We live in a deeply divided world. Significant shifts in global economics and geopolitics have meant that countries are desperate for economic growth and increasingly intolerant of any events that derail them from achieving their targets. In this milieu, migrants have been caught in the crossfire. No one seems to want them, but what’s more, the unwillingness to include migrants has severe repercussions on how nations are planning, managing and financing their cities.
What is inclusion? Attitudes towards internal migrants shift, very very gradually
At Prepcom3 in Surabaya, Indonesia in the last week of July, I was disappointed to see India join the European nations and the United States to object to the inclusion of the Right to the City framework in the New Urban Agenda, which will be further negotiated by United Nations member states in New York a few days from now. Allegedly (see Indian Express report), while Europe’s concerns stems from the migrant crisis and the US is loath to recognize immigrant rights, India is also worried about the repercussions of taking on the responsibility to provide social justice to all, extending the already thin benefits of State welfare and largess to those who might not be legally recognized citizens.
This is the heart of the problem. In a policy environment in which the word ‘inclusive’ is bandied about rather casually, the meaning of inclusion bears repeated and deep exploration. Gautam Bhan put a spotlight on this issue of citizenship recently with reference to the Delhi Jal Board’s historic decision to provide universal access to water.
Who does India consider illegal and what are the various kinds of non-citizenship that people experience has been a subject of much study. Internal migrants, despite a Constitutional right to mobility anywhere within India, have been described as ‘illegal’, ‘encroachers’ and ‘polluters’ in numerous policy documents and court judgements. Even where policy has recognized their economic contribution, migrants have been steadily excluded – or inadequately considered – from provision of basic services (like water, sanitation), housing (negligible supply of affordable housing, no focus on incremental housing), transportation services (low priority to affordable public transport including NMT), health, education, subsidized food (no access to PDS at destination) and even conditions for livelihood (harassment of street vendors, regulations that prevent home-based work).
The good news is that this seems to be changing. We can see now the very humble beginnings of a new mindset that sees migration less as an intrusion and more as an inevitable consequence of economic transition (and climate change). Parliamentarians have been debating migration in a more healthy manner and that has resulted in the creation of a Working Group on Migration particularly to assess linkages with housing, infrastructure and livelihood. I understand the debates within this group comprising several ministries and government department, academics and industry representatives have been encouraging.
Inclusive housing takes heartening steps forward
Besides changes like the Delhi government’s inclusive stand on water, there is much progress in the field of housing as well. At a consultation co-organized by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA) along with Magic Bricks and GIZ this past week, I was pleasantly surprised to see not only more supply of lower income group (LIG) and economically weaker section (EWS) housing by state governments (representatives from Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu spoke), but also much movement on progressive housing policy.
This morning’s interview of Mr Sriram Kalyanaraman, MD and CEO of National Housing Bank, who also spoke at the event, offers much hope. We see the confluence of the government’s flagship housing scheme Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY) and technology solutions (e-gov, m-gov, intergated MIS) that work to educate housing buyers and link them with accessible bank branches. The uptake of low ticket size home loans is especially encouraging. Kalyanaraman reports that home loans for under Rs 10 lakh comprised a whopping 30 percent of the total in FY 16! I have a personal sense of victory in this regard, having been involved with organizations like mHS City Lab that persevered long and hard with the government and finance sector to push changes that allowed banks to devise means to underwrite loans to informal sector workers. A huge change indeed that will have rippling effects going forward.
MoHUPA’s support of rental housing and attempts to bring in some policy reforms to encourage it are also heartening. Particularly brave are its efforts to understand the informal rental market, for any discussion that talks about the middle ground between the formal and informal pushes us towards a deeper understanding of how human beings survive, negotiate realities and experience the world; the exercise reveals the limits of defining people through their economic functions and shifts the focus on aspects of human dignity, safety and livability. Even more, it shows us that our understanding of their economic realities is also deeply flawed at present. These discussions are critical if we are to move towards long-term inclusive growth.
The contradictions must remain on the table, in plain view
And so, even as we celebrate the early wins, we need to highlight the contradictions in our approach. For example, those in the field know that any discussion on subsidized housing inevitably leads to the question of tenure and title. This consultation was no different. One cannot logically argue with the traditional defense of no-sale and no-lease clauses stipulated for a period of time (5, 10, even 15 years). This defense rests on the logic that people have no right to profit from something the government has subsidized entirely or partially. But if we happen to be in that moment when we are looking at market realities and the reality is that mobility of labour is a defining feature of India’s (rather painful) structural transformation, isn’t it a tad discriminating that we continue to devise schemes that tie the poor down to a specific location, disallowing them full tenure and denying them rights to sell or rent their properties? Is there no way around this? Could rent-to-own schemes be a solution so that the poor pay their way to ownership if they want to? Could private sector rentals that are currently in the informal domain be legitimized and even supported by mutually developing frameworks that ensure minimum quality standards and provide mechanisms to redress grievances?
Any number of questions come to mind, but if the government were to truly engage, solutions are also just as many. Beginnings have been made and now its a question of innovation, experimentation and perseverance.
A rare guest post on my blog from my colleague and friend Susrita, who thinks deep and smiles broadly. Will gladly convey your comments and feedback to her as you react to her post on a complex and contentious topic.
This year the Day of Silence is going to be celebrated on the April 17, 2015. In the myriad list of special days in a year which are celebrated in order to generate awareness, sensitize and what-have-you, this day is much the opposite. It is a day to silently protest against the bullying and harassment of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and trans-genders (LGBT) and their supportersto symbolically represent the silencing of LGBT community. This year I chose to celebrate this day by asking few questions to my heterosexual counterparts with the hope that by answering these questions they may be able to reflect better on their beliefs about homosexuality.
