The Second Delhi Dialogue was held in the India International Centre (IIC) on 12th June 2018. The second Delhi Dialogue carries forward the discussion that the First Delhi Dialogue (15th May 2018, Action Aid India Office) initiated.
The second Delhi Dialogue carries forward the discussion that the First Delhi Dialogue (15th May 2018, Action Aid India Office) initiated. There were 42 participants from 17 organizations in the second dialogue. The purpose of initiating these series of dialogues has been to bring together organizations working on urban issues such as informal workers’ rights, public transport, public services, women’s safety, urban commons, housing and others, especially in Delhi’s context. With the impending formulation of the next Delhi Master Plan in about 3 years, the Dialogue intends to identify and amplify issues of those marginalized communities whose voices are most often not heard through a collective platform.
The Dialogue began with revisiting the main points of discussion of the first dialogue and subsequent suggestions. This was followed by a presentation from Aravind Unni and Shalini Sinha from IGSSS and
WEIGO; that focused on the key issues and recommendations that emerged from a meeting on Master Plan for Delhi co-organised by them in April 2018. The presentation discussed the importance of engaging with and influencing Master Plans, as they often act as the focal point of city planning, especially in resettlement and in-situ redevelopment. Moreover, in case of legal challenges to actions by municipal authorities, the courts usually refer to the Master plans. Some of the key suggestions emerging from WEIGO-IGSSS (April 2018) meeting included:
1. More Engagement: All stakeholders who could be potentially affected due to redevelopment projects must be brought together. There must be micro-level interventions and coordination amongst groups so that more knowledge can be diffused and people who could be affected can be made aware of the situation.
2. Manifesto and Database: All the collaborating organizations must come together to come up with a common vision and mission and underlying principles that could be presented through a manifesto. Also, there is a need to create an alternate database that could be used to counter and supplement official data while reviewing the previous master plans.
3. Livelihoods are an integral part of the urban poor and could be the vantage point from which interventions are undertaken.
The next segment was a presentation by Dunu Roy, Hazards Centre depicting the differences between the previous master plans and the present conditions, which would have implications for the Delhi Master plan to be introduced in 2021. The presentation highlighted how previous official estimates used by the DDA for city planning have had discrepancies with current official figures, for example, the previous estimation of the rate of growth of population was inaccurate and has undervalued the current growth of population. Hence, the planning does not lead to desired results.
In order to ensure more participatory planning, NGOs and community groups should undertake field studies which assess the current status and the needs of the future. These groups must also consider the kind of data that is required to support their interventions and suggestions, as well as the indicators to measure progress.
Groups should also expand the ground for intervention-based workshops since vulnerable communities have been pushed to outskirts of the cities because of consecutive redevelopment projects.
There is also a need to engage with the politics of city planning while devising strategies. For instance, formulation of the Master plan by DDA is often initiated close to the deadlines and is completed late. Master plans are usually accompanied by large (mega) events which allow for evictions and resettlements based on those plans. So, the process cannot be engaged in isolation from socio-economic realities and political compulsions.
Kalpana Viswanath, Safetipin then presented her concerns about how cities are being primarily planned for able-bodied men, while the needs of women and other marginalized groups are ignored. She talked about the needs of women in cities, especially as care workers, informal and formal sector workers, and especially as equal citizens. Master plans are often made with disregard to issues faced by women. Therefore, more organizations must voice the
concerns of women to enable engendering of master plans. Also, women’s needs must be included in various aspects of the master plan, for example in the availability and accessibility of public services such as improvements in public toilets, child-care facilities, safe public transport etc.
The following segment included a presentation by Dharmendra Kumar, Janpahal. The focus of the same was to show how people from marginalized sections of society form the informal sector, that contributes massively to the economy. Most of these informal workers are self-employed, working as street vendors and hawkers. Delhi’s economy has a predominant tertiary sector and these informal workers provide irreplaceable services.
Yet, policies from state and central governments do not recognize the importance of these workers and give labels to them that are derogatory in nature. With increasing informalisation of the economy and technological advancements, the needs and demands of informal workers are set to undergo changes. Therefore, communities must come together to ensure: -
1. Workers are enabled to independently address their problems to concerned authorities
with the limited role of intermediaries.
2. Protection of the rights of informal workers using existing acts such as Street Vendors Act 2014. These existing laws and guidelines should be integrated into the planning process, with cognizance and advocacy for the sectors or constituencies where policies do not exist at all.
Discussion and Suggestions
An insightful round of discussion brought out various ideas and opinions from representatives
of all the participating organizations. These included: -
1. More NGOs, activists and supporting organizations working on the urban issues must be informed and included in order to get a diverse range of views and concerns. These new partners can support by spreading the word, also covering more ground and interacting with remotely located communities.
2. The next rounds of dialogues should be taken to a broader platform. Ward level dialogues must be organised in communities with a closer interaction of all the stakeholders. This could potentially bring in a new set of issues that the previous dialogues might have missed out. The dialogue must reiterate the objective that is cooperation
amongst all stakeholders and therefore must not send the message which pits the community versus the government.
3. The organisations need to be forward thinking in anticipating what will be the issues of future related to different sectors and issues such as availability of water, kind of jobs, and role of the private sector through PPPs etc.
4. Exclusion in city planning is increasing – there are differential norms and standards for people according to their caste, gender, class, and religion. The acceptance of diverse identities is disappearing from public life and is also visible in master plans – cities have become divided between the haves and have-nots. Civil society needs to challenge these notions.
5. There are many alternate knowledge systems on the ground. These need to be harnessed to provide information and solutions to policymakers.
6. Groups need to make clear to communities what would emerge out of the next master plan, what the implications for communities will be, and what the ways to influence the master plans are. There is a need to map the essential services required for all citizens and advocate for universal services, and not to look at only occupational
This dialogue space will be carried on, while organisations simultaneously plan the community consultations. The next dialogue in this series will be hosted by YUVA in July, 2018.