Friday, 21 December 2012


Peter Kassaija, the enthusiastic teacher spearheading the partnership at Makerere stated “ We want students to go beyond sitting in the office and into the field in order to get to know the communities which they plan for. For the federation members the lines of communication are now open and they [the students] will learn as much from you as you will from them.” This is a welcome attitude and one from which many academic institutions can learn. Practical field experience of informal settlements not only debunks myths but exposes students to conditions and people who are normally excluded or given mere “lip service” in planning decisions about their own areas. During this process students will be forced to engage beyond the confines of the classroom with forms of knowledge that are not included in their curriculum's but which are absolutely vital to the future equitable development of cities.
It is these types of partnerships that have the potential to not only create new spaces for learning but also enable informal community knowledge to become part of citywide slum upgrading processes. Across the SDI network tireless federation members are working to ensure that the knowledge of community professors is taken seriously and incorporated in developmental frameworks. If we are truly to change the segregated spatial form and exclusionary policies of future cities it is time that we all sat up and took very seriously the lessons which community professors can teach us. As Katana aptly sums up, “ An old broom sweeps better than a new broom. That is community members they have experience of all the corners and the problems in their communities.”

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


Based on slum profiles conducted by Mahila Milan and Federation, more than 50% of the total population remains unserved with toilets. Therefore a proposal was submitted to construct a new toilet in Saint Mary Church (Ahmednagar), Anna Bhau Sathe, Wadala (Nasik) and Numani Nagar (Malegaon) along with repairs of two existing toilet blocks in  Anna Bhau Sathe (Ahmednagar) and Amprapali (Nasik) and grant funds to make this happen were finalized.  Then the federations informed us about recent events in their city ….

In Ahmednagar: the original plan was to construct a new toilet at Saint Mary and repair the toilet in Anna Bhau Sathe.  Over the last couple of months, the Mahila Milan leaders at Ahmednagar had been in conversation with the local Municipal representative and  municipal authorities. These discussions have borne fruit and the Municipality has begun the construction of toilets at Saint Mary Church!

In Nasik: the original plan was to construct a new toilet at Anna Bhau Sathe, Wadala and repairing
Amrapali toilet. Because Anna Bhau Sathe slum is on a private land, a toilet cannot be constructed on it.

In Malegaon: the original plan was to construct a new toilet in Numani Nagar, however the new elected local municipal representatives, have taken up the work of meeting the toilet needs in Numani Nagar and other settlements.

Clearly we see this as a feature of communities feeling empowered to have discussions once they have some funds in their pockets. It triggers a response from politicians and administration who then want to supply them with what they are entitled to so.

Since assured grant exist for these cities, federation members now suggest the following:

Nasik - Repairs of existing toilets in Amrapali slums
Ahmednagar - Repairs of existing toilets and constructing new toilets at Anna Bhau Sathe slum and Munjuba Chowk
Malegaon -Individual toilet loans in different settlements

Setting precedents where community collective pursuit of entitlements begins with the Mahila Milan taking initiatives is critical. When modest funds are made available, their visit to city administrations seeking permission often induces the city to provide the facility because most often they have the money but it is not their priority to utilize it. This also invokes a sense of pride ownership and begins to set an example to others about also mimicking this action, only now someone else has shown the way and can accompany them to get the next and the next facility.

Monday, 10 December 2012


Sundar Burra was invited by Shri I.Srinivas, IAS, Principal Secretary, Housing and Urban Development Department, Government of Odisha (GOO), to speak at a capacity building workshop for Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). The workshop was held in Bhubaneswar on Saturday, December 8, 2012 and it opened with a prize giving ceremony in which the Chief Minister gave awards to various ULBs. Altogether there were 103 ULBs represented with only a few municipal corporation and municipalities. The vast majority of ULBs were Notified Area Committees (NACs) with low levels of population. Each ULB was represented by usually two elected persons and one official. About 400 people attended the function.

Ms. Madhu Kishwar of Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), New Delhi, spoke about urban street vendors and the laws, polices and programmes concerning these groups. There were two speakers from WIPRO and TCS who made brief presentations on E-Governance. Sundar Burra and Monalisa Mohanty from SPARC spoke about the problems faced in slum upgradation, slum resettlement and slum redevelopment under various different government programmes like the Basic Services for Urban Poor (BSUP) in different States. SPARC emphasized the role of community participation at all stages of the process including the preparation of detailed project reports (DPRs).

The Principal Secretary Shri Srinivas, though he had joined only a few months ago, has introduced a path-breaking  legislation in the Assembly for the Rights of the Urban Poor to live in cities. It is expected that this bill will become law during the current session of the Assembly. Shri Srinivas is an excellent officer whose heart is in the right place. He accompanied Monalisa Mohanty and Sunder to a slum on the day before the workshop and interacted with the Mahila Milan women from different cities in Odisha. Both from the point of view of the project on urban poverty that PRIA and SPARC are doing together and also from a more general perspective, it is important for us to engage with  Shri Srinivas and showcase his efforts in Odisha to a national audience. How to do this can be the subject of discussion. It was deeply heartening to observe his commitment.