Inequality rampant in Indian cities

In Delhi, Jangpura Extension.
(Photo: April May/Flickr/CC)

The people have been facing different kinds of deprivation and inequality in the Indian cities, according to a UNESCO study on the India urban policies reported by Governance Now analysis portal. “There are inequality, ghettoisation, apartheid and segregation across the cities in India,” said Miloon Kothari, former UN special rapporteur on adequate housing.

Kothari contributed a chapter in the study, entitled ‘Urban Policies and the Right to the City in India: Rights, Responsibilities and Citizenship’, and also co-authored one chapter of Social Watch Report 2012, ‘Housing, land and sustainable development’, with Shivani Chaudhry, associate director of Indian Housing and Land Rights Network.

 “Where new projects (gated communities, malls, entertainments complexes) have created a clear demarcation between ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ areas, slums are sprawling, with little access to essential civic services, especially water, electricity and sanitation,” added Kothari.

However, the study does not have data on the percentage or number of people facing inequality in the Indian cities. It clarified, “A rights-based approach in the context of Indian cities has not yet been extensively documented and researched,” the report explains.

Kothari also took a dig on the government’s policies of not containing the property speculation in cities. “The middle-class people are not able to buy a house in cities as the property mafias have controlled the pricing of houses,” he added.

“The urban planning in India is elitist, not concerned to everybody,” said professor Ram B Bhagat of International Institute for Population Sciences. According to the census 2011, one-third of Indians, close to 377 million out of 1.2 billion, now live in urban areas. “The local governance should be strengthened,” said Bhagat.

The study also noted that in the absence of proper urban planning, migrants are blamed for cities’ woes. “This not only sustains a negative attitude but even incites hatred and violence towards migrants,” said the study.

It noted that the 12th five-year plan (2012-17), Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewable Mission (JNNURM) and city development plans should address the concerns of migrants and their rights.

The study suggested the concept of ‘right to the city’ to ensure better access and opportunities for everyone living in cities, a principal also remarked on Social Watch Report 2012.

“Civil society organizations and social movements worldwide are articulating the ‘right to the city,’ promoting land as a human right and stressing the need to recapture the social function of property. These movements and campaigns provide the beginnings of the radical rethinking necessary to challenge the neo-liberal economic policies that have been institutionalized around the world,” wrote Kothari and Chaudhry on the Social Watch Report 2012.

“We propose the further development and practice of two approaches – the right to the city and the right to land and natural resources – as conceptual bases for the articulation of the indivisibility of human rights and the promotion of the human rights to adequate housing, land and sustainable development,” they added.

Governance Now:
Social Watch Report 2012: