Where's the space?
44% of Indians in urban areas live in just one room
75 % of the global workforce forms the informal economy
‘For the ordinary people of India, resettlement happens rarely, it happens in lieu of settlement, and it happens as a favour’ writes Gita Dewan Verma, an urban planner and author of the book Slumming India, a chronicle of slums and their saviours. Some extracts from her remarkable book that exposes the chaotic planning that creates slums.
Mandarins of nation building design projects for greater common good and, say, villagers get labeled Project Affected Persons (PAPs) requiring resettlement. As the earthmovers and hammers and chisels of ‘development’ redraw the maps that society and nature have drawn, Resettlement and Rehabilitation is meant to soften the blows.
Cities are not built over slums. Slums grow in cities. The genesis (but only the genesis) of slums lies mainly (but not exclusively) in work-seeking migration from rural areas. In a sense those who come to cities are already Project Affected Persons of lopsided rural development. Unsettled from their villages they come to the city in the hope of becoming (re-) settled, but end up remaining unsettled in slums for years, even generations, watching urban development pass them by. How can then one speak of resettling those who have not quite settled?
Willingness to resettle slum dwellers has the flavour of a favour. It implies that the state is willing to condone slum dwellers for having encroached on land meant for other (others’?) public purposes and even give them a puny place to live (though it may seem like ‘rewarding a pickpocket’).
Finally, let us consider a real urban resettlement – one meant for the well settled rather than for the never settled – as a case in point to show that at least some slum saviours do understand sensitive resettlement when it pleases them.
This initiative came from an all-party house committee for accommodation for Lok Sabha Members of Parliament (MPs). The committee had decided (following flak from the supreme court) that the MPs who have lost elections must vacate official residences. But in April 2000, after ‘sustained pressure from all parties’, it was decided that unsettling MPs settled in official housing even after they were no longer MPs was ‘a very harsh decision’.
MPs, after all, ‘have their children in local schools, their families move here and there is a change of base’ for them. Moreover, on being elected, every MP ‘thinks he will be in Delhi for the next five years’. But as has been seen in the past three tenures of the Government, no single House has been completed the full term’.
For that, naturally, one can’t blame the MPs. Accordingly, for ‘humanitarian reasons’, MPs in the parliament housing committee decided that former MPs must be resettled in Delhi and, in order that they were not unsettled, there should also be transit accommodation for new MPs.
This would mean that the capital would have far more Lok Sabha MP houses than the number of Lok Sabha MPs. The Parliamentary committee picked up 3 hectares of prime land (costing Rs 8 crore), taking care to ensure that it was in the heart of Delhi so that the honorable MPs would not have to be inconvenienced too much by having to be driven long distances.
Here then is an example of good practice in sensitive resettlement for the direct and indirect benefit of those who have been rejected through due electoral process by the people of India. For the ordinary people of India (who also have ‘children in local schools’, besides no official cars to transport them), however, resettlement continues to happen in 12.5 sq. metre plots in some wilderness just outside the city, it happens rarely, it happens in lieu of settlement, and it happens as a favour.
Unrecognised. Unauthorised. Unwanted?
But once they come to the city, they have no choice but to build, buy or rent an “illegal dwelling” as they can’t afford the cheapest legal house available. So looked from another angle, slum dwellers have found their own solutions when the state failed them. These unnamed millions then become the most important organisers, builders and planners of the new urban reality.
Since it is the State that recognises these dwellings as illegal, there is very little it does to change the situation. Most overnments’ attitude is either of indifference or repression. And that is why slums are shut out from basic infrastructure.
The problem is that most of the world regards the informal sector as something illegal which has to be eliminated because it “undercuts” the formal sector. However, the formal sector has failed to give enough jobs to most of the world. Informal economy experts feel that the formal economy manages to employ only 25 per cent of working people. Slum-dwellers and peasants comprise the remaining 75 per cent.
So reducing long-winded regulations and doing away with large under-productive public sector enterprises in favour of these informal workers could hold the key to a new economy. The illegal world is actually full of micro-entrepreneurs who can provide goods and services at lower costs. A case in the point is the SEWA (Self Employed Women's Association) Bank.
The bank started in Ahmedabad in 1974 with a capital raised from 4000 slum women. Today the bank has funds in excess of $2 million and provides housing loans for slum dwellers. It also runs programmes that provide basic infrastructure like roads, electricity and water, to people living in slums all over Ahmedabad.
