Wednesday, July 1, 2009

International Planning: Ambition in India to Lower Poverty

Kumari Selja, Minister of State for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, just released her Ministry's 100-day plan, and it's an ambitious one. Selja aims to take the first steps towards creating a slum-free India in as little as five years.

The plan has several very good components to it, but one of the most important components is that this plan recognizes the poor urban population's need for property rights. In the next 100 days, the Ministry plans to develop a legal framework to give property rights to the urban poor. States that then implement this legal framework will be financially supported by the Indian federal government for their efforts. Along with property rights, these states will also provide federally-supported amenities such as water supply, sewage systems, drainage, roads, street lighting and social infrastructure facilities.

Another major component is that a model bill is going to be formulated within the first 100 days regarding the regulation of the real estate industry in order to ensure that affordable housing efforts are not able to be destroyed by powerful companies in the private sector. The plan also vaguely mentions that the Ministry will promote a housing micro finance company, which would be great. It will be interesting to see just how much they promote such a company, and in what ways.

The plan also says that the Ministry will create a skill development program for the urban poor in order to give them better access to wage labor and a greater chance for success in self-employment. The goal of the program would be 2 lakhs (a lakh is 100,000 people) every year for the next five years.

The Ministry also plans to support State and City Resource Centres in any city with a population of 1 lakh or more. These centres will provide resources such as employment-related information, market assessment, skill development, training, placement, etc. in order to help reduce urban poverty in India.

One last component to the 100-day plan that I will mention is the implementation of an independent social audit system to ensure that the beneficiaries of these poverty alleviation programs are indeed the urban poor, and that money isn't finding its way elsewhere thanks to corruption. A manual on these social audits will also be created and circulated to the states so that they may keep an extra eye on each other as well.

This plan is a very big step forward for India not only for recognizing the relationship between urban planning and poverty, but for doing something about it. I've extracted two quotes from the 100-day plan that I think best represent this movement.

"Master plans have led to exclusion of the poor from the city development process and driven them to precarious and illegal settlements. The Ministry will support an Inclusive City Campaign involving all stakeholders to alter the existing city planning model and prepare 'inclusive' Master Plans/City Development Plans that adequately address the concerns of the urban poor for affordable housing and informal sector activities which engage most of the urban poor."

"[This model] will cover the provision of security of tenure to the urban poor and also make land available for affordable housing, basic amenities and informal sector activities of the poor through the process of urban planning."

Hopefully implementation of this new plan goes smoothly.

Thanks for reading.

- David
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I graduated from the University of North Florida with a BA in Political Science, double-minoring in Public Administration and Urban & Metropolitan Studies. Starting in the Fall of 2010, I'll be pursuing a Master's degree in Urban Studies and Planning from the University of Maryland - College Park.