panelists were:

Surendra Singh, Child Rights/Matri Sudha

He spoke on the issues of children of urban poor and the need to improve the condition of Anganwadis was raised. In Delhi, 70% urban poor women are employed and hence Anganwadis have an important role in their lives. While there are many benefits with respect to children of urban poor like ICDS, Right to Education etc, in spite of these schemes 42% of children in India are malnourished. For these services to reach urban poor to “Pehchan Patra” (identity cards) should be issued for them.

Jawahar Singh, Jhuggi Jhopdi Ekta Manch

Jawaharji spoke about the problems of housing schemes for urban poor such as RAY. He quoted that 70,00,000 people of urban poor donot have any home in Delhi. He highlighted the issue of Kathputli colony which was evicted by Ajay Makan and sold to private builder for 6 crore. The slums are promised 4 storeyed homes in faraway places which separate them from their livelihood. Slums are evicted randomly without efforts of renovation or proper planning. Eviction of slums was not a goal of RAY. He also felt that the Congress manifesto includes an exhaustive list of unrealistic targets. He stressed that the issues must include, Roti, Kapda, Makan, Swasthya and Shiksha.

Mr Dharmendra Kumar, Janpahal

Dharmendraji state the Informal Urban Poor Workers should be formalised in every way. Only when every informal is made formal will he have access to voter id, aadhar cards, bank account etc. In urban a different type of poverty prevails. Here every poor urban home has a TV, a fridge, a bicycle, electric fan but it does not mean they are not poor. Here poverty is in terms of identity cards, access to proper education, sanitation and health services. The definition of urban poverty is changing with time. He also suggested that monitoring of manifestos of political parties should happen in parallel.

Rajendra Pratap Gupta, Manifesto Committee, BJP

Rajendra Guptaji said that  BJP manifesto provides specific solution to these problems. Employment has to be created. The main reason for urban poverty to grow is because there is no livelihood. Aim is to increase manufacturing sector to increase employment opportunities. Tourism is a very important source for India which will be ventured. Every scheme proposed by BJP will go through Social, Economic and Environment audit. India requires 1,80,00,000 homes all over country. This is a very big challenge which cannot be addressed in short span of 5 years but it is a vision.


Ashok Thakur, Cooperatives, BJP

Ashok ji said that Construction people stay in Jhuggi Jhopri only. Only when the manpower from these JJ is trained and investment is made in their development then their situations will become better.

In the last session there was open discussion, where the community people participation actively.

The main aim of this consultation was to voice the issues of urban poor. The issues were directly raised by the community people residing in various slums of Delhi. Their issues gained voice through the event and the political parties paid attention to their issues in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.


Participation by informal urban poor at its best



Urban Poverty and Urban Governance : Lok Sabha 2014

by Abhishek Jha, PRIA

“Soul of India used to live in villages but in the present epoch of time most of its souls have deviated and migrated to cities and other urban spaces and they will continue to do so”. These were the words shared by one of the speakers during the PEPAC (Pre-Election Political Awareness Campaign) consultation at Bhagalpur, Bihar. If we analyse and reflect on the above mentioned quote, it clearly connotes and indicates towards the unplanned urban growth in our country, exactly like the disturbed and restless souls which doesn’t know which way they are heading. In the same context one of the urban sociologists coined a term called ‘Pseudo Urbanisation’  which broadly meant  a state or situation where the population of urban areas continue to grow  unprecedentedly without any improvement in core basic service for addressing the needs of its citizens.  This situation is being faced by most of developing nations across the world and India is no exception.  

This fact that urbanisation is an outcome of economic change across the world has been widely accepted and hence urban areas widely referred to as engines of economic growth. But ironically the discussions and deliberations around making these engines perform better have been very less. It can be said that this has been primarily due to lack of political will among citizens as they have failed to raise demands (can clearly be understood by the status of cities) and among the political parties (since very few of them have urban on their  election agendas).   So the question arises what can be done and what should be done?

Taking these into account Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) initiated a dialogue process in the campaign mode with different stakeholders at multiple locations across the country, it must be noted here that representatives from political parties were at the core of discussion to share their views on how to change the challenges of urbanisation into opportunities. And what could be seen predominantly was that, at many places (specifically across small and medium towns) no such dialogues were ever initiated to discuss the issues of Urbanisation or to be specific issues of Urban Governance and Urban Poverty. It can be said there has been an absolute lacuna of vision for the so called these Engines of Economic Growth (bigger and smaller).

