My name is Anand Lakhan I would like to begin by describing the day I was born as it was special I was born in Mahu which also happens to be the birthplace of Dr Ambedkar and on same day as him but in a different year - 14th April I was born there I was born into the Valmiki community I am working in this field probably because I have experienced all these challenges and discriminations since childhood and and these experiences have pushed me towards this work My grandparents worked as cleaners. so not only have I faced discrimination on the basis of caste myself but it is part of my family legacy My schooling was done in a missionary school I believe they also taught me a lot of things I do not know what other people’s opinions are about missionary schools today but I give them credit for the values of service they instilled in me Before I introduce my work, I want to share that I am married. My marriage is an inter-caste marriage. My wife is a so-called Brahmin. I faced many problems with that as well. I have a daughter. During elections in India, in the name of housing rights many empty promises are made to people. Rights are linked to justice in my opinion. You have land but you do not have the right to own that land. That can be snatched away any time. Especially if you are relocated or rehabilitated, as is mostly the case with the urban labour workforce or urban poor, housing justice is completely missing. They do not have the right to sell their homes. Housing justice does not mean only basic amenities or adequate housing, but it means you also have the right to sell your property. In government documents you never get the right to sell or the right to transfer title. Housing justice means they should have the right to sell their property. As we work at the grassroots level, we believe in timely intervention. Strike while the iron is hot. I am from Indore and this is a native proverb. For 5 years these politicians become our Mai-baap (literally ‘parents’) but 6 months before election we are their mai-baap. That period is very important to bring them to their knees. Before the 2011 election we faced such situations. When we used to present our demand charter they would just sign it and go away. That signature is not a proof because they just sign abruptly. This time we discussed it with people beforehand. As we have strong relations in popular communities, we did not face any problems to mobilize the campaign We covered 5 cities - Indore, Jabalpur, Bhopal, Gwalior and Ujjain. These were declared smart cities in the first phase by the government. We told them that they will have to intervene in the coming election with complete preparation and tell us what you want to call the campaign. Earlier we used to give names like Vote Par Chot or something like that but this time the community suggested ‘Hit Election’. This campaign was a community campaign and they started it one year before election. One main reason behind this campaign was that we were working on the 74th amendment. The establishment of mohalla sabha and mohalla samities(neighbourhoood councils) imply that a democratic structure already existed in the community. The community had collective decision-making power. Representatives of Mohalla samiti will bring forward the issues but the decision will be taken by Mohalla sabha. We used to attend their meeting at 11:00 at night. We managed our time as per their convenience. We organized meetings at 6:00 in the morning. Banners were placed in the communities of all the 5 cities a year before the election was held. Their demands were written on these banners in local languages whichever leader promises to not let our informal settlements be demolished give us a grant of two-and-a-half lakh rupees for the betterment of our houses and will get our houses registered, we would only vote for him/her otherwise dont come to ask us for votes. Those banners had mobile numbers of all the 11 representatives. We know that these political leaders try to get a key person whom they can manipulate. We clearly stated that you can talk to only these 11 members. They will communicate your message to the entirety of the community. They panicked. A community named Sonia Gandhi Nagar community hand painted a large board. We have a long relationship with the IIHS (Indian Institute for Human Settlements) They have imparted training to our people regarding the Master plan and 74th amendment, such as how they can go for registry if they do not possess any documentation. When we discussed these, many major points came up They wrote these major points on a 10x10 board. All the anomalies of the master plan, history of the community, caste dynamics, their demands were written on the board. Warnings to political leaders were written in red. Another thing was that people showed their strength. It was the first instance of people showcasing their power to political leaders, no matter which party they belonged. They just wanted to work for the community that they were a part of. We worked hard for a whole year. We helped them in creating documents for their houses because they were unaware of the process. Suppose there are 4 candidates from 4 different parties - I, so and so Congress candidate, promise you that if I win the election or if my party wins, then we will do this, this and this. But when he went to meet people and distributed his manifesto among them, people used to ask him to sign on their demands first, only then they were willing to accept their handbill. Thousands of such papers were distributed to people’s homes. Banners were placed, large hoardings were placed. These had different types of demands written on them – community-specific demands, city-specific demands, and state-specific demands. State specific demands were related to urban poor. You will not believe but they requested us to remove these banners and for that they were ready to sanction 10-20 lakh rupees for our communities. We refused. We asked them to sign our demand charter. He signed abruptly. Then someone called me and told me that this kind of signature has no value. This is not proof. So, we asked the candidate to hold the paper in his hand and we took a video of it. Two leaders won the election. They were not the incumbents at that time. So by hook or by crook they wanted to win the election. They held the paper in their hands and declared their promise that if they won, they would agree to the charter. This