Slums are a natural development of India’s economic and political structure. Do you agree? Why the various slum development strategies in India have not delivered the required results? (15 Marks)

Mentors Comments:

  • Slums are an omnipresent reality for most of the major cities of India and various efforts have been made by the government to address the issue. In this context, it is essential to understand the relationship of India’s slums with its political and economic structure and discuss why the slum development and relocation strategies have not borne the results.
  • The question wants us to express our opinion as to whether slums are a natural development of India’s political and economic structure. 
  • The question also wants us to write in detail as to why various slum development initiatives and strategies have failed in India.
  • In the introduction, write a few introductory lines about the growth of urbanization in India and the problems this has led to.
  • In the main body discuss how slums are a natural development of India’s political and economic structure. E.g most of the nation is still rural and agriculture dominated; Seasonal nature of employment in agriculture and various other push and pull factors have led to migration of poor people from the rural areas and led to slums; urban India’s growth is built on the back of cheap labor in everything from construction to domestic work. Various combinations of rent control, opaque and distorted land markets, stifling regulation and laughably low floor space indexes have resulted in a severe lack of affordable housing in India’s premier cities. Slums are the natural outcome etc.
  • Discuss why most slum development strategies have failed in India. E.g There are many hurdles, both major and minor. The lack of adequate data and land titles in slums meant expensive, time-consuming delays were common. Failure to take slum dweller representatives on board meant that the informal economic networks underlying the slum economy would be disrupted by the redevelopment. So would the community networks that fill the gaps left by missing social safety nets. Lack of common standards meant that the housing built for slum dwellers was often of execrable quality. As for the problem of slum dwellers selling or leasing the houses and returning to their previous housing, poor quality, unaffordable maintenance costs, and disrupted networks often had a role to play here, etc.

 

Answer:

Recently, the Maharashtra government signed off on the latest initiative regarding slum development. A special purpose vehicle with 80% private and 20% government stake to redevelop Dharavi as a whole rather than in separate sub-clusters as previously envisioned. In this light, there is a need to assess the slum d envelopment strategies in India.

Why are slums natural development of India’s economic and political structure:-

  • State policies of forced evictions:-
    • From the 1950s through the 1970s, forced demolition and relocation were common in various states.
    • The Maharashtra government’s Maharashtra Vacant Lands Act 1975 was particularly draconian. Such policies ignore basic economic logic. Internal migration is a driver of growth and development
  • The fast pace of urbanization in post-independence India resulted in increased migration of rural and peri-urban populations to cities and towns in search of jobs.
  • Multiplying to it the natural population growth gradually affected the ability of city managers to cope up with the incremental slum population. 
  • Particularly in an economy like India, a large chunk of the rural population is seasonally employed in agriculture.
  • Urban India’s growth is built on the back of cheap labor in everything from construction to domestic work.
  • Various combinations of rent control, opaque and distorted land markets, stifling regulation and laughably low floor space indexes have resulted in a severe lack of affordable housing in India’s premier cities. So Slums are the natural outcome. 
  • Eventually, the increase in the absolute number of slum population suggests that past pro-poor initiatives had been lacking somewhere and could not contribute to restrain slum population growth.

Various slum development strategies in India:-

  • In 1970s programs like the slum rehabilitation program executed on a large scale, relocating people to remote corners outside the city and disrupting the lives and livelihoods of the slum dwellers. These projects proceeded to cause social disturbance in the slum communities.
  • Some other programs are Integrated Low-Cost Sanitation Scheme (ILCSS) 1981, Urban Basic Services Scheme (UBSS) 1986, Urban Basic Services for the poor (UBSP) 1990, National Slum Development Programme1996, Valmiki Ambedkar Awas Yojana (VAMBAY) 2001 and many more slum rehabilitation and up-gradation programs. Although having a number of schemes for urban poor lack of inclusive planning, and incapability of putting them in the right order and place resulted in the failure of most of the schemes.
  • Basic Services to the Urban Poor (BSUP)-a sub-mission of Jawaharlal Nehru  National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), 2005 has been a major shift from the traditional slum improvement approach. 
    • JNNURM-has contributed significantly to achieve the objective. 
    • The focus was enlarged to security of tenure, affordability of housing, and social security along with the provision of water, sanitation, health, and education facility.
    • It is the first time when beneficiaries are involved as active stakeholders of the program.
  • Rajiv Awas Yojna (RAY) was unique in many ways.
  • The Slum redevelopment approach employed here is a milestone shift towards bridging the gap of exclusion of slum dwellers in various aspects and at various phases of the slum redevelopment program; and empowering them to have basic infrastructure services at par with and integrated into the city.

Failure of India’s slum development strategies is due to the following reasons:

  • Many projects themselves failed:-
    • For instance, the World Bank-funded Slum Upgradation Programme, the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme, rolled out in Maharashtra in 1995 under the Slum Rehabilitation Authority, etc none of them have been successful.
    • Current slum policies primarily focus on housing, relocation or in-situ development of multi-story complexes, which free up swathes of prime real estate. But in doing so, they miss out on the brewing socio-economic distress in slums. This was revealed in two projects conducted in Bengaluru and which could apply to other Indian cities too.
  • The lack of adequate data and land titles in slums meant expensive, time-consuming delays were common.
  • Failure to take slum dweller representatives on board meant that the informal economic networks underlying slum’s economy would be disrupted by the redevelopment.
  • Lack of common standards meant that the housing built for slum dwellers was often of execrable quality. As for the problem of slum dwellers selling or leasing the houses and returning to their previous housing, poor quality, unaffordable maintenance costs and disrupted networks often had a role to play here.
  • Forced evictions took place:-
    • Millions of poor people, or squatters, have been evicted until the late 1980s around the world in the name of Urban Renewal Projects, most of them (tenant) without a share in any benefit. Excluding the already excluded poor from developmental opportunities aggravates the problem.
  • Tiers of slums:-
    • Many cities across India have two tiers of slums those with official government recognition and those without, and the JNNURM did not push cities hard enough to directly intervene in slum areas without recognition.

Way forward:-

  • Redevelopment plans need to take slum residents on board and address the socioeconomic fallout of relocation:-
    • Once the beneficiaries’ perception is adjudged and participation is ensured, issue identification and prioritization for decision making will be more subjective as well as effective. Above all, the integrity of governance for slum redevelopment surely led to sustainable environmental management.
  • Instead of forced evictions, authorities should plan an in-situ upgrading approach.
  • Easy financing and leasing options at affordable interest rates for upgrading, building, and extension of the existing shelter should be made available.
  • Management of urban environment through redevelopment of slums should take an integrated, inclusive, and participatory approach that primarily needs understanding of capabilities, choices, and willingness of slum dwellers along with a strong commitment of governance to create and maintain a conducive environment.
  • Management approach must consider location-specific all the possible and innovative alternatives for slum redevelopment and future development. A comparative impact analysis between the physical environment and socio-economic environment may guide in prioritization of issues that could lead to a sustainable plan of action through participatory and inclusive planning. 
  • Adequate data:-
    • India must get concrete figures on these temporary and semi-permanent settlements.
    • Slums have a fluid definition and legal pedanticism leads to exclusion of people. The 2011 Census-estimated 65 million people in slums, a marked shortfall from the UN-HABITAT’s 2014 estimation of 104 million. This needs clarification.

 

 

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