civil society groups consisting of slum dwellers, civil society organisations,
women groups, other groups working amongst the urban poor, disabled women
groups, street vendors, housing rights activists and so on assembled in Delhi
on February 28 to set a new discourse for 2019. This new discourse, called the 'Voices of the Unheard' in the cities intends to influence the 2019 general
elections by advocating their demands to be (a) incorporated in the election
manifestoes of the political parties and (b) during the elections getting their
demand charter endorsed and signed by respective candidates when they visit
their (poor people) habitations.
the election campaign in the recently held Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections,
where the candidates were asked to endorse 'zero eviction' policy and sign it
in front of the community people; there is some hope for the poor in the urban
realm with the designed campaign.
urbanisation is unfolding in the country is a big challenge. Urbanisation is
projected as a panacea of the development challenges that we face as a nation.
Cities are evolving at a rapid pace, especially Tier 2, 3 and Tier 4 cities.
However, there has been less action at the inequality perpetuated, unjustness
in design and unsustainable growth of the urban in India. Cities and their
fast-changing characteristics, while beneficial for a minority privileged
groups, are becoming increasingly detrimental to the majority marginalised
sections that live, work and shape our Indian cities.
February 28, convention chalked out the following demands which will become
focus of actions at the local level to influence the elections in the cities.
It may be emphasised that over 150 members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha are
either directly or predominantly elected from the cities.
to Housing and Land Title for Slums
30% of India's population in cities lives in slums that are unprotected and are
bereft of basic services. In contrast with the popular perception, slums occupy
only around 5% of urban land in most cities. Housing policies that aim to
monetise land under slums like 'Housing for All' have exploited this little
land and lead to numerous evictions and displacements of urban poor. It is,
therefore, demanded that land titles be conferred to slum dwellers in Indian
cities and ensure their protection first. Later, there can be inclusive
development of the community's choice. This will benefit more than 15 crore
urban poor population.
Cut-off Dates and Zero Eviction Policy
Numerous basti pockets remain 'illegal' without access to services and amenities due to the regressive policies of the
Centre and state governments, like cut-off dates that determine the legal
status of people's settlements. This is leading to evictions, homelessness and
further marginalisation of urban poor. Moreover, these policies are also
contradicting the larger urbanisation policy of the country that is inviting
more people to urban areas. It is demanded that such cut-off dates be removed,
or cut-off date be the date of survey. Also, there should be zero eviction
policy at the national level.
Upgradation Scheme with the Provision of Basic
settlements or 'bastis' â€“ called slums -- have been always considered filthy.
This approach to solving people's housing needs has only resulted in evictions
and removal of slums in the name of 'beautification of cities'. There are
numerous successful examples the world over where it is amply clear that the
problem with people's settlements is not 'houses' but the provision of
services. There is a demand of a national scheme that only focuses on the
improvement of the settlements on â€“ 'as is, where is' basis and ensures that
there is no diversion of the housing debate into the number of houses, but
protecting and improving existing people's housing, wherever possible.
National Housing, Habitat and Urban Policy in 2019
National Urban Housing and Habitat Policy of 2007 has mostly remained on paper,
with many loopholes in its formulation and gaps in its implementation at the
state level. There is a need to conceive a new holistic habitat and urban
policy that will pave way for legislative reforms for inclusive and sustainable
urban development. This policy should also keep the needs and protection to
informal settlements and livelihoods in Indian cities as a core focus of its
agenda. It should bring together diverse policies on housing, transport and
sanitation with other emerging issues of quickly urbanising India, focusing on
marginalised sections and groups (caste, class, gender, disability). The policy
also needs to address the needs of peripheral urbanisation and include the
transient population migrating to cities because of rural distress.
'Smart' Cities to be Redrawn as 'Liveable & Just Cities for All'
Cities Mission has been a disaster. The unrealistic plans, focusing on
technology-centric solutions, prepared by foreign companies and implemented
through Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) against the democratic participatory
planning principles, has resulted in chaos and bypassing of local elected
governments. And without any benchmarks and standard definitions, the Smart
Cities Mission has led to an exclusionary development model. This needs to be
replaced by the concept of "Liveable & Just Cities for All" - that begins
with the premise of inclusion and sustainability, with clear benchmarks and
standards for all the urban poor and worker communities in their cities and
protect the existing people settlements and livelihoods.
cities witness daily occurrences of deaths - the best examples being of urban
homeless and manual scavengers. Ten lakh urban homeless, who without adequate
shelter as prescribed in National Urban Livelihood Mission - Shelter for Urban
Homeless (NULM-SUH) scheme are leading daily lives of humiliation. In spite of
The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their
Rehabilitation Act, 2013 - the inhuman prevalence of manual scavenging
continues in Indian cities, leading to the daily occurrence of deaths.
implementation of the Acts, with appropriate technological and financial
support is required to ensure that no more urban poor lives are lost. The whole
mission should be channelled through capacitated local elected governments
following public consultations and discussions to develop an indigenous model
of 'Liveable & Just cities'.
attention should be paid on promoting e-governance with support from Indian
institutions, such as Indian Institutes of Technology and NIC (National
Informatics Centre), to monitor and support the improvement in service delivery
and implementation of projects.
