Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Uttarakhand brings new slum policy: Cosmetic Empathy

Written by Anil Singh

Uttarakhand brings new slum policy: Cosmetic Empathy

In a meeting chaired by CM BC Khanduri, the Uttarakhand Government yesterday approved Uttarakhand’s New Slum Policy.

In Uttarakhand’s New Slum Policy, the Government promises the following:

1) New homes for nearly 750,000 people living in 582 slum clusters across the hill state. The government would provide a new constructed house or a plot to each family residing in the slum areas.

2) Makes it mandatory for private developers and the government agencies to reserve 25 per cent of the houses for urban poor in order to check further encroachments.

3) In future, new houses which will come up in the state having more than 500 sq yards area, will have a servant quarter also. The houses constructed on more than 1,000 sq yards will have two servant quarters. So that people who live in slums can be accommodated in the servant quarters.

Where Uttarakhand’s New Slum Policy remains mum (Say nothing of the secret you know):

The new policy did not specify whether the existing slum areas would be regularized or not. A working formula is yet to be prepared in this regard, informs the Government.

Uttarakhand’s New Slum Policy: A Closer Look:

Just less than two months before the Assembly polls the slum policy is an attempt by the ruling party to garner more support among the urban poor. And the policy is merely a promise with least intent to implement.

Assuming that this blog is read by highly rational and aware people, who see things beyond one’s affiliations to any particular political party, let I put in here, why I find this policy not more than a promise made on the go:

1) Just do the calculation: 7,50,000 people living in 582 slum clusters across the hill state; means 1,87,500 single room houses (assuming that four people will share a single room house). If a single room house at current prices requires Rs 1,60,000; then the Government will require Rs 3,000,000,000 or Rs 300 crore. Will the Government shell out that much money.

2) If the Government chooses to give slum dwellers a 200 sq feet plot. Then it will need 3,75,00,000 square feet of land. And all this land will be in cities. Will the Government afford to procure that much land in any city?

3) Normally, any house made in urban areas, by a lower middle class easily exceeds the 1000 sq feet plinth area (so such a house have two servant quarters); So do these people also keep a servant? The question is will a lower middle class or middle class afford a servant?

I still wonder, what kind of confidence a Government and its head will require to announce such false promises on the name of policies.

Uttarakhand’s New Slum Policy is nothing but an attempt:

1) Carry on with its demolition drive against slums

2) Benefit bigger builders and colonizers

3) It’s also a testimony of the fact of how one feels about poor and those doing menial chores in urban Indian cities. In simple we can make such people wash our utensils and dirty clothes; but can’t tolerate their settlements in our cities. When Governments can’t tolerate a Rikshaw puller, or a house maid’s shanty or house in Government land, then it will be wrong to expect the same from the citizens. ( That’s why the new slum policy keeps silent on whether government would allow any further slums to be set up in any area.

It’s highly unlikely that, those who lose their houses in slum demolition drives will ever get a one room Pakka House.

Whether you as a citizen want dirty and irregular slums in your city, is totally up to you.

But, before making your mind, just think over this fact:

Cities all over the world have slums, inhabited by people who can’t afford anything better. Only places in any country, devoid of slums are army cantonments; as people who do menial jobs are either non-ranked jawans or soldiers, who live in barracks or servant quarters OR civilians, who live outside cantonments, in city slums. That’s why cities can’t afford to get rid off its slums. 

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