Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Indian Bazaar VS Global Market: A view by an ordinary Indian

INDIAN BAZAAR, at primary level, brings a producer and consumer in direct contact; no third party is involved. With urbanization, broker comes in the picture, the price and distance between the two increases. Hence, the State department's work and rewards (!) increase, with more powers.

City is a symbol of centralized power. Larger a city larger an area its footprint covers, even across continents and oceans, and larger its powers to manipulate and control regions via Market: City is actually a proxy to the power monger/s. In earlier times it was a king, now a corporate body.

Bazaar is an ecological element in the agrarian society, then and now. Because of India's so-called 'mix economy, free market, open market, globalization..., the peasant now belongs to a new category of “Class”, or rather “Underclass”. They are the first and the worst casualty of 'Development and Progress', besides already existing oppressions of caste discrimination; gender oppressions apart.

Web of Caste and Class 

They are now caught in the “web” of "Vertical divisions of Caste and Horizontal divisions of Class". Which one of them is worst? They grew up for many thousand years with degenerated caste system. But, now they are imposed upon by the divisions of class that is already (globally) degenerated. 

The overview of the whole situation looks intriguing in the post-freedom era. The elite fascinated by industrialization, took over the reigns to run the affairs of the country. How did the peasant respond to the change, after centuries of feudal domination? What did freedom, democracy and leaders mean to them? 

"Now it is our Raj, and our leaders will take care of our wellbeing!" Hero-worship continued. What about the five years' rule of limited liability by elections? How does it change perceptions of leaders and peasants about self-rule?  

There are two distinct courses that India followed for decades: (1) the enthusiastic implementation of ‘pro-elite’ projects, and (2) failure to implement or materialize the ‘pro-poor’ Slogans / Promises / Programmes / Provisions. The fall-out of these two conditions now shows glaring or grim results.

Past sixty three years have witnessed rising numbers of riots, extremist and terror attacks; the deaths by hunger – malnutrition – starvation, and suicide by farmers; atrocities on women-children-minorities; atrocities by the security forces, to cite a few. Besides there are number of persons Bellow Poverty Line and the illiterate that don't reduce. 

Countless atrocities take place that are caused to the under privileged people by State Agencies in the name of law and order. There are scams, kickbacks, corruption, parallel economy, encounters, and shootings etc. which may be notable among many.

We take social – economic growth by the Development Projects too much for granted. Recent visit by the US President Obama to India means Market, even if by ancient system of 'barter', of trade, tech for jobs! Did India count how would the upcoming US Market and Nuke Deal affect The Third World India and The Fourth World India (of Adivasis)? Is this aspect social and economic fall-out counted in the Nuclear Safety Precautions? 

Mother Earth - Land - now a market commodity 
Yet there is another silent but sinister trend going on since 1950s and 1960s. Highly placed urbanites, executives, celebrities, real estate developers… have been buying large tracts of land – hills, plains, marshes – in rural areas at strategic places, by their money-power. What could poor farmers do? Yesterday they were masters; now landless labourers.

Large tracts of land are being converted to raise monoculture for industrial use, or in the name of afforestation, at the cost of biodiversity. There are many and many kinds of atrocities taking place on land and waters.

Would there be accelerated Migration from countryside, or Annihilation of the peasants – by Invisible Forces? As we Re-Search even a single aspect, Bazaar, it opens the hidden agenda of Indian Elite: how sly, hypocrite and ruthless they are! It is not merely Indian BAZAAR VS Global MARKET.

It is more sinister action by the insensitive leaders and experts, detrimental to a large and majority rural and forest dwellers. Government of India certainly strives to improve infrastructure, but only for the elite segment. It has failed to create appropriate infrastructure for 900 million peasants in 600,000 villages, some of them are rotting in the cities.

The basic and most urgent infrastructure for the rural people is RELEVANT EDUCATION: Literacy in vernacular, appropriate Education, Alternative Farming Technologies, Water Resources and Conservation, Legal Counselling for All Ages and Genders. These are not separate departments but must be treated and implemented as One Holistic Package.

