Media Speaks

Times of India Ahmedabad

8, 9 and 10 March  1997

Ten-year Reprieve for Sanjaynagar Slum

By Leena Mishra

The Times of India, Ahmedabad, 8 March 1997

 Six months ago, residents of Sanjaynagar, a small slum in the potalia ward of the city, bid their goodnights with a mortal fear of bulldozers razing their illegal dwellings to the ground.

 Today they go to bed in peace, assured that nothing would disturb them, at least for the next 10 years…

Thanks to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation which identified 15 poorly equipped slums, and gave them the privileged status of the “Deen Dayal Upadhayay Antyoday—slum networking project” (SNP), promising to raise the standard of living of the slum-dwellers. The concept took the shape of a Rs.326 crore civic project in the proposal prepared by Himanshu Parikh, consulting engineers for the AMC, based on similar slum networking and upgradation projects at Indore and Baroda.

Only that, in Ahmedabad, the project would be taken up by the AMC in conjunction with the community and voluntary agency, while the “external aid” component proposed originally, would be replaced by the city’s industries.

Parikh’s proposal calls it a community oriented approach which sees slums not as resource draining liabilities but as opportunities of urban transformation” and seeks to upgrade the entire city using slums, not as isolated islands but as an “urban net”; hence the term “slum networking”.

Although the project was launched and adequately flaunted after re-naming it the “Deen Dayal Upadhayay Antyodaya Yojana” by the ruling BJP in the 1996-97 civic budget, it boomeranged on the elected wing, threatening to cut down their vote banks.

The reason—the SNP would not be treating the slum-dwellers as “beneficiaries” as did the “vote capturing services” provided under the corporaters’ and members of legislative assembly budgets, but as “clients” paying one-third part of the total expenses of the physical services delivered to them.

The physical upgradation package offers the slums infrastructure for internal pucca roads, house-to-house water and drainage connections, street lights, individual toilets solid waster disposal system, besides general landscaping and community development.

“Paying for the services will not only make the slum-dwellers accountable, but also teach them maintain the improved standards of living”, says deputy municipal commissioner P U Asnani who is in charge of the project.

To provide an incentive, the AMC decided to bend the rules and was even charged with “regularising” the slums in the name of this project.

Municipal Commissioner Keshav Varma vehemently refutes these allegations. “This does not regularise the slums”, he argues adding, “… because we do not give them (the slum dwellers) tenural rights”. Against his stance is the project partners’ request to the AMC” to make the households concerned, payers of municipal taxes and service charges”, besides the waiving of the connection charges for water supply and sewerage, which have almost been agreed upon, say AMC sources.

One of the major incentives stated in the attractive AMC handouts on the project was, “those slums and chawls joining the project will not be removed by the AMC for 10 years”, which scoffed at the AMC’s anti-encroachment drives against such illegal structures. Benefiting from this clause were the 19 odd huts which obstructed the mapping of the main town planning scheme road at Sanjaynagar but were quietly removed and shifted to the inside of the Sanjaynagar plot where earlier stood a toilet block!

There was more though slums had already been covered under the low cost sanitation scheme providing 90 per cent subsidy for toilets, those joining the project would get a toilet at 100 per cent subsidy!

Thus Sanjaynagar na chhapra was sold. Mr Varma however, denies that these benefits were paraded as the AMC’s unique selling proposition, “we could not have continued giving them (slums) fragmented services, even after which, they continued to remain slums”, he says.

Fearing Eviction, they got a better life

By Leena Mishra

 The Times of India, Ahmedabad, 9 March 1997

By mid-February this year, half the huts in Sanjaynagar no Chhapro in the Potalia ward had been demolished. Not by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, but voluntarily by the residents to make way for pucca homes.

The revolution came with the slum-networking project under which most of Sanjaynagar had been connected by drains, individual water supply and concrete roads punctuated by street lights that matched the urban civic amenities.

For the AMC, it was an ambitious project in execution, while Arvind Mills which took it up under their ‘Quality of Life Programme’, guarded its secrecy “like a consumer project being prepared for market launch”.

But for the 181 families of Sanjaynagar, it spelt an upgraded living. However, there were teething problems—of the four slums covering 3,300 households to be taken up under the pilot phase, only two could take off.

At Sankalchand Mukhi ni chali in Behrampura, “BJP corporator Dharmendra Shah opposed, and the project had to be shelved”, says Rajendra Joshi from Saath, the NGO involved in Sanjaynagar. Kachwadi ni chali and Santokbai ni chali in Chamanpura were dropped due to resistance from the chawl residents.

Thus, only Sanjaynagar spread over 2.7 hectares, actually began in August 1996 while the 1,500 households of Pravinnagar-Guptanagar slum at Vasna (west zone) is on the Arvind Mills’ cards.

Even after some of the major policy decisions on the SNP had been cleared by the municipal standing committee, the ruling BJP complained of “not being taken into confidence” during the implementation. Says, Municipal Commissioner Keshav Varma, “that the elected wing has not been consulted, is incorrect, since they have been invited to all meetings”.