Now imagine if every slum in the world decided to launch such a bank? The informal economy might then overshadow the formal one and take care of most of the financial problems of the so-called illegal world.
From Latin America to Asia, self-help proves to be the best help
Building safer and cheaper toilets
From dilapidated toilets to smart ones in plenty — that’s their story. From 1988 to 1998, the government constructed just 22 toilet blocks in slum areas, woefully short for the half-million strong squatter citizen population of Pune. So a three-way alliance between slumdwellers, NGOs and authorities was launched in 1999.
The result? 400 better and cheaper toilet blocks ready. More underway. The deal was this: The city gave the money to build the toilet blocks and the slum dwellers constructed, managed and maintained them themselves, with a little help from NGOs. The toilets are more user-friendly for children and the aged, they are brighter and better ventilated, some even have community halls! This scheme is being adopted in other cities.
South America Brazil
It pays to be stubborn
Brasilia Teimosa, which literally means “stubborn Brasilia”, is a 50-hectare site on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, 5 kms from Recife, a state capital. Authorities developed the site in 1934 to develop a fuel park, which was never built. That’s when the squatters started moving in and building shelters.
From then on, it was a fight for survival. In 1938, police destroyed shanties, which were built again, a two-way process that continued for 20 years. In 1964, a coup resulted severe prosecution by the military regime. After that, Brasilia Teimosa formed a Residents Association in 1964, which was so well organized that it resisted an eviction attempt in 1977. After that, the association is fighting for land rights through a political process launched after the restoration of democracy in Brazil.
The law changed their lives
In 1983, the government gave official recognition to Jabra in capital Khartoum and it’s been a story of development after that. Residents undertook various public works themselves. For example, they paid for the gravel and labour costs for the roads in Jabra, and the government provided the required asphalt and machinery.
Similar partnerships between the two led to street lighting and the planting and maintenance of trees. Today Jabra has two mosques, a police station, primary schools, numerous committees and councils.
Doing it on their own
The Karachi-based Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) was sure that if local residents were fully involved, a cheaper, more appropriate sanitation system could be installed in the 10,000-acre slum of Orangi. And they were proved right. Today the OPP is one of the biggest slum success stories and now includes basic health, family planning and education.
Aviles had a lot of shantytowns full of gypsies brought about by the industrialization of the city. These areas had limited access to housing, education, training and employment and health services. Since 1989, the eradication of shantytowns and their integration within the city has been one of the main concerns.
The result: ‘Promotional cities’ which have already replaced two of the six shantytowns. The authorities are now planning for a coexistence between the gypsy and non-gypsy population, induction into mainstream health care and education provision, and the creation of gypsies’ associations — in particular, women and youth associations.
The process has been very slow, but fruitful. And there were just 500 gypsies to be resettled to begin with. However, Aviles has shown the way that if the authorities have the will, then a solution is possible.
Who do you reckon is a suspicious character? Or, an alleged bad character, a possible thief? And is this person allowed to share the roads and parks with others?
An interaction with Lodi Road Police Station offered some clues. The station contentedly lies in the shadow of New Delhi’s ubiquitous Habitat Centre, which dedicated a seminar to “waste” recently.
"All rag pickers must also carry a bag of waste at all times to authenticate their occupation. (I presume therefore that an environmentalist must carry a plant, a doctor a stethoscope and students a bag of books)"
To cut a long story short, a group of waste pickers called us up and told us that the police had picked up two of them. They had already made one visit to the Lodi Colony police station, without any luck. Upset with a system invincible except by class and contacts, they asked us to help. They told us that when 5-6 of them had entered the police station, a policeman (one presumes) in plainclothes handed them a duster and asked them to start cleaning cars parked outside.
They protested, saying they had come for some work. He slapped them and said that this didn't matter. They cleaned one and escaped inside, to find their friends seated, on the floor, well slapped. Nobody would tell them anything. Their friends got them to take away their bags and sell off any waste. Rag pickers survive on a day's earning. Burn his bag, or lock him up and the day is lost. If he is unlucky, he'll be locked in for a long time.