The hold of the peasant and the consumer on the market, until then, remains a distant dream.

The displaced with their skills in the city 

The displaced and marginalized migrate to cities 
in search of work to sustain with dignity.
(Images by Remigius de Souza)
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 We have heard, the kibbutz have turned desert in Israel into land 
where honey and milk flows, by community participation.

Panoramic photo (composite) of Sunflower fields at Kibbutz Barkai, Israel; 
Author: Rickjpelleg | Source: Wikipedia 

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©Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Terra Incognita Indica: Building with Earth (Book Review)

Terra Incognita Indica: Building with Earth: a notable Textbook: "Building with Earth: a notable Textbook (Book Review) by Remigius de Souza ------------------------------------------------------------- ..."

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Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Hawkers' Fundamental Rights and Contemporary City Planning

Supreme Court, on Oct 20, 2010, gave a ruling that hawking is a Fundamental Right. Delhi hawkers filed a petition challenging Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC). SC pulled up the agencies on a few points. There have been several directives given to government and municipalities.

Any educated, sane person (literate or illiterate, rich or poor, layperson or professional) must be able to respond to this issue positively. But we (of The First World India) forget or ignore the millennia old Indian agrarian society and their living traditions which should be acknowledged as Unwritten Laws. Hawking is one of them.

Missing primary factor in city planning 

However, the vital and primary missing factor in this case is 'CITY' itself, therefore, 'City Planning'. City is the real cause of trouble (city being symbol of centralized power) for the people inside and outside, both.

Flower vendors during festivals, Mumbai

Judiciary, even the Supreme Court, and subsequently media-the-hawk missed this context to ‘city’ and ‘city planning’ which is at fault. City planning is not inclusive of people and their cultures in the pluralistic society of India.

When city planners write / draw map of a city, they actually write an Act of Law: That is the status of city plan. First, this map is displayed at appropriate place for the citizens to scrutinize and put on record their objections / grievances. Then it goes through hearings, redressal and then further stages of scrutiny and approval at government level. This indeed is a democratic process. 

This might seem absurd, if we consider the levels of education, literacy, illiteracy and the access to information of the citizens, and how do they use their resources This assessment may be difficult but not impossible. Media or multimedia, now, could work to spread non-formal education to all, if used effectively. 

Hawking is ancient tradition   

For millennia peasants and forest dwellers have been bringing their goods and produce for sell to weekly bazaars at villages, towns, cities and thousands of fairs annually held across the country, even in remote places. There are many cities older than thousand years, and there are 600,000 villages in India. Hawking is ancient tradition. 

Tender coconut vendor, Mumbai
Bazaar has been a characteristic feature of Indian Urban centres, small or big. If Indian intelligentsia and newfangled town planners want to ignore this fact in the name of Modernism or Westernization, and sell the land to Shopping Malls and Departmental Stores at the detriment of large majority, it is not patriotism. It is treason and intellectual slavery.

The First World India (of ruling minority) has been groomed by foreign-made education, by now a few generations. Perhaps they have lost the roots? Why architects and town planners should be an exception? If the professionals are ignorant of this loud and visible fact, and lack essential field-work, how could they ever integrate People in the Laws? How could they make People-inclusive plans? 

Each time of crisis of management of the country arises, they look for models elsewhere to imitate, or knock the doors of High Court/s and Supreme Court. But they do not look for answers from people and the ground reality; or create mass movement for divisive caused when poverty is rampant and policies oppressive.

Typically, cities 'built' in India during past ten decades have shops along roads or separate plots for shopping centres. However, in reality it seems they are planned, in the first place for cars and roads, then land-use zones, thereafter, population (numbers) that is a faceless entity. Now ‘family’ is called ‘household’ – am object. Of course, invariably the numbers prove the projections, projects, plans and planners failed.

Car takes more area than a squatter and hawker 
Cars - stationary and moving - take more area and 3D Space than slum dwellers, squatters & hawkers. It is a known fact that modern cities have lost Human Scale by domination of car. How car does consume energy, affects environment and ecology, which primarily comes from the Earth; and how it does pay back to Earth, is never questioned.

