Cases Developement
06 July 2006 A Conversation on the Yamuna Pushta
In the last ten years, the landscape of Delhi has morphed out of recognition. From mixed neighborhoods to exclusive elite conclaves; hundreds of informal markets to a score of glitzy shopping malls; from ?brick and mortar? industries to high tech information highways, the change has been rapid and palpable. With the addition of Gurgaon and Noida, the city has lost its center - in accept the broad political consensus crafted through the last decade?s gentrification process. This pact on the one hand has brought a determinate new ?vision? to city planning - seeking to build capital assets and infrastructures, and ?improve? the ?environment? of the city. On the other, it has depopulated the city of low-income communities. Since the year 2000, over one lakh jhuggies have been demolished. While some basti residents have got tiny pieces of land in the inhospitable, un-serviced wildernesses on the periphery of the city, a huge mass of people have simply been rendered homeless. Resettlement colonies like Bawana and Holambi Kalan do not have even minimum basic urban services or security of tenure. Precedents for service provision to the poor are being progressively diluted. Given this scenario, is it possible to imagine an idea of equity in the new city? What is it? How can it be forged? The lesson of the recently demolished Yamuna Pushta is that there are very few existing means of democratic representation for the urban poor. Indeed, the eviction took place under sheer psychological, and sometimes physical, violence. Channels for organized opposition also seem to be in a state of bewilderment. The new UPA coalition, is of course sending out mixed signals. The CMP says that ?forced evictions and demolition of slums will be stopped?. But given the all pervasiveness of the existing paradigm of ?urban renewal? can we really expect a fundamental shift in policy? And of course, more importantly, what political economy is policy really based on? This brings us to the most important question of them all - what is the role of non-state actors at this juncture in Delhi? Are we going to only focus on the de jure change of policies? Is that enough to shake the balance of forces in a way significant enough to effect a de facto change in situation? Do we need to go beyond the realm of ?civil society? in order to understand and intervene in the not-so-civil? political society?? Do we need a new language, a new discourse to articulate opposition and alternatives? How do we link this task of crafting a new language or new frameworks with our day to day tasks, energies, pursuits, concerns, skills and, of course, interests? We hope you will join us for an open house discussion on these and other issues. Diya Mehra and Lalit Batra The Sarai Programme Centre for the Study of Developing Societies 29 Rajpur Road, Delhi 110 054"
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