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Mumbai Development Plan – Critical Deliverables Unmet

As many of you are aware, on March 30, 2013, the deadline for the public responses to  the Existing Land Use plan prepared by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation ended. We appreciate the BMC’s decision to extend the deadline three times so that more people could participate in the verification process. We are sure this will help towards making
the Mumbai Development Plan 2014 open, equitable and efficient.

However, the Urban Design Research Institute is concerned about the fate of certain critical
deliverables. The 23 deliverables had been committed to by Groupe SCE Pvt Ltd, consultants to the DP project, in the contract.

Barring the first 4, the rest have not been adhered to. Some of these deadlines have lapsed by nearly a year, which the UDRI would like to draw attention to.

*Workshop-1 & Workshop-2 – July 2012 & Sept 2012
Two consultation workshops were scheduled with stakeholders, including key MCGM departments, NGOs and concerned citizens, in keeping with the public participatory nature of the DP. When the UDRI raised this in an RTI, it was told it would be held post completion of the ELU. We fear in the hurry to meet the deadline for the final submission these Crucial workshops may be done away with.
*Deliverable 5 – Report of Existing Status along with thematic maps – February 2012
This analysis of the existing usage of land is important because it forms a basis for formulating a future plan for the city of Mumbai. Without knowing how the land is being used currently, it will be impossible to arrive at a credible Proposed Land Use plan, which is the final step.
*Deliverable 7 – Report on Development Plan Vision & Guiding Principles along with Objectives of DP – September 2012
The UDRI had, over the last year, sent to the MCGM a series of letters by experts and stakeholders outlining the guiding principles for the DP process. The UDRI would like to know how the MCGM plans to incorporate these recommendations.
*Working Paper-8 – Consolidated Report on Proposed Land Use & DCR – February 2013
*Report on Phasing Plan Implementation, Estimates of Cost of Implementation and Financing Plan – February 2013
With the MCGM losing an important revenue stream like octroi, this report is important as it will spell out how the MCGM plans to raise finances to fund the next 20 years of the DP.

Given that these deadlines have lapsed, the UDRI wants to know if the MCGM will come up with a revised timeline to ensure these deliverables are met with.

Also, how and when the new timeline will be shared with the public to enable their participation which is important to make the DP process truly representative.

We would like to hear your suggestions on how we can create greater awareness about these lapses in the public, as well as raise these issues with the MCGM

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Deadly Housing

by Kalpana Sharma

From the Economic& Political Weekly, April 2013

The tremors caused by the collapse of a seven-storey building in the township of Mumbra, north of Mumbai, on 4 April are still being felt. The manner in which the structure collapsed within minutes was as shocking as the unacceptable loss of life – over 70 men, women and children killed and more than 60 injured. But the real scandal of that collapse was the fact that a building this size was constructed in a few months, without permission and reeking of illegality on every count. Preliminary investigations have already revealed the extent to which officials all along the line were bribed to look the other way while the builders callously lured desperate poor people to occupy the semi-constructed and dangerous structure.

Buried beneath the rubble of that Mumbra building lies the sordid tale of so-called “affordable” urban housing, not just in Mumbai but elsewhere in the country. For decades, the reality in all our cities is one that policymakers have chosen to studiously ignore – that there are millions of people who have work but nowhere to live. When these homeless people are forced to occupy vacant pieces of land, they are promptly condemned as “illegal”. Yet nothing is done to prevent this so-called illegality by ensuring that there is alternative housing available, until the land appreciates in price. Then demolition squads get to work even as those who had a roof over their heads are pushed off the land and rendered homeless. In Mumbai, such slum removals are not news any more. Hunger fasts, protests and resistance by slum-dwellers trying to protect their homes and their lives do not interest a media that is increasingly being funded by the one business flourishing in the city, the building industry.

Then there is the other kind of illegality, where in the name of building “affordable” housing for the poor, builders have been given huge incentives and deliberately permitted to cut corners. The Maharashtra government’s Slum Redevelopment Scheme has allowed private builders to reap a bounty as they selectively redevelop only those slums located on plots that guarantee handsome financial returns. Even here, builders are getting away with poor construction of the rehabilitation component of the project that entitles the displaced slum-dwellers free housing. They also routinely reduce the amount of space mandated for the rehab component of the project and think nothing of violating basic safety norms. For instance, even as the city was recovering from the Mumbra tragedy, a rehab building in a suburb was badly damaged, and one resident killed, when the water main running beneath it burst. How could the authorities permit a building to be constructed on a water main? The answer was not far to seek as news emerged that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has built a 12-storey trauma centre on a water main. Meanwhile, the senior-most municipal official in Mumbra has admitted that nine out of every ten structures in the township are illegal. It is evident that the regime of impunity when it comes to construction has reached such a zenith that even those who should be enforcing the law feel no compunction in acknowledging that the law is being blatantly broken under their watch.