Squatters living under Mumbai Flyover

Now we pray, India's Nuke Deals don't bring further doom – by Bang Soundless and Cloud Smokeless – to the Peasants and Aborigines  by default, like that of Machine and Market so far. None speaks if the Fallout is counted in the Nuclear Safety Precautions? We ignore social – economic fallout of development. Would there be accelerated Migration from countryside or Annihilation? Already there are suicides by farmers: Annihilation by Invisible Forces?

Example of hawker inclusive Vadodara City Plan

While we (Town Planning Team) ware working on the Town Planning Schemes (TPS) for Vadodara City (formerly, Baroda), in the second half of 1960s, we integrated hawkers in the TPS. We had provided pathways for pedestrians and cyclists, besides the hierarchy of streets. At the rounded corners of the junctions of pathways and streets, small open plots were kept for the hawkers. These plots remain connected without coming in the way of pedestrians and vehicles. Corners of junctions are favourite of hawkers everywhere, not only at Vadodara. This planning action comes from ‘field-work’. 

Revamp Professional Education Disciplines  

Conclusions: There is an urgent need. The education in the disciplines of "City Planning, Urban Design, Environmental Planning, Regional Planning, Design of Indian Roads, etc. and their Foundation Courses, besides the Law”, need total overhaul, as if the Place (Land, Waters and Vegetation), People and their Cultures matter. There are no international standards for a city. A city is not a product for trade. 


1. Images above are by Remigius de Souza
2. Links: "Flower Bazaar at Mumbai during Ganesh Festival
3. News Link:  Hawkers’ fundamental right can’t be left in limbo: court

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©Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Emergence of The Fifth World India

Emergence of The Fifth World India 

This scene appears in a public square in Mumbai.

The Fifth World India of the marginalized and the displaced is already on the scenario. And we presume it may also be worldwide phenomena. However nobody wants to acknowledge its existence, particularly those who wield power. 

The people are marginalized and displaced for various reasons. However the primary cause is Industrial Revolution and the Industrial Society that grew with it over a period of time, and their rapid, wild and unrestrained growth, progressively.

The growth of Industrialization certainly is out of proportion to entire population on, and the resources of the planet. It has created imbalance between regions and peoples, resulting in deprivation of basic needs – Food, Shelter and Clothing – for the economically weaker section, which is a large majority.

The Industrial Society, now labeled a Global phenomenon, wields monopoly over the resources of the Earth that belongs to all living beings – humans as well as plants and other animals.

Industrial Revolution is not ‘Universal’ like Agricultural Revolution. It remains in the hands of a privileged few. The rest are denied its advantages in practice, though it may not be on paper. This is not an altruistic attitude generally ascribed to humans.

Columbus discovered ‘New World’ while searching India. It followed not only colonization of new land and faith but also annihilation / enslaving of aborigines / local people. Vasco da Gama when landed at Mahim in Mumbai, then Islands of Mumbai, there was war at Mahim Fort. On winning the war the soldiers went around Mahim village and killed the unarmed villagers to create terror; typically colonization of land and faith followed power. A known history!   

Now the 20th century and its extension the 21st century have seen faces of Power, Colonization and Faith changed. They are now faceless entities, not a picture of personalized Maharaja, Map or Mother Goddess. Now they are Money (economy), Market and Machine (the make-believe-idol-of-salvation – Science and Technology). 

In India, tools with sexy and sugary names such as, Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are coined to facilitate the First World India, and to allure people at large as if it is boon for heaven of happiness. As if it will work like magic wand to bring progress and development to the majority second-class citizens in 600,000 villages (by “trickle-down” formula).

Perhaps it may work for the First World India of yours and mine who live in Virtual Reality, for the Presidents, Prime-Ministers and Political Party-leaders who reach their “level of incompetence” (The Peter Principle). The peasants, of course, don’t believe in their antics. Hence they have been electing “hung” parliaments and legislative assemblies for decades; but politicians don’t learn their lessons. 

The obvious fallout of development of last six decades in India is the increasing number of the marginalized and the displaced from the rural areas. They have been migrating in hordes to mega cities and urban areas to earn their daily bread in the hope of survival.

