Wednesday, July 2, 2008

'Beautiful' parks for the 'makaanwalas' at the cost of toilets for slum dwellers...

This is a little about a slum area in Jhilmil Colony, beyond Shahdra in Delhi.
A Block basti area:
This basti area has a small population of just about 150-200. The basti area is adjacent to an area where the ‘makaanwalas’ (people with proper brick houses) live.
At present, there is no toilet facility for the people of this basti area. Earlier, there was a proper toilet complex where the facility of toilets and bathing was there. There was proper water supply, all the basti people were very happy. The facility was run by the MCD. Each person had to pay a mere Rs. 5 for the month for to use the toilet. But, about one and a half years back, the toilet complex was broken down and it has been replaced by a park.
I happened to meet the ‘pradhaan’ of the area – he was a ‘makaanwala’ (a resident of a proper, brick house. He bluntly told me that the ‘survey’ that I was doing was of no use. And that everyone is very happy in the area; no one has any problems in the area. (Sure! – He was representing only the ‘makaanwalas’ while saying this).
The women and children of the basti area tell me that about 2 years back the ‘makaanwalas’ went to the area councilor and told him that the toilet complex was of no use to them and that it must be removed and it MUST be replaced by a beautiful park – and that is exactly what has happened. (the remains of the toilet complex are still lying in the park – broken wall parts etc.)
So, where do people from the basti area go to relieve themselves at present? None of the basti people have latrine seats at home. They either go to the forest area which is just across the road from the basti area or “lineon par jatein hain” (“we go to the railway lines”). The railways lines are (of course) very dangerous, no one is sure whether they will return home when they go to the railway lines to ‘go to the toilet’. (They told me that very recently; five people were killed, run over by a train when they had gone to the railway lines to go to the toilet). I am just imagining the plight of the girls and women; they can't go alone - as they are scared of sexual harassment and being laughed at (in case seen 'doing it' in the open on the railway lines).

ALL THE BEST to everyone!


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Things I learnt after visiting the BMC 4 times.

I needed an official BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) report for the last part of my paper. I’ve been trying to get it for the past so many weeks by constantly visiting the BMC office and running around the Hydraulic Engineering department. Last week I finally managed to obtain it and in the process also learnt how to get your work done at the BMC office. Firstly, at the BMC office, 5 minutes = 1 hour. So if someone asks you to wait for 5 minutes, don’t bother. The first 2 times I went, I actually did wait and now I feel really stupid about it. While I was waiting, I just saw random people walking in to meet the very person I had scheduled an appointment with. It took me 2 visits to figure out that if you want your work to be done, wait for 5 minutes as requested and then just enter the person’s office. Surprisingly they do not consider it rude. Oh well, I feel stupid about waiting for so long and wasting my time. So last week, I didn’t bother, I just entered the concerned person’s office and got my work done in 15 minutes.

2) Marathi helps. Recently, the use of Marathi in all administrative work of the BMC was made compulsory. No Hindi, no English, just Marathi. So, the first 2 times I walked in I spoke in Hindi....didn't get a very positive response. The moment I let Marathi words flow out of my mouth, the people were just helpful.

3) The peons and office boys are your best friends. That’s right. If you can become friendly with the peons, they’ll make sure you get into the right office and meet the right person in the least amount of time. In this case too, Marathi helps.

4) People don’t care what you’re doing in the BMC office. Last week, when I finished my 15 minute work, I decided to take a walk in the Hydraulic Engineering department to see if I could get more information from any other BMC officer who was free. It was quite literally comparable to a stroll in the park. Nobody questioned me. No one asked me why I was just randomly walking around the department and making notes. I just thought that that was really strange. So anyone could just walk in and do whatever they want ?

Well, I have what I need now and I’m back to typing out my paper. I realise that I haven’t explained it that well in my previous post. I’m analysing an attempt by the World Bank to privatise water management in a certain area of Mumbai. There are a thousand reasons why they shouldn’t have. Ultimately, approximately 4 crore rupees were spent on trying to initiate this project (which was paid to a private consultant) and nothing fructified. The contract was signed not with the BMC but with an international private consultant named Castalia. The study that Castalia did, for which it was paid 4 crore rupees, was based entirely on BMC data. Fearing a lot of resistance from local activists and residents, the BMC kept changing the project’s name and tried its best not to use the word privatisation. But if one looks at the contract, it’s clear that privatisation was indeed on the World Bank’s agenda.
There have been examples all over the world of water privatisation gone bad..... And why not ? Water is a recognised human right. It is essential for survival. Privatising water would only limit its accessibility and deprive people of this basic human right. The private sector can no doubt improve efficiency, but with profit being an important motive, the ability of the private sector to provide basic amenities like water to the poor is questionable.
In fact, the BMC is quite efficient as well. It is one of the best municipal bodies in this country and the Hydraulic engineering department actually serves as a consultant in various other countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. A lot of the BMC performance ratios are also similar and in some cases better than those in “world class” cities like London and New York.
I now begin to wonder what prompted the BMC to act so passively when the World Bank interfered. The BMC definitely has scope for improvement, but not in this manner. Anyway, after this privatisation attempt went down the drain, the BMC introduced its own project title the “Sujal Mumbai Abhiyan”. A very controversial part of this project is the concept of pre-paid water meters which the BMC wants to introduce. I have no idea who equated water with cell phones. The pre-paid funda doesn’t make sense for water, because the moment you use up the amount on your pre-paid card, and if you don’t have money to buy a new card/recharge it, you essentially have no water. Again, water is a human right !!!!!!! One can’t just be denied the access to clean, potable water.