video recording was proof that they cannot deny. The then Congress president invited me and said we want to fulfil your demands. For the first time they released a promise note, in most cases parties only release their manifesto. They included our 16 demands in their note. Our major demand was registration and regularization of the informal settlement. Once the community is regularized, there is no threat of eviction. This was a major achievement for our campaign. This Hit Election campaign model of Indore was replicated during Delhi elections as well. Later on, many states replicated this model because one cannot get the things done by presenting them the demand charter or handing over some papers to them. One needs to collect all the evidence so that one can ask questions about the promises made before the election. This Madhya Pradesh model has been replicated across India. We still follow this model as we face 3 elections in 5 years – Municipal election, Assembly election and Lok Sabha election. We celebrate these campaigns as a festival. This is the time when political leaders can be brought to their knees. This was our Hit Election. If you go back 30 years, the government had a very different perception on housing for urban poor workforce. People migrated to cities from villages in search of a better livelihood because not many options were left in the villages. They migrated to earn their livelihood. Housing was not their priority. Their priority was livelihood. Gradually as they started settling in, city housing became an issue for them. They started settling in peripheries of the cities or in places which are non-tenable, near a drain, a pond or a landfill. At that time, they used to live in an open area. Slowly cities expanded beyond these peripheries and engulfed these communities This land became expensive and became prime location. Now the government started toying with the idea of redevelopment. At first the government announced that in the name of beautification of cities they are removing the informal settlements from the area. People were happy that their city would look beautiful. Next the government came with a new idea of city development. For the development of the city these people were viewed as barriers, and hence must be removed. Now, this third phase is very dangerous, especially from the central government’s side. Central government cannot plan for a state sitting far away from them Each and every state has different dynamics. They have their own culture and their own trend. Sorry to say but I think this SDG is a very bad idea. Only NGOs can take advantage of this. They know how to make proposals for this. They are working just for the government. Government wants to hold their head high in the international community and so they are stating as per SDG no. 11 we are providing housing for these people. Now, government has also added one more thing into the mix, and that is displacement of people. Actually, their main aim is to grab the land. They have given it a name - “housing reforms”. I am happy the way I am living with my shabby look, but they are forcing me to have a clean-shaven look with a nice haircut. This is not possible. These people live in better conditions in their current dwelling. All over the globe people are raising awareness on climate resilient cities, whereas in our community we already have trees and all those resources which are helpful in making a city climate resilient. Unfortunately, the government is displacing them in the name of housing reforms and putting them in concrete high rises. Instead the government should protect them as they are following the best practices, and replicate their model. It would be better if they invested in the current state and upgraded the communities at the same place instead of shifting them someplace else. Actually, their plan in its present form is less related to redevelopment and more towards land grabbing. The land reform concept is even more dangerous. Generally, other people think it is for the betterment of poor people. Recently I was travelling in Jabalpur in an autorickshaw. I asked the auto driver, “do you know about eviction of these communities?” He said, “yes, they have got huge houses now just like palaces” Regular folks dont know what type of houses they are being shifted too! The people who have been forced out are not used to living in a high-rise building. They rear goats, hens, and cows. They drive carts for their livelihood. Where will they keep them? These buildings have hardly a 10–12-year life. How inclusive and sustainable is this redevelopment? that is a big question. At present we are focusing on state specific policies, plans and projects. We feel that we do not need centrally mandated schemes. We are also running a campaign for that. Some time back, we started a pre-eviction strategy campaign under which our demand was that a bulldozer should not come to your door, the notice should not be served to you. There should be no scope to demolish your house. Words like eviction should not be used. We are planning to run a new campaign on regularization of informal settlements. Once you are regularized, you are safe. Central government has no role in this. The chief minister of the state or the ruling party of the state is the main actor. Currently, elections are being held in 5 states. Madhya Pradesh already has some very good laws like the Patta Act. This was the first act to provide land rights to urban poor. It was introduced for the first time in 1984. Before that it was applicable in rural areas only. Two years back Odisha municipality also implemented this Act in their state. Punjab has also implemented the same. Karnataka also has its policy, but it is not very progressive. States form their policies as per their needs. It is easier to present your views or to have a dialogue with the state government when they are forming a policy, rather than when the central government does. Our complete focus is on how we can build pressure on the state government and local policymakers for creating state specific policies and plans. For that you should not depend on people like me or IIHS. In partnership with IIHS we started a campaign - transformation of technical expertise. Even a Class V dropout could understand the master plan colourdynamics. They knew what yellow or purple or light brown means. They themselves started arguing with the government on a