Friday, 24 December 2010

Slums, cities and the web of development -3: Ghettos of Development

Slums, cities and the web of development -3
"... because there was no room"
3 Ghettos of Development

It is, of course, possible to rehabilitate the people within their homestead at countryside instead of displacing them, for so-called progress and development in the name of “common good”. Is it possible to rehabilitate the people who are marginalized due to natural calamity or human intervention? It is possible to rehabilitate them with dignity.

Under certain town planning acts the land holdings are reconstituted within city limits, for example by declaring town-planning schemes. Twenty-five years ago Vadodara City took care of all, particularly the small landholders that they do not loose their land while acquisition of land for public and social services for paltry sum of compensation.

Reconstitute Regional Land Holdings

Why then, should it not be possible to reconstitute the land holdings at the regional level while acquiring land for the development projects from where the people are displaced, or where the land acquired by paying cash compensations, and perhaps a promise of jobs in future, while creating the “ghettos of development” in the rural areas?
What is the value of cash compensation in the spiralling inflation and falling rupee value? Instead the local people affected by the development projects are treated as second-class citizens.
Is the administrative machinery ready and prepared to work hard for this job?

Compensation for the Acquired Land 

What is the basis of cash compensation for the acquired land?
Is it the current land price in the locality?
Is it based on the comparison with land value in the cities and metropolitan cities?
But don’t, however, cities, depend on the resources of the regions – at times from remote and distant areas for their sustenance?
Is the compensation based on the future inflated land value when the project becomes operative?
Is it based on the disparity of living standards of the urban elite and rural poor?
Or is the disparity in the literacy level and consumption level of both — those who acquire the land with the help of instrument of law and those from the land is taken — is a measure of cash compensation?
Or is it based on a theory that the people that depended on the very piece of land for ten thousand – or more – years, generation after generation, and will be deprived of the very resource – the land – for the posterity?
In what way the life of the people around the “Ghettos of Development” in the name of common good, in the areas of education and schooling, job and vocations, economic conditions, and services – post, transport, water supply, health…?
Until now they had depended on the soil for their sustenance while feudal lords, kings, rulers and emperors – Ashoka or Aurangzeb – came and vanished. And now in the independent India the ruling minority have taken their role? 

Who should get the rights to develop the waste lands in the country? It is worth a study. Perhaps only those who have strings and pull in their hand in the corridors of power could get the hold of wasteland. Instead, the marginalized and the displaced should have the rights on the waste land, with appropriate aid of technology, training and finance, and rights.

In any case, the present waste lands are the result of monuments and urban development of the glorious past and the ambitious present.    

Replace Slums by Humane Habitat

Is it possible to remove from, or rather replace slums by creating humane habitat in the cities and towns in India, and to some extent? Yes, if the people are given a fair deal in the development projects, out side of urban area, in the cases of public and private sector projects, including the areas brought under urbanization such as New Bombay built by CIDCO (City and Industrial Development Corporation) in Maharashtra State.

Take one of many aspects – the compensation for acquired land, particularly in the rural area. It is not only the owners of the land acquired but also entire affected population of village/s or region must be entitled to receive compensation. All are dependent on the land (and water) as a resource.

The nature and value of compensation and rehabilitation should be worked on the basis of and in the proportion of the total cost of the project, whether the land is acquired for a public or private project, which include mining projects. The total cost should include:

1. The cost of planning, administration, acquisition and arbitration processes from inception to completion stage: e.g. salaries, stationary, establishment, transport, conveyance, consultancy, services such as legal, technical, management, planning etc.
2. The investment incurred in the development, construction and establishment of infrastructure: A. civil works, rod, rail, buildings, machinery etc, and B. Services.
3. Annual compensation in the proportion of annual expenditure, but not of profit (loss) irrespective of subsidies and tax concessions, during the years of operations / life of a project.
4. When the life of a project is over, or its use and its owner is changed (as it happens when the government owned projects are privatized, in recent times,) the land must be restored back to the people.

The major curse of the so-called development projects is the land (and waters) gets degraded – dead – forever, whether the project is a success or failure, runs in profit or loss, or abandoned or changed.

Image: Squatters in Mumbai  

Squatters in Mumbai
Ghettos of Development: An Example 

Raigad had been a Notified Backward District. Proximity of Mumbai, availability of 'cheap' land and labour, and other facilities, hence, many industries found it lucrative for investment.
The environs of Rasayani and other industries here are inhabited by Adivasi Communities and other societies. More than three decades have passed, but the presence of industries have not changed their economic and health conditions for better, or improved literacy or education. On the contrary these industries have polluted the nearby Patalganaga River that affects fish and farming. 
Continued 4 


Author: Remigius de Souza
[Published in the Journal of Indian Institute of Architects, Vol. 61, No. 9,  Dec.1996, p23-25. This is edited version.]
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Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Slums, cities and the web of development -2

Slums, cities and the web of development -2 

2 - The slums increase in direct proportion to the development. 

Most cities and towns in India have prepared development plans during last tree or four decades – mostly through the government departments. It is possible for city governments i.e. municipalities, to acquire land, to freeze the land use and municipalize the city lands for the purposes other than roads, gardens, commercial and city centres.

For example, Vadodara [Baroda] city (in 1960s) notified certain areas of land for “public housing” some thirty years ago. If Vadodara City can do it, then other cities too can find indigenous ways to deal with their problems.

It is possible to freeze the land use of vacant plots as well as areas of dilapidated buildings, which could be used for rehabilitation of slum dwellers, for redevelopment and revitalization of the area.

This could be brought about by “collective creativity” rather than by formulas and standards. This is possible when all citizens, not merely the professionals and the vested interests groups, become aware of the planning process. This is possible by creating a public forum.

Another example: Vadodara City (in 1965-70) rehabilitated 2000 families of slum dwellers whose huts were washed off in the flash flood of River Vishwamiti. They were given houses in five different safe places in the city. This was possible for two reasons: there was will on the part of the people of the city and the land was made available.

Today the slums at Vadodara have increased manifold. Are slums emerging as a new form of human habitat all over the country and elsewhere in the world while the humanity is on the threshold of 21st century? People use the phrase “21st century” as a magic wand. But the miracle is not coming off. The slums in the Indian cities have now become an ever-expanding phenomenon, which seems to have no end in future.

Slums are a result of territorial war and an invasion. It is slow, silent and unseen resulting from a partition where the powerful have opted for machine-energy to human potential, for power and profit. Perhaps the planners in their future development plans may have to paint grey-coloured-areas for slums in addition to other land-use zones in the city maps?

No one wants to leave one’s home and land, kin and community, and live in the rotten environment of slums in the cities. In Bombay, for example, during the World War II in the past and recent times during ‘the Textile Mill workers’ Strike’ and the riots, many people left the city, even though temporarily.

Exodus took place from Goa during the times of Inquisition during Portuguese rule, and during the partition of India – Pakistan from both the countries. It has been recognized that movement is associated with survival from proto-historic times for humans and other species. The slums are the result of desperate struggle for survival by the silent majority.

Who are these people in the slums?

They could be riot-affected, famine-affected, war-affected, the development-affected and economy affected, besides other causes. They are landless labourers, farmers, peasants, artisans etc. Adivasis – the aborigine – who are forest-dwellers, however, temporarily migrate to towns and cities for labour work during lean seasons of the year. They do have life-supporting skills and education, but are turned redundant due to the destruction of social and natural environment that helped them to sustain in the past. 

Contd. Part 3

Note: Author: Remigius de Souza
[Published in the Journal of Indian Institute of Architects, Vol. 61, No. 9,  Dec.1996, p23-25. This is edited version.]

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©Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Slums, cities and the web of development -1: Slums are on rise in India

1- Slums are on rise in India 

The slum dwellers and squatters in Mumbai have risen to 60% of 110 lakhs population. They obviously are major vote bank in the metropolis. Obviously the politicians mooted an idea of “giving free houses’ to them.   

Either housing ‘for’ or ‘by’ the slum dwellers is an important issue, because it is the “people’s issue”, and its end does not seem to be anywhere in sight. It is important because in spite of so-called development and progress of science and technologies and the expertise in economics, politics, law, health [medicine], administration, management, info-tech, statistics etc. there seems to be no solution yet in sight.  

Squatters in foreground, Slum-dwellers in the free multistory building behind, Skyscraper in the background for the wealthy investors.
   For want of effective evaluation, ‘giving’ houses to the slum-dwellers and the rural poor, in spite of so much being done by the state, it has remained to the level of lip service. It pampers feudal attitude of the ruling minority. It cannot be termed altruistic as an end in itself.
   It is merely a postponement of treating the root cause by adapting ‘curative’ measures in fashion that we are so much habituated to modern medical practices. In dealing with this problem we must to the end of our rationale by looking at it from all the sides and from within it.
   The attitude, the mindset has to change from ‘curative measures’ to ‘care, preventive and corrective measures’. ‘Giving’ houses to the slum dwellers and the house-less is only a ‘curative’ measure, for self-gratification.

Do we learn from the mistakes?

What would the rulers do if there are many more earthquakes which may affect many more villages and towns?
How often the storms and floods have destroyed the houses, besides, other property and lives, in the country, and to what extent?
What has happened to the ‘Bhopal Gas Tragedy’ victims? How do these and such other events have influenced the planning and efficiency of action?
In what way these have affected our attitudes?
Do these problems belong merely to the ‘compartment’ of disaster management?
Or do they result in (futile) inquiry commission or tribunal, one more act, another department or one more ministry…?

In spite of so-called progress, planning and development the slums are on rise. They are not only in the metropolitan cities, but also in the small towns and along the transit lines, all over the country.

It is not impossible to deal with the problem of slums. But when the question of sharing the resources, equity, standards, energy, prices of farm and forest products etc. come up, the ruling minority, it may be proved, follow double standards. They turn out to be fundamentalist to claim that the development is for common good, not necessarily for the good of all. Hence the slums had been termed as illegal settlements. It is worth a study how metropolitan and large cities and mega-industries devour the resources of the land of the regions more than their due share… 

Contd. Part 2

Slums, cities and the web of development | Author: Remigius de Souza
[Published in the Journal of Indian Institute of Architects, Vol. 61, No. 9,  Dec.1996, p23-25. This is edited version.]

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©Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.