The set of questions I will pose are an adapted and abridged version of “Heterosexual Questionnaire” of Martin Rochlin, who was a pioneer in the field of gay-affirmative psychotherapy. Although almost four decades have passed since this questionnaire was prepared, much of this remains relevant, especially because the mindset of heterosexual community about their homosexual counterparts has not really undergone much change in these years. It is not very uncommon for a member of the LGBT community to encounter one such question each and every day of their lives. The leading thoughts are primarily my responses which have been echoed by many like-minded individuals.
Question 1: What do you think caused your heterosexuality?
Leading thoughts: If we believe that heterosexuality came to me naturally, why is it hard to believe that it would have been the same way for a homosexual. On the other hand if we believe that there was some incident which triggered our heterosexuality then it means that prior to that incident we too were homosexual. And in that stage also we were the same human being, with same emotions and same thoughts.
Question 2:How can you enjoy an emotionally fulfilling experience with the person of the other sex when there are such vast differences between you?
Leading thoughts: How many of us believe that we connect better, have more fun and are less likely to be judged by our same sex partners? How many times have we thought that if you stayed with a same sex friend life would be much less complicated?
Question 3: A disproportionate majority of child molesters are heterosexual men, do you consider it safe to expose your children to heterosexual male teacher, pediatrician and scout master?
Leading thoughts: Rape of young girls and child sexual abuse is very often in news and the perpetrators are mainly male heterosexuals. In such a milieu do we still think that our child is unsafe with a homosexual teacher?
Question 4: Considering the menace of overpopulation how could the human race survive if everyone was heterosexual?
Leading thoughts: Isn’t it ironically, on one side we want everyone to be heterosexual and on the other side we don’t want them to reproduce? Isn’t that the only advantage of a heterosexual relationship over a homosexual one!
Question 5: Could it be that you heterosexuality stems from a neurotic fear of others of the same sex?
Leading thoughts: As a girl when do we feel more unsafe, when you surrounded by only men or where there only female around you? Thus it can be confidently said that even when we oppose homosexuality, we feel safer with same sex people around us.
My unsolicited advice to all heterosexual readers who are indifferent to homosexuality is this: Please spare some time on April 17th to understand that homosexuality is as natural as heterosexuality. It is definitely not a “disease” and homosexuals are not “abnormal”. Those who have chosen to be that way have a right to do so. They do not deserve anyone’s stare or ridicule; instead they need to treated with equal dignity like the others. I, I feel that there should not be any “other”. We all belong to the same species of homosapiens with different choices of food, clothing and in this case sexuality. Various studies trying to prove that there are biological differences between homosexuals and heterosexuals have been groundless. We can choose to change our indifference to one of inclusion rather than one of ‘othering’. As for those who vehemently oppose homosexuality, I have noting to say to you as I know that you are anyway very few in numbers.
A week of exciting talks at CPR!
By Mukta Naik, Senior Researcher, CPR
With three excellent talks taking place within a week, CPR has been quite the hub for discussion on topical urban issues. While distinct, the talks (as conversations on ‘urban’ are wont to do) converged and coalesced, intersected and jumped around common themes like inclusion and poverty, the politics and contestation over urban services and identity issues around urban and rural.
Inclusion in public sector housing
On Friday, 20th February, Diana Mitlin, Professor of Global Urbanism and Director of Global Urban Research Centre at Manchester University talked about ‘Realising inclusive urban development – a discussion of experiences across the global South and lessons from the JNNURM’. Her study of the Basic Services for the Urban Poor (BSUP) component of the JNNURM program reveals, broadly, that end-users were inadequately consulted during project, that access to services worsened for many beneficiaries, that the process of…
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Building citizen consensus, influencing decisions is a must-do if we want livable cities: Who will rise to the occasion? June 2, 2012
I really like the model that the Philips Center for Health and Well Being has developed to measure the success of cities from the perspective of livability. They use three spheres-Authenticity, Inclusion and Resilience- each of which include socio-economic, technological and environmental aspects, among others.
I like this construct because it addresses the ingredients I believe most valuable in a city.
Authenticity pertains to identity, history, nature and natural heritage, architectural heritage, connections between people and between the citizens and the city, sense of place, etc. In short its about a city’s character and how it navigates change as time progresses.
Inclusion is about equal opportunities, equal access to amenities and resources, justice, freedom, participation, quality of public spaces, etc- about creating a city for everyone.
Resilience is about adapting innovations, diversity, attitude, accepting and adapting to changes in environment, economics and cultural manifestation, about tradition and modernity and the conflicts.
They call it the AIR model and I think it is an interesting way to look at things, considering the enormous challenges and opportunities cities offer in today’s context. I do wonder how many of these aspects can be measured though. For the past two weeks, I have struggled with finding ways to quantify things like community interaction and inclusion for the ratings for affordable housing that we are working on at mHS, along with Ashoka housing for All.
It worries me that while many cities worldwide have recognized the benefits of good stuff like walkability and inclusive planning, Indian cities continue to be designed for cars and the common man is still excluded from decision making. Therefore, even if we do find ways to measure these soft aspects of a city, it is more critical to find means to share viewpoints across a wide cross-section of citizens, reach a consensus and get a buy-in, influence policy using the power of community buy-in…..all monumental tasks. Who has the energy and commitment for all of this in a situation where we have to fight the system for something as simple as a plan approval or to get the road before our house repaired? It looks bleak, but somehow somewhere someone will have to find the strength to do this!