technical basis. They did not need intermediaries. The community itself is talking to the policymakers, planners and everyone else. With this kind of participation, we see better results. This is easily possible. You are making it sound complicated. First of all, I think this 4-year course is really only a one-and-a-half-year long course. I may not look highly qualified, but I am NET qualified, I am a professor too, I teach social work, I conduct research, so I am aware of these things. They drag the course for 6 months just to save their job otherwise they can possibly finish even in a month. I agree, IIHS students do things in a different way and they learn new things. But if they come from Planning or from some other space, they do not have a lot of understanding. We understand this when we take master classes with the students we understand which background the students have come from. But when they come here (to IIHS) and polish themselves, they give better results. A new master plan comes up or it is the 74th amendment Act. It has 400 pages. It contains so many sections. It is good that you have asked this question. Earlier we used to just talk to communities about their housing space, living space, working space, hawking zones, but now we realize as they make up more than 65% of the city’s population, they should have the right to the city! they have a larger claim to the city. Now we plan where hospitals should be built, etc. In 1998 we intervened in the master plan for the first time. It was a big success. At that time community involvement was very low. Ever since we got involved with IIHS, we are getting better results. You do not look at the entire master plan. You just see those sections which are important for the community Proposed map gives you a complete picture of the master plan, which has almost 400 pages. If you impart training to the community about colour dynamics, it is very easy for them to understand the entire plan. IIHS developed some modules on this and we made use of it along with some improvisation according to the community. This has shaken up the government in Bhopal and Jabalpur. I will give you an example. We had taken a state caravan to Jabalpur for housing rights. We reached a community which was located on a hill. It was a near a forested area – Sanjay Nagar. They told us that the SDM ordered them to evict them from there as the community was on the green belt. We said okay, we will find out. When we opened the master plan, it was a yellow area. We asked them a simple question. Around 35-40 women were sitting there. We said it is a yellow area, do you know what yellow means? Yellow means residential. You are already living in the residential area. Next time if someone comes, you can explain. On the same day we printed the map and hung it in their community. After 6 months we visited them again. Sampatti Devi is a representative of theirs. She said, you have done a miracle. The SDM was threatening to evict us saying we are on the green belt. We said, we know this is a yellow area and yellow means residential. Just shut up and go away. The SDM was shocked and asked, who taught you this?. She left and never returned. You can imagine how important it is. It is not only the case of Jabalpur but Bhopal, Ujjain, Gwalior; everywhere people have started to bargain now for yellow area in the master plan Now people are suggesting if the current yellow zones can be declared as residential zones for the economically weaker section they would not need to pay more revenue and will get our land. This is quite effective. Since I am working in the field, I know people are now directly talking about the master plan, about the 74th amendment. Even under PMAY (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana) they are talking about high-rise structure, DPRs. This is possible only because IIHS organized several training workshops for them. Earlier no one knew what DPR was. I would like to cite another example. All of you know that when municipal corporations, development authority, town and country planning departments issue some information, they publish a small advertisement in newspapers which states within a timeframe of 30 days one can submit their objections/ suggestions on such and such land. We are bringing up a project on this land. We never come to know because usually we do not watch out for tenders and notices in newspapers. For the past 30 years, we have been perusing it regularly. We have trained the communities for this. Just imagine, the community which is not interested in reading newspapers, they now read tenders and notices first. I get calls at 8 AM in the morning from the community that a notice has been published about Indrajeet Nagar and we want to act on that, so please come soon. It is untrue that these small inputs will not work, or technical transformation will not be possible, rather their results are quite impactful. We are also preparing community advocates. We are talking to some legal agencies who can support us. If the community can handle their problems themselves, then it is a sustainable structure. Earlier it was slightly easier to work in that because investors were not outsiders. Cities like Delhi and Mumbai are exceptions. They have made these cities worse. After JNNURM, which you can say was the first phase of Smart City, they started concentrating on tier II cities. Their plan was to grab available resources and shift them to bigger companies and builders. After JNNURM it was a bit difficult for us to work. But my strategy is different. When people feel it is very difficult, I tell them you just see how much work it takes. In fact after JNNURM, Smart City, AMRUT, PMAY schemes people have become more conscious, otherwise we were fighting with local administration just to protect our land. After Smart City came up. we realized our city has converted into a company. There is no democracy left. We were seeing that even local councils have no role anymore. They used to rule the city as municipal corporation were under them. Now you are nowhere. As new projects and outsiders are coming, our issues are expanding. Our objective is to educate people on these issues. There are challenges but we appreciate them. More challenges create more opportunities. In the past our fight was with the government but now we must face contractors of Smart Cities for these projects as well. We know it is tough, It is interesting.