I went to the police station. A row of persons were sitting hunched on the floor, including our two rag pickers: Munir and
Why? Because only suspicious characters hang around in back lanes: They want to be hidden. But after much arguing, the SHO finally allowed the two to leave on condition that I (alleged good character) undertook a written verification saying that these persons were not thieves. So I vouched for them. Good character transmitting goodness. The other policemen were livid and loudly grumbled about making a mountain of a molehill.
As I left, the Sub Inspector asked me to tell everyone this: (Take Heed!) No one should be found idling their time by the police. No one should be found in back lanes, or they will be caught again. All rag pickers must also carry a bag of waste at all times to authenticate their occupation. (I presume therefore that an environmentalist must carry a plant, a doctor a stethoscope and students a bag of books.)
But our friends, our Alleged Bad Characters revealed more, after they were released: None of them were in back lanes. One was in a market. The other was sitting on a pavement, exhausted by the heat. Both had bags of waste. Both felt that the purposes for their detention were: slave labour and pleasing the officials who live in Lodi Colony.
Bharati Chaturvedi is an alleged good character who founded Chintan
The Voice of Child Labour
Bal Mazdoor Ki Awaz (The Voice of Child Labour) is a unique outlet for rag pickers and other child labourers in New Delhi. Backed by an NGO, 30-40 street children meet frequently, debate and bring out their own bi-monthly wall newspaper. A thousand copies are printed and pasted throughout the city enthusiastically by these children. Their only problem is the police, who find them a nuisance and tear the newspaper whenever they get the chance. Headlines range from simple issues like “Why children run away from home" to grim ones like “Food is the primary concern for street children and one way to have a full tummy is to rely on a homosexual man.”
Something in the air
Radio Favela is the community radio station formed by a group of Brazil slum dwellers in the 1980s. While playing the sounds of Brazilian hiphop, soul and funk, the radio mixes in criticism of the government, reports of people in need and police alerts. However this didn’t go down well with the government and Radio Favela was an underground station for 20 years. It was legalised in 2001 and received a United Nations award for its work against drugs. The movie Oma Onda No Ar (Something in the Air) is based on this.
Polite is bourgeois
Slum Jagatu (Slum World) is a monthly newspaper brought out by slum dwellers in Bangalore. It was launched three years ago and today has a circulation of 2500. Militant in its views, it feels that the Indian media has let slums down and only slum dwellers can understand the problems of slum dwellers. The entire reporting is done by slum dwellers spread over seven districts in Karnataka, who write in a blunt colloquial prose that offends many.
So much so that once local housing authorities got so offended with certain articles, that they returned their copies to the newspaper office and refused to read subsequent copies. But still, various civic bodies buy 1000 copies of Slum Jagatu. The paper has been branded “anti-Gandhi”, because it doesn’t believe in his brand of non-violence.
It’s been called “anti-state” because it believes that the city is developing because of the slums and the government doesn’t even provide them the basic amenities. It’s been called “antibrahministic”, because it feels that brahiminism has resulted in many ills in the society for which they are suffering today. They also feel that the society as a whole is harassing the slum society. So what are their demands? Water. Sanitation. Housing? No. They just want legal recognition, for they feel all the rest will just follow.
On October 6, World Habitat Day was celebrated with a pledge by world governments
Hanging and Flying Toilets!
Have you ever heard of a hanging toilet? Slum dwellers in Dhaka have devised a system of precarious bamboo platforms raised a few feet above the water in a nearby lake and screened by rags.
The shit goes straight into the lake and comes back to the residents during floods. Then there are flying toilets in Africa. Rarely cleaned, toilets are a health hazard in many areas. So, most people defecate into polythene bags and hurl them as far as they can, hence the adjective “flying”.
Having jobs to offer?
"We have a host of young and able professionals looking for jobs: We have drivers, hairdressers and stylists, and insurance brokers. We also have up-coming athletes who are in dire need of sponsorship." (A web classified ad of the African Mji wa Huruma village, which claims to be the first slum on the internet.)
We all live in a Dich...
The Kiberia slum is housed in a ditch and is home to 800,000 people. It is 600 acres of mud and filth, with a brown stream dribbling through the middle. You won't find it on any tourist map, but at least one third of Nairobi lives here.
Wood fires, fried fish, excrement, rubbish and slum-dwellers all co-exist. This place is like a forgotten island of the Kenyan government. It provides no water, no schools, no sanitation, no roads and no hospitals.