Tucked into the epicentre of the country, Indore is an upcoming city with a population of around 21 lakh people (Census 2011). An industrially and educationally significant city, it has been featured first among the country’s cleanest cities by a government survey for two consecutive years (Swachata Sarvekshan Survey, 2018 and 2019). Known as the commercial capital of central India, the local economy is thriving, especially in sectors like agriculture, automobiles, savoury eatables and tertiary sectors like finance — where more than half the population is employed (IMC, 2013). It is also home to some of the country’s top-ranked colleges, including IIT and IIM Indore. However, this economic progress has not been without its costs.
Indore has seen an unprecedented rise in population growth, as well as heavy rural to urban migration. Along with the creation of industrial corridors in Madhya Pradesh, there has also been focussed growth in infrastructure projects such as the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, leading to massive displacements and rural-urban migration. Another factor contributing towards massive migration to Indore city is the lack of prospects in adjacent villages due to agricultural crisis. The city has expanded, yes, both inwards and outwards. But has this expansion been adequate to sustain a dignified life for a booming population?
There were reported to be almost 8.18 lakh people (Directorate, Madhya Pradesh, n. d.) residing in low-income housing settlements who came under the purview of rehabilitation schemes by the Indore Metropolitan Corporation (IMC). There have been policies created in order to provide housing facilities and basic services to those who need it and they have worked to some extent. But for the larger part, the implementation of these policies has been inadequate. Let’s take a look at some of the schemes that have been put into effect or are being undertaken currently to get a better picture on how the crisis is being dealt with.
Valmiki Ambedkar Awas Yojana
The Valmiki Ambedkar Awas Yojana (2001) was to be a jointly funded initiative of the central and state governments, with the aim of improving urban housing conditions for the poor by carrying out in-situ redevelopment of settlements, only where reconstruction was possible and approved. Some of the households in the purview of this scheme had already been resettled from another area and held patta rights, such as in Budh Nagar. Although most of the households included in the scheme were given written notices, they were not compensated for losses during evictions or provided any allowances. Moreover, the quality of housing that was constructed was much lower than the standard set and even smaller in size than promised. The scheme did not cover provision of basic facilities like individual water connections and people had to fetch water from a common borewell until they could arrange for a tap connection shared between multiple households. The residents have consistently raised concerns on the durability of the houses and their houses have now been declared uninhabitable after just 15 years and placed under consideration for another resettlement scheme as per the Indore Master Plan.
Basic Services for the Urban Poor
The Basic Services for the Urban Poor (BSUP), in operation between 2012 and 2015 in Indore, relocated the people to the edges of the city. Not only was the resettled location isolated from the central parts of the city, it was substantially far from workplaces of the people, most of whom worked as informal wage workers and waste pickers. Additionally, the building quality was poor; the allocation of apartments was insensitive to the sick and the elderly and the colonies were far from essential public services like hospitals, schools and public transport. Moreover, the eviction drive was sudden and most people were not informed in advance or even included in the planning process and the design of the new houses; people were also misinformed to coerce them. An important aspect of this scheme was provision of clean water but it was found that there was no access to tap water in the relocated homes and people had to depend on water tankers. Along with rise in cost of basic services, they also had to contend with the rise in maintenance cost of the new buildings. Life has become more expensive for the urban poor in the BSUP settlements, while the sources of income have reduced phenomenally, with women forced to stay at home and care for the family’s welfare. The structures constructed have started deteriorating to the extent of becoming unliveable and there have been multiple instances of accidental death reported. The safety of the residents is further compromised with the resettlement becoming a haven for criminals because of the remoteness of the location. To date, the residents of colonies under BSUP wonder if there was after all, a need to resettle them from places where they were already living as resettled citizens with patta rights.
Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana
The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY, 2015) is the current housing scheme. Authorities have identified at least three sites for resettlement and four sites for in-situ redevelopment. Some of these sites have already featured in past schemes and it is more a matter of redoing what was done, but with the promise of better quality control. However, most people within the scheme are satisfied with their existing settlements (where they hold patta rights) and are not very optimistic about life in flats. Take Bhuri Tekri, for instance, which was redeveloped under the BSUP earlier and has been taken up again within the PMAY and it happens to be the only site where the work has begun under this latest scheme. It is one of the areas where the residents have, over the years, built lives for themselves and put efforts into securing provisions of basic amenities like access to water and health facilities. As a result, their lives are fairly comfortable with regard to these basic services. Thus, the most recent demolition drive has received a lot of flak, given that the people are forced to live in transit camps of single-room quarters, made of tin sheets. While the locals sarcastically refer to these camps as ‘silver palaces’, their distress is evident; they have been forcefully evicted and separated from everything they had worked hard towards for years, with complete disregard for their rights. The houses in the transit camp are very cramped and insufficient for an entire family and their belongings. There is a dearth of facilities like water and sanitation and the health of the residents is at risk. The demolition drive flouted the UN Guidelines on Forced Evictions by failing to serve notices of eviction and to provide for adequate transit houses for the displaced populace. The residents of Bhuri Tekri have been protesting the rehabilitation drive but their voices have been ignored.
It must be noted that all of these schemes are inherently not exploitative. Generally, they tend to follow Constitutional and UN mandated rules. What changes their applicability is how they are implemented and with what level of efficiency. In Indore, the ramifications of the schemes have scaled up the problem to allow it to be called a crisis. It is a housing crisis that is, of course, mirrored in other such crises across developing cities in India. But what does it mean for the people who are at the centre of this crisis, without a thought given to their rights as human beings?
While crafting and executing policies designed to help them, the government should make sure that the people are a vital part of the decision-making process and take care not to repeat past mistakes. It would certainly be better to invest in the improvement of existing colonies rather than banishing people to the outskirts of the city to maintain qualifications to be announced the cleanest city.
To get an in-depth analysis of this unfolding housing crisis in Indore, read the detailed report compiled by YUVA.
Khushi Desai, intern, TYBA — St Xavier’s College Mumbai, edited by Shamika Gaokar