The irony is that the poor in all our cities have actually created their own version of affordable housing without any help from the state. Wherever slums have been provided basic urban services like water, sanitation and electricity, people have invested in improving their own structures and neighbourhoods. Yet suggestions that the urban poor should be given security of tenure, that the state should provide the infrastructure, and the upgrading of individual houses should be left to the ability of people, have never been accepted. Clearly, “affordable” housing does not mean allowing poor people to live on high value land.

Even as the debate on how the virtually unbridgeable gap between supply and demand for affordable housing continues – an estimated 27 million units need to be built while hardly one million units have been built in a decade – there is a surplus of housing units that only a small minority can afford. Surveys last year in Mumbai revealed that there was a glut of 80,000 unsold flats averaging Rs 1.2 crore each in price. Another 50,000-1,00,000 flats were empty, locked but not available for sale. In other words, there is housing, but it is simply out of reach for those in desperate need of it. And it is this desperation for anything resembling secure housing that ends up in tragedies like the Mumbra collapse, where families are willing to put up with poor and even dangerous constructions so long as they have a roof over their heads and callous builders in collusion with the authorities are exploiting this demand. The only reason this market of illegality has flourished and continued to grow unchecked is because everyone is making a killing – while the unsuspecting consumers, like the unfortunate occupants of the Mumbra building get killed, literally.


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Alien vs Predator; Hawker vs Pedestrian

“The battle between pedestrians and hawkers is not a fight for livelihood; it is a struggle for space”, writes lawyer Gautam Patel. A shorter version of this piece A shorter version of this article appeared in the Mumbai Mirror, Ahmedabad Mirror and Pune Mirror earlier this month

This is a familiar sight. A police wagon rolls up. The street bursts into frenetic activity — shouts, calls, men running, wooden racks and trays being gathered and squirreled away into the some recess between buildings. The oddest things are flung into the police truck: pots, pans, shirts, pedestals, baskets, cutlery. It takes the better part of an hour, sometimes less, sometimes more, and then there is an unusual quiet to the street, a strange sense of space. It doesn’t last, of course; they are all soon back, later that day or the next or the day after.

Not for the first time, the language we use defines our thinking rather than the other way around. City hawkers are a “menace”, a “problem” that needs to be “addressed”. This terminology and thinking demonstrates first an institutional lack of concern for a segment low on the financial ladder. Sitting in a plush air-conditioned office a man may perpetrate all manner of heinous crimes. But it is a far greater crime to vend wares on the street. Our streets do not belong to “them”, but only to “us”, and yes, that’s the same “us” that does not think twice about littering and spewing long jets of paan-thook on to public streets.

This constant cleansing our streets of hawkers is an epic failure to recognize the nature of our cities and the role of hawkers in them. We let all this talk of “world class” cities blind us to one reality: our cities are not those of the Occidental persuasion with their motorised communities and structures set well back from the road lines where city life is either indoor or in sequestered public spaces. Our cities are extensions of villages, and every city in India is just a village on concrete steroids. Every street is an impromptu bazaar. Hawkers exist in the interstices of these village-cities, providing many essential services and goods: food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between, daily vegetables, flowers for the morning prayer rituals, garlands for special festive occasions, cheap fabric and clothing, watch straps and mobile phone covers. There is a market for these goods, and neither buyer nor seller deserves to be called a “menace”.

There is talk about hawkers’ rights, and their right to livelihood, and this tussle has occupied courts for nearly 30 years. An early decision of 1985 partly approved a policy by the Mumbai Municipal Corporation, one that contemplated the allotment of 1-mtr square ‘pitches’ for hawkers, and a zoning provision. In a late 2003 decision, the Supreme Court reviewed a revised hawker zoning policy, going street by street to decide where hawking should be permitted and where it should not. It also imposed many conditions, including that hawkers should not “create any noise or play any instrument or music for attracting the public or the customers”, prohibiting the cooking of food and the selling of white goods (cameras, video tapes, etc), requiring hawkers licenses to be displayed, permitting hawking only in certain places and so on. It is one thing to impose such restrictions by judicial pronouncement; it is quite another to get someone to enforce them. A subsequent 2007 decision went into the question of how licenses should be allotted and to whom, noting that there were a very large number of unlicensed hawkers on the streets. The 2007 decision is interesting because it notes the 2004 National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, one that acknowledges their historical existence and their necessity.

