Engaging with people across Urban October 2020
The United Nations designates October as Habitat Month to bring to the fore discussions and action on issues of insecure habitats around the globe. This year has been even more challenging for vulnerable populations, with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc worldwide, and exposing glaring gaps that need to be addressed with urgency.
Over the years, YUVA has observed Habitat Month through community interactions and stakeholder engagements, with the people leading discussions and forging solidarities to take forward action on the challenges they face. With the pandemic, in-person interactions were low this year, but the spirit remained undeterred. Across Urban October, online events were conducted over various platforms and a few offline events including community meetings, discussions and talks took place across six cities — Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Vasai-Virar, Nagpur, Guwahati and Bhopal. Additionally, a national-level evictions tribunal was organised online in partnership with the Rashtriya Awas Adhikar Abhiyan.
The theme of Urban October 2020 — ‘Housing for All: A Better Urban Future’ is directly related to how we approach housing questions at YUVA. We were eager to be a part of conversations across the month, and to give space for emerging discussions, to highlight challenges faced while fighting for provision of secure and safe housing for all.
This blog presents a snapshot of our month-long engagements with communities.
World Habitat Day — 5 October 2020
We kickstarted discussions on ‘Housing for All’ with community leaders and the youth. Issues such as lack of notification of slums, housing insecurity, lack of access to basic services, and people’s vision for a life without the fear of eviction were discussed in detail. The need to form community based organisations to strengthen collective action was a major takeaway. The film Zameen Apni, Ghar Apna — The Struggle for Malki Patta in Nagpur, which detailed the struggle for tenure security in Nagpur was screened. Community members’ demands were framed and added to a memorandum, which is to be presented to the Guwahati Development Department to advocate for inclusive planning of the city and safeguard people’s right to the city.
In Nagpur, communities have been actively engaged in securing land tenure rights. The discussions on World Habitat Day was on secure housing and aimed to motivate community members to demand their rights. Members of Shehar Vikas Manch (city development forum) and community members discussed how every community should focus on developing and strengthening people’s collectives to amplify voices. This should be backed by strong advocacy efforts with the government to ensure demands of the people reach the duty bearers. They also highlighted the need for more visibility of issues, and increased media coverage. The people also agreed that awareness needs to be increased on the government schemes and provisions to help people receive their rightful benefits. The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) was one of the most discussed schemes, along with the situation of housing, including rental housing, in the pre-COVID and post-COVID times.
Strong media advocacy that followed critically questioned the implementation of the PMAY scheme in Nagpur. This was soon followed by a meeting of the PMAY authorities and assurance that effective implementation and provision of houses to the people would be done by January 2021.
To mark Habitat Day, two events were conducted in Ambujwadi, Malad. The event in Shanti Nagar was held with community leaders and women’s groups. Active discussions were held on, what is the Slum Act? Furthermore, the need for strong advocacy to avail basic services, accurate information regarding government departments and their duties to hold them responsible and the various processes to be followed to engage with systems authorities were discussed.
The second event was organised to discuss the Development Plan (DP) with the mohalla committee, members of the children’s collective Bal Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (BASS), local mandal members and other organisations. At a workshop conducted, the participants raised some important concerns — about not having playgrounds, a health post, a garden and primary schools.
The discussions highlighted the need for collective action to demand in-situ rehabilitation for the community. To take this further, the members of the mohalla committee are planning to meet with the local leaders soon.
At Vashi Naka, a resettlement and rehabilitation colony (R&R) in Chembur, Mumbai, in-depth discussions took place between people and their representatives to address the maintenance and allotment issue in the colony. Some residents of Vashi Naka R&R colony have been provided houses but they do not have legal ownership of their houses. Vashi Naka Sanghatan is an active group working on housing and other related issues in Vashi Naka. The meeting was organised to plan a strategy to address the maintenance and repair issue for seven buildings and the issue of temporary allotment letters. In the meeting, it was decided that since the individuals are not getting proper response from the authorities, a delegation of active members should visit the authorities with the exhaustive list of demands.
Panvel and Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra
On 10 October, discussions took place at Mata Ramai Nagar, Panvel on citizenship and housing. A part of the settlement was evicted by Railway authorities last year. The people discussed and planned for the way forward to ensure their housing rights are advocated and campaigned for. The second event was held on 13 October 2020 in Turbhe, where constitutional rights, the importance of ‘housing for all’, and housing rights were discussed.
The event in Nallasopara revolved around the central theme of provision of housing and basic facilities being a fundamental right of the people. Among the many actionable points listed by the participants, strong advocacy with government authorities, demand for proper zoning and clarity on land ownership, need to form mohalla committees to further community action were some of the major takeaways.
Webinar to understand the SRA
A webinar meeting was organised on 9 October 2020 to understand the new Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) Government Resolution for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.
World Homeless Day — 10 October 2020
Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
On World Homeless day, an offline event was organised by the Bhopal team in Gandhi Bhavan to discuss housing for the homeless, and the need to secure and respect their rights. The aim of the event was to discuss a short study carried out by the team between 30 September to 6 October in 8 homeless shelters. The study showed that the lack of documents was seen as the major reason for the inaccessibility of the homeless to these shelters. In addition to lack of proper facilities including toilets in these shelters, the absence of adequate homeless shelters are plagued by corrupt practices. To ensure that the status of the homeless improves and they get their rightful place in the city, a core team involving representation from different social organisations were formed to plan the future course of action.
World Eviction Day — 30 October 2020
On World Eviction Day, an online ‘National Tribunal on Forced Evictions during the Pandemic’ was organised in partnership with Rashtriya Awas Adhikar Abhiyaan to discuss cases of forced evictions and eviction notices received after COVID-19 was notified as a disaster on 14 March 2020 across the country. In all the cases of evictions, no rehabilitation facilities were offered to the affected population. The tribunal jury members comprised of Colin Gonsalves, Darshini Mahadevia, Husain Dalwai and Varghese Theckanath. Six petitioners from Bihar, Assam, New Delhi, Telangana and Mumbai presented the cases.
Even though the pandemic made it challenging to reach out to people, Urban October events at YUVA helped set new goals and plans for the future to achieve adequate and secure ‘Housing for all’. We are committed to support communities in their struggle for realisation of their rights.
Habitat team, YUVA