Now if we analyse the approaches being followed traditionally at national level the situation is not very encouraging as well. According to data available, out of 551 Lok Sabha Seats near about 201 will be contested from urban areas, but at the same time if we look at the Planned Expenditure under 12th Five year plan it is Rupees 68080 Crores for urban areas and at the same time it is 55 lakh Crores for rural areas.  It is worth noting that, all most all the states in country amended the state specific Municipal Acts incorporating the provisions of 74th CAA, but regrettably very few states could perform up to expectations which was envisaged under the amendment i.e. to make urban local bodies into vibrant self- governing institutions.

The inefficiency of the urban local governments can be understood as a direct manifestation of many actions (known and unknown) coming together as whole process of urbanisation is not a standalone phenomenon. The recipe of urbanisation involves many ingredients which are politically and socially high priced, land, infrastructures (social and physical), economic linkages to name a few. This altogether makes it a politically lucrative delicacy and takes it even farther from the reach of urban poor, who have been living and serving the cities since decades.

So the question remains what can be done?  

Citizens in a democratic set-up, get some selected opportunities to demand and negotiate from the candidates and the political parties and that is only during the time of election. Here comes the election again (Lok Sabha 2014 ) and its the time that we as a part of civil society need to demand collectively for our towns and cities, as Harvey has rightly said we all have a right to city.                         

“To claim the right to city in the sense I mean it here to claim some kind shaping

power over the processes of urbanisation, over the ways in which our cities are made and

remade and to do so in a fundamental and radical way.” (Harvey)

Addressing Urban Poverty and Reformed Urban Governance- Delhi (28 March, 2014)

The Political Strength of urban population can’t be ignored. Urban voter’s percentage is  significantly high. According to Google India Survey 94% of urban voters would vote in 2014  Lok Sabha elections. In the upcoming Lok Sabha election 2014 urban poor will play a decisive role in shaping the destiny of any political party contesting in their constituency. According to the reports of Planning Commission of India, cities contribute about 63% of country’s GDP and  ironically one-third of population of an average city lives in slums. PRIA’s study (released on  15th October, 2013) also finds out that economic contribution of urban poor to GDPs of cities is  much higher than the usual perceptions. It is strange that in most cities though the voting  percentages of the urban poor sections is higher than the middle and the upper-middle classes,  unfortunately their issues and problems largely remain politically and administratively neglected.

In the light of upcoming Lok Sabha Election – 2014, Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) and Forum for Informal Urban Poor Workers (FIUPW) have collectively made an attempt to highlight the key issues of the urban informal workforce and raise some critical demands for their betterment in the form of an election manifesto. This is a sincere effort to put forth and highlight the community needs for the consideration of political parties with a request to include them in their respective election manifestos. All the recommendations in this document have been made after multilevel in-depth discussions and in close collaboration with the representatives and groups of informal workers.

In light of the above, PRIA and FIUPW is organizing ‘Urban Poverty and Reformed Urban Governance – National Campaign’ at ‘The Speaker Hall, Constitution Club of India’, New Delhi, on 28thMarch, 2013. The objective of the National Campaign is to present the manifesto to Political Parties contesting the Lok Sabha Election – 2014 and discuss their responses. Find the programme of the event below and the manifesto can be downloaded at: Manifesto
Programme Design 28th March (2)

National Consultation on Urban Poverty held at Delhi

The much awaited National Consultation on Urban Poverty, learning from the work of PRIA and SPARC during the last two years for ‘Strengthening Civil Society Voice on Urban Poverty’ and inputs of various experts, policy makers, community members successfully concluded in Delhi on Friday.

The consultation was greeted with enriching participation of various stakeholders and also saw coverage in major newspapers and online media.

Find below some of the excerpts from the media coverage:

From ‘The Hindu’: A project carried out by the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) and PRIA (Society for Participatory Research In Asia) in 34 cities in 11 States brought to fore issues that affect the urban poor, for instance there is no identity of the urban poor, despite the fact that 40 per cent of them live outside of slums.