Action Plan' to Address 'Climate Change Adaptation and Pollution'
cities are the most polluted in the world and are increasingly becoming
unliveable. In the coming years our 10,000 plus cities are going to be great
contributors to global warming and climate change. Alongside the threat of
pollution, climate change induced disasters are also in the increase in urban
areas leading to further marginalisation of urban poor groups who are more
vulnerable. There is need to target the 100 most polluted/vulnerable cities and
take strong measures to control rising pollution and climate change threats
through integrated relevant policy interventions, one of them being urban
planning and development. Promoting mixed land use, live & work urban form,
public transport and non-motorised transport, and sustainable handling of solid
waste management are the first steps in the urban adaptive and resilience
building of Indian cities.
for All Informal Sector Workers
majority of urban informal sector workers - around 20 crore in population,
though recognised and protected through numerous existing laws -- are not able
to avail any benefits of schemes as they lack 'identity' of being workers.
There is a need for willingness to ensure that all workers are registered as
workers through various provisions available in the acts/policies.
is a need to reactivate The Unorganised Workers' Social Security Act, 2008
(UWSSA)with enough financial provisions in budget to ensure universal minimum
social security - like health care, maternity, insurance and pension. Also, to
address the needs of vast number of migrant workers, portability of these
schemes should be ensured to provide seamless benefits across jurisdictions to
workers. The centre should also fix universal minimum wages and (or) launch a 'National Urban Employment Scheme' to provide livelihoods to the informal
sector workers to lead a life with 'dignity'. Women domestic workers - who are
around 2 crore in cities and whose work is still not considered work and who
are exploited in a patriarchal society - need to be accorded policy protection
with a specific act on 'domestic workers'.
work in the informal sector as domestic workers, street vendors, sex workers,
home based workers, waste collectors, construction workers, etc., they should
be provided with safe access to public spaces and services. With respect to the
on-going demand for amalgamation of labour codes, it is demanded that in the
name of universalisation of benefits, the dilution of different acts/ boards
that exist for different workers be stopped and be maintained separately so as
to contribute to the specific needs of workers.
Vending in Indian cities
Vendors (SV) Act ratified in 2014 has not been implemented and street vendors -
including chaiwalas and pakodewalas- who number more than two crore
are being harassed by local authorities and state agencies on a daily basis. It
is demanded that street vendors and their positive contribution be recognised,
and their survey and registration is carried out in a mission mode as is in the
SV Act 2014.
Town Vending Committees (TVCs) be constituted through elections and space for
street vending designated in urban planning processes and schemes. Also access
to social security schemes is ensured like other informal sector workers.
of 74th Constitutional Amendment Act and Devolution of Powers and Finances
years of 74th CAA, there is a need for more autonomy and power to the City
Governments (ULBs). Increasingly, there is a trend of re-centralisation of
urban governance; SPVs being the best case of the numerous examples. It is
expected that the finances and powers of city planning and provision of
services controlled at present by the Centre and state governments should be
handed over to capacitate ULBs, which through democratic participatory
processes like ward committees ensure that urban planning is localised in
scale, and thereby make it inclusionary for urban poor groups.
resources and capacities to ULBs have to be imparted by the central and state
governments and ensuring that real time ward expenditure data should be put in
public domain which is accessible to all leading towards transparency of
functions and functionaries of the ULB's. Increase gender budget allocation in
addressing the issue of lack of Dalit women representation. And thereby, get
rid of 'SPV model' of governance mechanisms granted through Article 243Q
proviso that dilute the fundamental principles of constitution.
Provision and Formalisation of Human Resources in ULBs
There is a
need to address the huge shortage of human resources in the cities due to which
the lack of services gets exacerbated. 'Outsourcing' on contract basis as the
main mode of employment and service provision has led to a decline of quality
of city functions like - water provision, sanitation, solid waste and sewage
management etc. There is an urgent need to have a policy that incentivises
regularisation of municipal workers, who are at the moment being exploited in
sub-human working conditions and bereft of social security. Also, all City
Governments should have greater control over staffing, with powers to recruit
staff to match their requirements directly and from specialised cadres
available to them.
to get 5% of the GDP
contribute 70% of GDP and 90% of government revenues, but are in a dire need of
resources being ploughed back into the development of the urban. Now only about
1% of the GDP is being invested in our cities and their development through
major schemes and programs from the Centre, which is less than some of the
subsides for the well-off like LPG and petroleum.
There is a
need to at least assign 5% of GDP to the various developmental programs in
cities from centre to the states and ULBs consequently, ensuring devolution and
decentralisation of powers as envisaged in 74th CAA. This will benefit more
than 10,000 small and big cities in India, which is going to account for 50
percent of India's population by 2030.
Cities that are Accessible to All
women in Indian cities has become the most talked about agenda in the urban
space. The accessibility and safety of women in Indian cities have been reduced
to CCTVs and more vigilant policing. We wish to demand a departure from the
same using urban planning to envisage engendered & women-friendly cities.
This may be achieved through - first, alerting urban development keeping women
and children in the centre. Like housing, where housing design is gender
responsive, and the housing projects should be located in places where an
ecosystem of services (public transport, water, sanitation, etc.) is assured.
only way cities will be safe for women is through a more visible presence of
women on the streets. This can be achieved by ensuring more pavements that
promote walkability and access to public transport. The focus should be to
encourage mix-use developments so that live-work characteristic favoured by
women informal sectors workers like home-based, waste-pickers and domestic
workers is supported.
Third, as a
means to encourage more women migrant working population in Indian cities - working women hostels for every five lakh population in the city, day care
centres and livelihood centres be set up in every ward.Fourth, to ensure that all
our cities have free and accessible toilets in prominent public spaces for
women and transgender. Lastly there should be regularisation of local
sensitisation of government departments, social media, corporate etc.
writer is Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla.