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.