PRIA president Rajesh Tandon said one-third of the country’s population is estimated to be living in urban areas and of this at least 50 per cent can be categorised as poor. “As per secondary data, cities’ economic contribution towards the GDP is two-thirds, of which the urban poor contribute nearly 25 per cent, yet resources for their problem alleviation is not even two per cent of the GDP,” said Dr. Tandon.

Speaking on the sidelines of the consultation, ‘Urban Poverty: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities’, he said the basic needs of the urban poor categorised as domestic helps, rickshaw pullers, daily wagers, hawkers, etc., cannot be ignored as a large percentage of this population make a major contribution to the economy.

“Ironically, these people are considered a burden on the city rather than equal citizens. Better urban governance is therefore a necessary condition for empowering the urban poor and improving their opportunities and security. Unless the implementation of these programmes is improved, it would be very difficult to bring the urban poor out of poverty. Policies addressing income and affordability, sanitation, health, etc. should be well structured and monitored,” he said.

The recommendations of the consultation, Dr. Tandon said, will be sent to the Planning Commission and the State Governments for forming coalitions at the city, State and Central level for meaningful engagement with the policy-makers.

Read more at: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/unheard-voices-of-urban-poor/article4839439.ece

From ‘The Business Standard’: The meeting on “Urban Poverty: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities” saw a gathering of people studying the issue come together in the national capital Friday.

Participants drew attention to the fact that a large percentage of the city population belonged to low income groups, and their needs could not be ignored.

Rajesh Tandon, president, Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), said people belonging to low income groups including rickshaw pullers, vendors, hawkers and daily wage labourers were “considered a burden on the city rather than equal citizens.”

“Better urban governance is necessary for empowering the urban poor and improving their opportunities and security. Policies addressing income and affordability, sanitation and health should be well structured and monitored,” he said.

Tandon said 40 percent of urban poor stay outside slums and the rate of inward migration was higher in smaller cities than in metropolitan ones.

Sheela Patel of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres ( SPARC) said efforts were being made to evolve a coalition of federations of urban poor.She said there cannot be a uniform solution to problems of the urban poor, and it had to be city-specific.

Aromar Revi of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) said the rate of migration to cities could increase if there was collapse of agriculture.He pointed to other situations that could offer insights, saying that India’s rate of urbanisation was slower that in some Latin American countries.

Read more at: http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/recognise-economic-contribution-of-urban-poor-urge-experts-113062100738_1.html

Stay tuned to Terra Urban for more updates and learnings from the Consultation!

‘Middle Cities’ – Are we forgetting to nurture the engines of our future growth?

Cross-posted from IDS Vulnerability and Poverty blog

By Jaideep Gupte

With the world now mostly urban, nearly 60% of our global GDP is generated in only 600 urban centres. Moreover, large urban centres are quite simply the places where growth has been occurring – this is a function of concentrated economic activity. But this story is really about what is yet to come. For the first time, a country like India, with only a third of its population currently urbanised, which is far less than Brazil (86%) or China (47%), is reporting higher population growth in urbanised areas than across its vast rural landscape. In sub-Saharan Africa, the urban population is projected to double by 2030. This growth can be categorised into two significant trends: just under 30% is projected to occur due to what is classically understood as rural-urban migration. Significantly, the rest will occur due to natural increases in urban population, that is, cities and towns generating their own population growth. National planning bodies also have a say in this when they classify peri-urban or peripheral areas as under municipal administration.

This ‘urban-shift’ is going to require resources at a monumental scale – China for example, predicts it will need $8.1 trillion in new investment by 2020 to accommodate its new urban dwellers. Current rates of investments into infrastructure are falling far behind these levels. And not just in terms of scale, but importantly, also in terms of location: focussing on new or projected population growth, the mega-cities of the developing world are quickly being overtaken by a vast number of small and medium sized urban areas, each numbering approximately 100,000 in population. 

These ‘middle’ cities and towns across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia are going to be the main hosts of urban growth. Understandably, these town and cities are also the weakest in terms of human capacity, infrastructure or service provision, and have a very thin local tax-base to use for future investment. Local revenue of most of these municipalities is often less than 1% of their country’s GDP. This has created a critical mismatch across a range of sectors, from basic service provision, law and order, to disaster preparedness, which directly impacts our progress on poverty eradication.