Street vending as a profession has been in existence in India since time immemorial. However, their number has increased manifold in the recent years. According to one study Mumbai has the largest number of street vendors numbering around 250,000, while Delhi has around 200,000. Calcutta has more than 150,000 street vendors and Ahmedabad has around 100,000. Women constitute a large number of street vendors in almost every city. Some studies estimate that street vendors constitute approximately 2% of the population of a metropolis. The total number of street vendors in the country is estimated at around 1 crore. Urban vending is not only a source of employment but provide ‘affordable’ services to the majority of urban population. The role played by the hawkers in the economy as also in the society needs to be given due credit but they are considered as unlawful entities and are subjected to continuous harassment by Police and civic authorities. This is reported to be continuing even after the ruling of the Supreme Court that “if properly regulated according to the exigency of the circumstances, the small traders on the side walks can considerably add to the comfort and convenience of the general public, by making available ordinary articles of everyday use for a comparatively lesser price. An ordinary person, not very affluent, while hurrying towards his home after a day’s work can pick up these articles without going out of his way to find a regular market. The right to carry on trade or business mentioned in Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, on street pavements, if properly regulated cannot be denied on the ground that the streets are meant exclusively for passing or re-passing and no other use.”

That these matters should come to court, and that there should even be this contest between competing equities — the right to carry on a trade or business and the right to life — is an indicator of the ineffectiveness of our civic administration. Regulating street vending is a matter of town planning. Courts are not equipped to develop master plans and town planning strategies. At best, they tweak and adjust existing policies, and try to balance equities and this is why the courts have been at pains to emphasize that their orders are only interim measures, not final solutions. There is, as yet, no consistency in any city’s policy on street vending and the questions before us are not very different from those of 30 years ago.

So far, the battle has been lopsided. A critical failure of thinking about hawkers is to assume that all hawkers are made equal. The hawkers in the arcades along DN Road in Mumbai seem to be immune to police action. Their wares are superfluous: bootleg videos and DVDs, spurious perfumes and suspicious missile-sized sex toys that look like Defence Ministry rejects. What ‘rights’ should accrue to these hawkers, and why? They add nothing of value and take away much of substance: the occupied arcade makes foot passage impossible, and other — less illegitimate — hawkers are forced on to the sidewalk outside. Where does that leave the pedestrian?

The Street Vendors Livelihood and Protection Bill, introduced last month in Parliament attempts to recognize hawkers’ rights and control street vending in our cities. That is one-sided; an estimated additional 47,000 hawkers will be added to Mumbai. What is the suggestion? That only motorists have rights; only hawkers have rights; and pedestrians are only road-kill?

Mumbai has had a hawker policy of sorts since 2009. This strange document is a confusing web of conditions, restrictions and classifications designed for graft. The 2009 policy is flawed, and quite disconnected from the chaotic reality of Indian cities and the problems of urban planning. It does not attempt to assess the carrying capacity of any area or locality, or to determine how much sidewalk space can be shared between hawkers and pedestrians. Instead, it seems to proceed on the assumption one need only have a method of issuing licenses and specifying zones without any defined system of checking violations. One of the most wrong-headed provisions is to make licenses for “stationary” hawkers — those who are not itinerant — heritable and transferable, a provision that can only result in greater uncertainty. The policy speaks of creating food plazas and goes on to promise additional build-ability (FSI and Transferable Development Rights) without attempting to understand how this is supposed to work in already congested localities or the impact this will have. In a triumph of mindless ambition over common sense, the policy suggested walled enclosures for non-itinerant vendors in their designated hawking zone. This is the classic NIMBY syndrome: everybody needs them, but nobody wants them in their vicinity. This is exacerbated by the fascination with “zoning”, which suggests that should you need lunch or vegetables or flowers, you might have to trudge to some distant “zone” to get them. The upshot of all this is that arrangements must be made for hawkers. Pedestrians just have to manage.

