[Urbanstudy] ‘Does Urban Planning Create or Mitigate Conflicts and Violence in Indian Cities? Findings from Ahmedabad and Guwahati’ conducted by the Centre for Urban Equity, CEPT University, Ahmedabad

Vinay Baindur yanivbin at gmail.com
Mon Jan 4 00:14:08 CST 2016


http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/detailsnew.asp?id=jan0416/city055




*Comparative study of Guwahati, Ahmedabad*Sivasish Thakur
 GUWAHATI, Jan 3 - A comparative study of underdeveloped belts in the
hearts of the cities of Guwahati and Ahmedabad has shown how the state
contributes to creating a structural violence of deprivations with regard
to housing, basic services, citizenship rights, etc.

The study – ‘Does Urban Planning Create or Mitigate Conflicts and Violence
in Indian Cities? Findings from Ahmedabad and Guwahati’ – conducted by the
Centre for Urban Equity, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, has found many
similarities in the perpetuation of underdevelopment in the two areas of
the two different states.

“Some of our case studies within the two cities – Bombay Hotel area in
Ahmedabad and hill settlements in Guwahati – represent this type of local
informal actors-led or people-led housing developments without basic
services access and formal status of their housing. They are prone to
evictions any time the state wants to redevelop the area.

In Guwahati, the instrumental state has stepped in to assist capture of the
hill settlements’ land for real estate interest or reportedly for
ecological protection. These settlements, therefore, suffer from structural
violence in the form of deprivations and insecurity in their day-to-day
life and occasional physical violence in the form of eviction drives,” the
report noted.

Noting that the idea of ‘urban’ was on the upsurge and so was the zeal to
make cities that are visually appealing and functionally productive, the
report found that the urban constituency had become more vocal than before
and was being wooed by the political class more than before.

The outcome, it says, is national governments (Centre’s) pre-eminent focus
and funding of urban development projects since mid-2000 and the
economically-advanced states projecting their cities as their brand
ambassadors, upcoming Amravathi city for Andhra Pradesh, Ahmedabad and her
urban projects such as the BRTS, Riverfront, etc., for Gujarat, and so on.

This thrust also resulted, for the first time, in major urban development
programmes being introduced in the mission mode by the previous Central
Government under the name Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission
(JNNURM) and Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY), both discontinued now. The present
government has launched the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation & Transformation
(AMRUT), Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Housing for All (Urban) (PMAY) and
Smart Cities Mission.

The study chose Ahmedabad, the brand ambassador of the Gujarat development
model and Guwahati, the gateway to the Northeast and also a city located in
a state that is a site of ethnic conflicts and conflicts with immigrants
from Bangladesh.

“Their specific dynamics have influenced the way urban development
programmes have been implemented, conflicts ensuing on account of the same
and tipping of some of the conflicts into occasional physical violence in
the form of eviction drives,” it said.

It added that in Guwahati, the hill settlements had been evicted many times
and people had experienced violence from the state. The residents are
mostly the tribal communities, who have been mobilized by an organisation
named Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) for land rights. Their movement
has faced state repression and violence and there have been instances of
counter violence from the hill residents. The most recent incident was in
February 2014 when during a protest demonstration, a hill settler died
through self-immolation.

“The state’s neglect in supporting the poor to realize their rights and
exclusions has led to informal settlements’ residents making claims for
survival rights or claims over their ‘life space’ in a subtle manner of
organising for demanding water rights, approaching local politicians for
such claims, making demands before elections and so on. There are local
actors, often NGOs and local leaders and CBOs, as in the case of Bombay
Hotel area in Ahmedabad as well as hill settlements in Guwahati, that
assist residents to organise for issues and stake claims,” it said.

The report noted three types of conflicts in the case of the street
vendors’ market in Guwahati – (a) of the vendors with the local State in
the form of evictions, (b) of the vendors with the non-state actors to whom
the state has outsourced management of the markets and (c) among the
vendors for vending space.

“NGO and local Welfare Association (WA) intervention mitigated the conflict
with the state by organising the evicted street vendors into a new informal
market elsewhere in the city. But then, the state has once again clamped
down and evicted the vendors from this market which was part of our study,
namely Ulubari market,” it observed.

The attempt often is to expand the rights but only in certain situations,
such as in the KMSS movement in the hill settlements, it turns into a
political movement, which can in turn lead to occasional counter-violence
when the state remains unresponsive to its concerns and demands.

“In the informal settlements like Bombay Hotel, there is near absence of
the welfare state. Instead, informal non-state actors step in. They draw
their power from their links with the local state apparatus and
politicians. They have provided land for housing and water solely for their
own profit and they govern these activities through threat of violence and
occasional violence,” it said.

Even ‘welfare’ interventions for rehabilitation of evicted people are
subverted from the beginning by the local state. The rehabilitation in
Ahmedabad in general and the BSUP housing in Vatvain particular was so
badly planned and managed that the Vatvasites are now replete with various
crimes including gender violence, illicit and illegal activities, and
actors engaging in them.
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