This is the theme of this year’s Global Monitoring Report – Rural Urban Dynamics and the MDGs, which provides an in-depth analysis on urbanisation as a force for poverty reduction and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. I speak with Jos Verbeek, Lead Economist at the World Bank and Manager of the Global Monitoring Report, on what impact urban development has on rural poverty, what roles and responsibilities the private sector has in fostering urban growth, and how ‘middle’ cities can be supported in becoming engines of our future growth.

 Listen to the conversation below:

Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on Urban Poverty- Jaipur

Shared by Anshu Singh, PRIA

Under, ‘Strengthening Civil Society Voices on Urban Poverty’, PRIA, initiated an awareness drive in Jaipur. The team is supporting the slum dwellers to obtain relevant information, avail their basic rights and voice their opinion. In Jaipur, it is working in 10 slums for the improvement and upliftment of slum dwellers to make them habitable. To facilitate dialogue sharing between different stakeholders of urban poverty, a consultation was organized on 4 April, 2013 at State Resource Centre, Jhalana Dungri, Jaipur. The consultation was an effort to shape the civil society debate and also to engage the key policy makers and actors, in shaping the policies and programs from citizen’s perspective.

The objectives of the consultation were

  • To bring all the stakeholders of urban poverty to a common platform
  • To discuss ways in which government programs can be influenced in a positive manner so that it can satisfy community demands.

The consultation was attended by 84 participants including CSOs, CBOs, Research Institutes, Policy makers, Urban Planners, individual Activists, Professional Consultants, slum dwellers and Media from Jaipur. Mayor, Jaipur Municipal Corporation was the Chief Guest of the consultation. Apart from this, the Chief Executive Officer, JMC, Commissioner, Kachchi Basti and Zone Commissioner also attended the consultation. The consultation was concentrated into two thematic sessions viz.:

1. Civil society engagement on urban poverty issues

2. Ongoing initiatives of Government on Urban Poor


Smt. Jyoti Khandelwal, Mayor, addressing the participants of the consultation


Ms. Shaheen, the Community Leader of Bhojpura slum sharing the problems faced


Mr. P.N. Mondola, Activist, sharing the challenges of Urban Poor

 The following are some of the suggestions from the consultation:

  1. Land rights should be given to persons residing in the city since last three years.
  2. For the slums which are covered under RAY, houses should be constructed in- situ so that the slum dwellers do not lose their livelihood.
  3. Implementation of National Urban Sanitation Policy
  4. IEC for welfare schemes specially those which are for BPL families
  5. Implementation of schemes should also be monitored by Government (implementing agency)
  6. Make a ‘Consortium of NGOs’ working on Urban issues
  7. There should be a monthly interface “Sanjha Sarokar” between the Slum Improvement Committees and respective Zone Commissioners and Parshads to make them aware of the situation
  8. NGOs should adopt ‘cluster approach’ e.g. groups of vendors, rickshaw pullers, rag pickers etc., so that they could be trained at  Resource Center of JMC
  9. NGOs should conduct research, collect related data and inform the government so that it could be incorporated in the preparation of Master Plan of Jaipur
  10. Promotion of Right to Information Act, 2005, Right to Hearing Act, 2012 and Public Service Guarantee Act, 2010.

A copy of the suggestions was circulated to the Mayor, Jaipur Municipal Corporation (JMC), The Chief Executive Officer (CEO), JMC, Zone Commissioners of respective zones, Commissioner Kachchi Basti and NGOs who participated in the consultation. A meeting was also held with the Chief Secretary, Government of Rajasthan (GoR), Additional Chief Secretary, Urban Development, GoR, Director of Local Body, Urban Development, GoR for implementation of the suggestions to improve the condition of the slums.

A meeting was held with the CEO, JMC in which the suggestions of the consultation was shared. He considered its incorporation in the Action Plan of JMC. Another meeting was held with the Chief Secretary, GoR, for sharing the issues of urban poor. He marked the letter to Additional Chief Secretary which was again marked to Director Local Bodies for its processing.

The government authorities have shown a positive attitude for addressing the problems of slum dwellers. Hope this dialogue sharing and conversations would be fruitful in increasing coordination between the slum dwellers and the government officials and also for streamlining the marginalized section of the society.