But when the corporators were advised to channel their budgets to the project corpus, they refused.

Deputy Municipal Commissioner P U Asnani agrees that “Till now no corporator has come forward to support the project”

“Being politicians, how can we tolerate the credit for the works done from our budgets go to other organisations”, argues a BJP corporator. The project began in 1995 with a socio-economic survey conducted by Saath. An AMC estimate placed the cost of physical works per house at Rs.6000 to be shared equally by each partner, plus an extra Rs 100 from each resident for the maintenance corpus, while AMC was to bear the escalation costs till the completion of the project.

Here again, the AMC offered separate concessions for Rs 500 to those houses which already had water and drainage connections, and Rs 300 to those with toilets—a decision which was not-too-well-received by Arvind Mills, especially since the flat of Rs 2,100 ensured quality.

“The AMC had a very proactive role in the making of the policy”, comments Uttara Chauhan of Arvind Mills, on this decision.

Community development and linkages with urban infrastructure, which comprise the second phase are estimated at Rs 1,000 and Rs 3,000 per house respectively.

For the operation of the funds, Arvind Mills formed SHARDA (Strategic Help Alliance for Relief to the Distressed Areas) Trust.

Prof V L Mote who handles the project says, “The project was an extension of the enlightened self-interest of the company”, and justifying their intervention he adds, “We do not talk about our project till it is delivered”. Says Niraj Lal of Arvind Mills, “When we first went to the slums, they were suspicious and thought we would run away with their money”, while another obstacle was the fear of eviction. A local level committee comprising 11 members was formed to encourage leadership and persuade the community to commit themselves to the project. An incentive came with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) bank’s special loan scheme, offering Rs.1,500 to needy families. “We did not want to risk our money initially”, says Fuljibhai who chairs the committee, “till they promised us security for 10 years”. “Today, 99 families have paid their share in cash, while the rest applied for the SEWA loan”, says the committee’s Champaben also a SEWA worker.

Then each family spent over Rs.10,000 to replace their mud huts with concrete houses for the electrical wiring, says Fuljibhai.

The rights to invite tenders for civil works was given to the Arvind Mills in order to bring in professional management and ensure deliver, says Mr Asnani, while AMC engineers supervised the operations. Saath, under the community development module, put up a dispensary and a balwadi here. “There was an alarming incidence of tuberculosis here—10 to 12 patients come in every week” notes Mr Joshi. “We then identified three community women as health workers and two as trainers for the education programme”, says Mr Joshi. The balwadi charges a nominal fee of Rs.25 and provides an exposure to pre-school children by way of outings and a regular curriculum.

Reacting to the adverse reactions, says Mr Varma, “We’ll tackle the bend as it comes”.

Sea change in store for Sanjaynagar

By Leena Mishra

 The Times of India, Ahmedabad, 10 March 1997

If all goes well, by April 1997, Sanjaynagar no chhapro would stop reeking of open sewers, potable water would have reached the doorsteps of the residents, concrete and well-lit roads would have connected the houses, individual toilets would have curtailed open defecation and there would be much more…

Thanks to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, Arvind Mills and the voluntary agency—Saath, who came together under the Deen Dayal Upadhayay Antyoday slum-networking project.

Even before the project started at Ahmedabad, the Habitat-II conference hosted at Istanbul in June 1996, recognised slum networking as one of the “best global practices” and the demonstration of the slum networking concept at Indore won the United Nations World Habitat award.

Says, consulting engineer Himanshu Parikh, who has been involved in the concept for 15 years, “slums have always been seen as problems, when actually, their spatial distribution gives them the potential to change urban infrastructure”.

“Most of the times, the funding agency tends to dominate over the project, says Mr Parikh

At Ahmedabad, the external aid factor was replaced by contributions form the city’s industries.

Right from the launching of the project here, two functionaries form the United Nations Development Prrogramme, have been closely monitoring project while the Housing and Urban Development Corporation has offered financial assistance. Explaining the rationale behind this project, Mr Varma says, “there is already a government directive to provide basic civic services to the slums, only thing is that we are doing it in a professional manner”.

The project has 15 city slums in its agenda and is likely to spread says, Mr Parikh, “generally, slums are located near the natural water ways of the city with their sewers and drainage systems operating on the natural forces of gravity”. The concept of “networking”, says Mr Parikh, seeks to upgrade the water supply and the drainage systems of the slums and make way for inter connecting them to the urban infrastructure. Besides, the project includes a wide range of community development initiatives.

Presently Sanjaynagar, comprising mainly of vegetable and fruit sellers, lives on an average daily income of Rs 40 to Rs 60. The rest are mill workers who were rendered jobless since the closure of the mills. “We have planned to form a women’s group at the community level for operating the savings and credit schemes”, says Rajendra Joshi of Saath.

The projection of the new Sanjaynagar, however, has scared its residents, “Gher haathi, bandhi didhu chee have sachchavvu padse! ( An elephant has been tied to our homes, now we have to maintain it) says, Fuljibhai of Sanjaynagar.