NUDSA, C/O National Alliance of People's Movements, Haji Habib Building, Naigaon Cross Road, Dadar (E), Mumbai-400014, Phone No: 022-24150529

Press Note | October 29, 2006


National Urban Poor Yatra Reaches Kolkota
Challenges JNNURM, SEZ, FDI / DI in retail
Vows to continue the struggle

The National Urban Poor Yatra which started from Mumbai on October 3rd, World Habitat Day reached Kolkota after traveling through 18 cities in 10 states. The Yatra was aimed at linking urban poor in their struggles for housing, livelihood and participation in governance. The yatra also interacted with organizations working in the urban areas trying to understand the challenges and struggles against urban impoverishment and exploitation.

The Yatra was undertaken by the Urban Development Struggle and Action Committee, which is an alliance of more than 50 groups from various urban areas, with the active support from National Alliance of People's Movements and National Hawkers Federation.

The Yatra went through Mumabi – Pen – Mangaoan – Pune- Bangalore- Chennai – Thiruvananthapuram – Kochi – Hyderabad – Bijapore – Indore – Bhopal – Raipur – Bhubaneshwar – Ranchi – Bokaro – Kolkota. In Kolkotta various street corner meeting were held explaining the objectives of the yatra and opposing JNNURM, SEZ and entry of foreign capital and big national capital in retail sector.

The Yatra met slum dwellers organizations, hawker's organizations, activists, academicians to develop an urban poor perspective in the changing landscape of the city with more and more poor being pushed away from even the restricted spaces within the city. The situation of the urban poor was similar in different cities with lack of adequate and affordable housing, security of tenure, threat of displacement due to urban development including beautification with out proper rehabilitation and un accounting of the contribution of the poor's in building the cities. There is an increasing understanding of the demographic transition that has occurred in the country where more and more people are now living in the cities and the changes in the production patterns and wealth creation.

The present phase of urbanization which is being accelerated by capitalistic development which converts commodities of land and water is diametrically opposed to the existential and livelihood concerns of the poor. The land being valued speculatively due to real estate business drives poor out of those spaces into ever expanding fringes of the city. The livelihoods of the people are also being threatened by big capital replacing the local production and distribution networks. The employment situation of the cities is already grim with closure of factories and mills which used to provide mass employment and informalisation of production process. More and more people are working without social security, protection under labor laws in the informal sector. The entry of foreign companies and National Capitalists into the retail sector is a matter of increasing concern as they will wipe out the small business and retailing by hawkers and street vendors. This will have a negative effective not only on the small business but also on lower and middle class consumers as they will have to pay prices decided by the big business with profit being the prime motive.

The housing situations in all the cities are unfavorable to the urban poor where more than 50% people are staying in slums with lack of basic services. The withdrawal of the state from the welfare of the people to that of enabling of large scale actors are playing a disaster not only to the poor but also to the lower and middle class population. The displacement of slums for urban renewal and beautification is encroaching on the spaces of poor within the city and their rights to housing and employment. The rehabilitation sites often are insensitive to the needs of the urban slum dwellers where they are thrown away from the city incurring more and more unviable expenditure on transportation. The nearness of livelihood and housing of the urban poor needs to be the principle in urban rehabilitation. More over the rehabilitation sites lack basis services including water, transportation facilities, and access to schools – hospitals etc. There is a huge nexus between the builders and politicians resulting in more and more land grab in urban areas.

It is in this context, the National Urban Poor Yatra raised questions about JNNURM which aims at full cost recovery of basic services which infact means privatization of water, electricity, education, health etc. This will result in deprivation of the urban poor and their cut off from basic services. The mandatory reforms of repulsion of Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act (ULCRA) and Rent Control act will mean centralization of more and more land in the hands of corporate players. The concept of Private Public partnership is nothing but profit to the private and costs to the masses. There is a need for effective planning with the participation of the people in building equitable societies and this cannot be given in the hands of profit driven corporate players. The Development authorities who are in charge of planning needs to have direct people representation and Metropolitan Councils and local governing bodies need to be given the charge of planning as envisaged by the 74 th constitutional amendment. JNNURM is a direct violation of the constitutional spirit of decentralization of governance and creation of an equitable society.

The National Urban Poor Yatra has received wide support from various sections of the urban poor and progressive forces. The struggles will now join hands with other sections of population who faces dispossession and exploitation. The spaces and rights of the urban poor who constitute the majority of the city is also a struggle to democratize the society and building an equitable society, such a struggle will have to build people centric democratic cities which complement the villages.

Shaktiman Ghosh Rajendra Ravi Raju Bhise Simpreet Singh Maju Varghese

Medha Patkar