This is not a fight for livelihood; this is a struggle for space, and there is no more damning indictment of our planning process than the elision from it of the pedestrian. When political muscle and vote banks substitute for planning the result is always skewed. Pedestrians constitute no constituency.

Nobody visits a street vendor in a car. You get there on foot. That means that while we should permit hawkers — because they service the city — the number of stationary hawkers in any area and across the city must be restricted, there must be some control on what is being sold where and how, enforcement mechanisms must be transparent and clear and, too, that pedestrian rights must receive recognition. But this demands softer hands and greater imagination, both in very short supply.


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Hawk land

Sameera Khan on the large scale hawker evictions in the city

This article first appeared in the Time Out, Mumbai – http://www.timeoutmumbai.net/mumbai-local/features/hawk-land

I have a serious confession to make. I am middle class, I have a master’s degree, I live in a comfortable 3-BHK, and I regularly patronise hawkers. I frequently buy vegetables, fruits, books, chappals, dangling earrings, vada pav, balloons, kebabs, mogra gajras and other such essentials and frivolities of everyday life from them. These are people now only described as a “menace” and a “nuisance” but whose continued presence on the streets comforts me – especially late evening and night – in familiar and strange parts of the city.

I doubt we are the only middle class family dependent on hawkers in Mumbai – though the way the mainstream media in recent weeks has framed the story of large scale hawker evictions, it seems as if the only relationship between the urban middle-class and hawkers is one of antagonism and intolerance. There’s no mention of the Andheri man upset that his neighbourhood bhajiwala has been evicted, forcing him to buy vegetables from Food Bazaar at Infinity Mall. Or of the harried working woman who prefers the late evening convenience of the hawkers outside Santa Cruz station, reassured by the warm light of their petromax lamps.  And what of the old woman near Pali Hill grateful for the threedecade long presence of the same bhelpuriwala at the end of her lane? Why don’t we hear these middle-class voices supporting the people who provide daily essential services, access to cheap goods, whose existence they depend on and whose non-appearance causes them distress?

Instead, we hear the chorus of zealous “citizen” groups expressing great displeasure at hawkers. Some have put up large banners congratulating the police for their relentless anti-hawker drive. Others no doubt are waiting to download the new Hawker Tracking System, an android phone application planned by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation so that concerned citizens can report a hawker’s location for faster eviction.

So much easier to target the hawker as the villain – who messes up the city and stubbornly “encroaches” on its public spaces. So much more difficult to take on your own middle-class comrades who often have more than one car and park on the pavement or the shopkeepers/restaurant owners who unashamedly extend their shopfronts or the builders who deliberately encroach on open spaces.

These are also illegal acts but somehow only the hawkers get seen as “illegal” and of course, most are “illegal” as the BMC has not issued any new hawker licences in Mumbai since 1978; only about 15,500 of the 2.5 to three lakh hawkers in this city are licensed. Hawkers desire legal status – their illegality makes them vulnerable to extortion and harassment.

Unfortunately we see the hawker question as a beautifying pavements issue and not as an employment concern. Hawking provides our urban poor a legitimate livelihood. Since hawkers often sell goods of small-scale or home-based industries, the impact of street vending on employment is even larger. Research reveals that many vendors hawk due to a decline in formal low-skilled jobs such as those in the textile mills. A street vending study by Sharit Bhowmik of Tata Institute of Social Sciences in seven Indian cities showed that around 30 per cent of hawkers in Ahmedabad and Mumbai and 50 per cent in Kolkata were former workers in the formal sector.

Looks like the formal sector has come back to claim its pound of flesh. Just observe who stands to gain once the hawkers are unemployed – big retail malls and supermarket chains like Reliance Fresh, Hypercity, Foodland, and others are all gainers in the process. The losers are the poor: as marketers and also as consumers. Everyone doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to shop at a supermarket and maybe you can drink a R80 coffee at CCD but for your domestics and other poor workers, the chaiwala on the street is a necessity.

Eventually the hawker’s issue is about who has rights to the city – “from whom” are we protecting our public spaces and “for whom” are we protecting them? It exposes our general indifferent attitude towards the working poor. We need policy and regulation but it has to be based on tolerance and acceptance of the others’ right to be there. I too want a clear pavement to walk on but just as I want my rights as a pedestrian respected, I also want to acknowledge the rights of other citizens to public space.