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Only slum-dwellers can ensure a slum-free India

Joachim Arputham
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Joachim Arputham, who got the for his work on slums, talks to Sanjay Jog about the politics and in India.

The finance minister has allocated Rs 1,270 crore in the Budget for slum development under the Rajiv Gandhi Awas Yojana compared to Rs 150 crore last year. This is an increase of over 700 per cent. What is your comment?
This is a wonderfully innovative approach to development provided it is implemented properly. It should be accompanied by policy changes. Housing is a state subject. My one request to the states is that they should provide land for slum development. A large number of slums have no basic amenities such as toilets and water.

What prevents the finance minister or the housing minister from saying that these facilities will be provided to all slum-dwellers, including those living on the government of India land?

Can you take us through the politics and economics of slums and their growth across the country?
The reasons for growth of slums in the country are many. However, one thing is clear - that people are pushed to languish in slums due to poverty, untouchability and because of the nature of economic policies.

What are the major reasons for proliferation of slums despite the various schemes being planned and carried out by the government of India as well as various states?
Many policy shifts do not fulfil the requirements of the people. In urban India, we don't have land titles or security of tenure even after 60 years of Independence. Besides, every state, every town has a different policy. Take Mumbai, where one part of the policy is for slum development while another is for slum eviction. Where is the involvement of the community?

We have been talking about the National Housing Policy for over 15 years. In these years, slums have grown 15 times. You may not like this. Most people don't. But how do you change it? The government is not asking industry to provide land for workers. Where do you expect the workers to live? In our country, a large number of people who are serving the government, especially in the police department, have to live in slums. What a shame that the protector of law and order is being forced to encroach on land.

If you cannot provide housing to this section of the society, whom are you going to provide it to? How will your Rs 1,270 crore allocation be beneficial to me as a pavement dweller? I respect the decision but I want the government of India to look back and see what changes it can bring about.

What are the various models being implemented to redevelop slums in big cities, including Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai, and other Tier-II and Tier-III cities and small towns?
A number of schemes are being implemented, but they are all different. There are slum improvement schemes, slum upgrade schemes, slum redevelopment schemes and slum patta schemes. However, these do not give the required security of tenure. Even today, the maximum security of tenure is for 30 years, under the slum redevelopment scheme being implemented by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority of the Maharashtra government. Even that lease cannot be mortgaged. If you do not allow people to mortgage property, what kind of economic growth will you have?

The Delhi scheme is worse as slum-dwellers get a 150-sq-ft house which is 50-80 km from the city. In Mumbai, each family gets a 300-sq-ft house. In Kolkata, under the Tika Tenant Act, slum-dwellers continue to live as tenants forever before they are shunted out of the city.

There is no common scheme. One can accept development but somewhere there has to be a correlation with the uplift of slum-dwellers.

The Dharavi redevelopment scheme is hogging the limelight. Even though it has not been finalised, it has become controversial. What are the pros and cons of the project? What are your suggestions?
A place like Dharavi is a town within a town, a city within a city and a metropolis within a metropolis. Dharavi can be redeveloped by involving the community. About 25 years ago, the Charles Correa committee recommended a bottoms-up approach. You are now trying to bring builders through a global tender. These are builders who do not know Dharavi and have not seen the conditions in which slum-dwellers live. There is one toilet per 300 people. Dharavi is a special economic zone not created by the government but by the people.

The redevelopment of Dharavi is possible only through the participation of those living there, especially the women.

The government wants to make the country slum-free. How can this be done? Through legal, financial or administrative steps, or by making it a participative exercise?
All these three have no meaning. However, the government's objective can be achieved only by four Ps -Public, People, Private, Participation. A slum-free India can be achieved only by slum-dwellers. It cannot be done by economists or political scientists.

What should be the role of the government of India and the states?
The government of India should become a facilitator. Neither the government of India nor state governments should become executing authorities.

What should be the role of funding agencies and multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank in these projects?
Multilateral agencies such as the World Bank should not sit in Washington and micro-manage the development of, say, Pune in Maharashtra. However, such agencies can play the role of a catalyst and provide seed funding.

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