Saturday, 15 January 2011

Slums, cities and the web of development - 4 The basis for rehabilitation

My address: At Mumbai, Post India 
Slums, cities and the web of development: 
4- The basis for rehabilitation

(A word of caution:  During 1950s and 1960s, it was alleged; thousands of acres of land were purchased by people in high places – politicians, business people, executives, etc. in various (bogus) names in rural areas. The recent Special Economic Zones (SEZs), if executed, could spell hell to the peasants, tribal and forest dwellers, which are treated as second class citizens. The social, economic, political, educational... disparities have pushed a large majority to the brink, which stinks of hidden agenda of annihilation.)

Rehabilitation should provide land for farming, housing, local institutions such as schools, colleges, training institutions for alternative agro-technology, banking, public transport, and health care faculties.

Squatters' water woes in Mumbai (2011)
Just as minimum shelter of 21 sq. m. is recommended / given to a slum dweller in cities, so also a landless labourer in rural areas should be rehabilitated with one acre of land.

All the land needed for rehabilitation of the displaced should be taken from reconstitution of the entire land holdings of the region. This formula demands corrective measures in the existing structure of laws and applications. But it also demands courage, integrity and transparency on the part of the society and Administration.

If such an application is brought into force, with effect from, say, 25-1-1952, there shall be massive exodus from the cities to rural areas. People who are rotting in the slums shall return to their homestead.

The culture and tradition of the country is essentially agrarian. The resources required for industrialization shall not last forever; neither the borrowed know-how, nor imported clever ideas of development that may work forever.

Customarily the compensation and rehabilitation is decided in proportion to, on the basis of degree of consumption and access and power to devour the resources in comparison with urban elite and not on the basis of sustenance. The direct benefit due to the acquisition for development must reach to the people on equitable basis. As is, it is questionable whether the benefits of direct taxes reach them.

Does science, or applied sciences, have answers to these problems? Perhaps partially. When ‘science’ loses its dimension of ‘people’ it becomes a ‘ghetto of information’ and eventually gets buried. Technology does not build the pyramids anymore in imitation of the past; its form, however, has changed but the context continues. When centralized power inflates and loses its vision of eternity, it disintegrates.

What memories of Mumbai these children will carry if they survive?
Incarnations and prophets born in different times spoke the language of people rather than the monopolized language of the elite. But now the times have changed. But peoples’ language is lost in the anonymity.

To look for the answers to the contemporary problems the real place is the people and not the polytechnics or parliaments or planning agencies, or theories and discourses by pundits that are not responsible.  Perhaps it is now time for billion incarnations.

The first task is to restore human dignity: Dignity to all living beings; Dignity to Life.

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.]
(Revised on: 23-05-2010)

Links to previous posts: 
  1. Slums are on rise in India
  2. The slums increase in direct proportion to the development.  
  3. Ghettos of Development
Note: Photographs illustrated are by Remigius de Souza. 
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©Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

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