From Nehru down till now the Government of India follows the priority of progress and development on the western model, rather than facilitating knowledge to and educating the agrarian society in six lakhs villages to face the Challenges of Industrialization, particularly in farming (agriculture, aquaculture, forestry, horticulture and related fields) and Market. This should have been the primary task before a government of any brand – right/left/centre, religion, language, caste, religion, colour and dogmas.

Slum-dog Millionaire Mumbai 

Stone Age humans must have been working in this manner!

Mumbai, said-to-be financial capital of India, has population of 110+ millions. It attracts the Global Capitalist Corporate; of course, to market their unsold / surplus goods & reap profits. Their primary interest is Indian Market, not Indian People. The First World India welcomes them.

People of The Fifth World India, the legitimate citizens of India, marginalized and displaced from their homestead, are the victims of many / different causes, including the Action., Non-Action, and/or Failed-Action by the Government/s. They are the slum-dwellers and squatters, 60%+ of Mumbai's population.

The First World India's elite citizens in Mumbai have different reactions and responses to their presence in Mumbai, which is mostly negative and hostile, very few empathize.  However, now, the landmark slum at Dharavi is a target for redevelopment, for its Land at Prime Location to mint money, by land-sharks the Real-Estate Corporate: They, too, are not interested in the People. 

It is best symbolized by Mumbai City's land use plan: Typically this 'Grey Area' of 60 plus million habitants is not shown on the map. It is as if city land is a market commodity, not for humans use. Industrial Civilization turns land-water-air-space... everything including humans into market commodity.

Government floated ‘curative’ measure called ‘free housing’ under slum rehabilitation & put the slum dwellers in high-rise concrete slums. This cannot be called the Rehabilitation of the Affected People. It is a poor planning action, either long-term or short-term. (This requires a separate chapter for evaluation.)

The Fifth World is a Global Phenomena 
Hindustan Times News
                                        Instead of strengthening autonomy of the peasants, the thrust has been on the development of industry and necessary infrastructure it required. The language of farming is Universal; therefore, Agricultural Revolution could spread across the continents, when there was neither urbanization (civilized society) nor institution of government.

As a saying goes, ‘wherever civilization stepped, it left desert behind’; now in modern times, it is Industrial Civilization. Interestingly emergence of The Fifth World is not limited to India alone; it is now a Global Phenomenon. 

Industrial Civilization, in the name of ‘Social and Financial Development’ (H G Wells, The Short  History of the World), leaves irreversible desert in the human world by effecting slavery (earlier physical, now intellectual), destitution (by constant wars), poverty – hunger – starvation – malnutrition – marginalization – displacement (by monopolizing resources – land, waters, forests, minerals, on which Peoples led, for tens of thousands of years,  Sustainable Living) and complete disregard for their cultures): Now it coins a new verbosity – Sustainable Development!   

India, in the frenzy to bring Industrialization, made several Laws and Acts (which also include Development Projects, such as dams, cities, expansion of cities…) without Enacting Rehabilitation of the Affected People, by design or default. There is no effort to scrutinize the obvious fallout of previous/existing/defunct Laws and Acts, their success and failures. Neither India does learn from others’ mistakes.

Following the draconian British-made law of ‘Land Acquisition Act’ the government took over lands. The compensation came by way of Cash that had no tangible value. Our learned leaders, bureaucrats and judiciary never thought of how people live and survive, or their Ancestral Right to land. Now with few amendments the law remains!  

The Governments in India, at Centre and the states, while following various divisive policies, which results in pushing India’s plural society to polarization and further weakening the weaker section – a large majority, unilaterally followed to develop Industry (where there is Money), and conveniently ignored Gandhiji (who ironically appears on Indian Currency).

More on this issue:
  2. Urban Renewal in the Regional Context 
  3. ‘PRO-POOR’ – Election slogan by UPA-2004

Note: 1 Image, "Mumbai's Slum Population" Source: Hindustan Times, e Paper 17-10-2010
2. Images of squatters in Mumbai by Remigius de Souza 

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©Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.