Anyway,I hope all of your papers are going well. It’s really interesting to read about all your projects. Some of them are things I had never before thought of. 2 weeks more :)


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Are they really getting it right?

This is a little about my visit to Savda Ghevra:

Savda Ghevra is an upcoming resettlement colony. It is believed that it is the Chief Minister’s baby (“Shiela Dixit ji ne Savdha Ghevra ko apni godh mein le liya hai”). It seems that it is an effort by the Government of Delhi and the MCD to make ALL efforts to make sure that all goes right with this resettlement colony – given the blunders that they have committed with regard to other resettlement colonies around Delhi. (the Government of Delhi and the MCD is aiming at making Delhi slum-free by the 2010 – the year of the Commonwealth Games).

The following is a small observation:

While I was in Savda Ghevra; I happened to have the “privilege” to visit the same place at which our Mayor Arti Mehra had just been about an hour back. (She was supposed to arrive at 11:00 am, and so were we, but I guess both ‘parties’ got late and when we got off the DTC bus just outside the Savda Ghevra JJ Resettlement colony at 11:30 am, Arti Mehra’s motorcade zoomed past us). She had come to lay the foundation stone for a community centre in G – Block. The plot of land, at present, lies empty. In the middle of the plot of land I saw two grey bricks that had been laid down by the ‘lotus-like’ hands of Arti Mehra (as the granite stone said). Just a few metres beyond the ‘auspicious’ bricks was a whole row of the ‘cubicles’ built by the resettled people (these thatched cubicles - made with sticks and old plastic sheets or bamboo - are used by women and girls so that they have some 'privacy' while having a bath - only one of the Community Toilet Complexes - CTCs - I visited has an arrangement to bathe - charging Rs. 2 for each bath and the remaining CTCs had bathing cubicles but NO water supply in them!). So, we are to think that our Mayor comes to lay the foundation stone for something as important as the community centre, and due to the poor maintenance of the CTCs, the cubicles that have been set up by the residents for the women folk to bathe (and maybe go to the toilet as well) are NOT NOTICED by this woman (our respected Mayor), nor by any of her ‘supporters’ (?)

There is NO water supply in people’s houses. Some residents have dug up and installed hand pumps but many of them are lying dry and rusted now, as whatever water they could have extracted from the ground, they have already extracted! The DJB tanker is their lifeline in every sense. The water that they fill from the DJB tanker has to used by them for everything - drinking, washing clothes, washing utensils, cooking, having a bath and going to the toilet (often they go to the open fields to go to the toilet, carrying water in jerry cans/bottles as the 'functional' toilets require them to pay for usage of the toilet).


Thanks Tvara for that 'special mention' - I am happy someone is reading what I am writing.. :)

ALL THE BEST to everyone!


Sunday, June 22, 2008

wel finally heres something from me!!

hello.. i guess i wud be the last one to be posting their first 'kinda hello' blog but then well am lazy (even the rather sketchy weekly updates are a pain!!) so here goes the formal bit.
hello ppl.. i am tvara misra, currently (hopefully!!) completed my 2nd yr B.A.(H) in Geography at Miranda House and over the summer am desperately trying to prove that the performance, both academic and non academic for the students who enter an institute through a reserved criteria is not at par with the general candidates therefore there exists a basic flaw in this affirmative action policy of the government (ofcourse everyone knows its more vote bank oriented than for social justice) and something needs to be done to improve it so as to make it more viable and effective. it really does not help much if half the students who are admitted into an institute are thrown out as they do not perform up to the mark and the other half is dying of the pressure to cope up. as per the analysis rite now, only a handful actually can actually perform at par with the average and slightly above average general candidates of their batch and none so far have been seen to excel. seeing this trend so far i am currently analysing the causitive factors to identify the reasons for this existing gap and perhpas come up with a alternative model or some suggestions to improve it(you guys are welcome to post your views on this!)
and this has been a mammoth task since i am doing this analysis by a case study at iitk and the academic offices are busy with summer courses, convocation details, admissions etc etc etc, students are home or slogging at some intern (ahem.. does that ring a bell ppl?!!) and even the campus is in a sluggish slow mode what with most ppl out for holidays (ofcourse the ahem ...lovely muggy weather here aids to the process)... but still am the optimistic sanguine sloth clinging on to the work and yes jyotika i am trying to get some useful work done.. sometimes i feel that jyotikas untiring efforts to patiently remind us of the work (the unassuming mails are rather threatning sometimes!!) we are supposed to do are the reason (well mine for sure) for the internship going on this wel(i believe am not being too presumptuous here).. its her egging emails which make me yes.. come out of my usual stupor and do some work so that i have something to write in the weekly progress report.
wel thats enough bout my work.. what i was wondering was how did the mid term presentaion go??? i didnt come across ne entry which addressed tht except for (well again) jyotika reminding the externs to take some tips from the interns.
and a special mention for sahanas topic.. man... thats really interesting.. and by the (length and) content of the frequent blogs i think thrs gr8 progress too.. cool.
neway... i think thats sufficient for now... ill (hopefully) post some more to keep you updated (and yes socialize!).. happy working ppl!!!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The politics of provision of a BASIC NEED

I met three sanitation inspectors from the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) last friday evening (and I must thank Nikhil for coming along and saying that filmy style 'main hoon na..' - which made me feel reassured (?))... The meeting was quite an interesting experience.. and all the interns know about it...
The following is an important point, they made, regarding the difference between how the MCD (under which, they claimed, there is about 95% of the Delhi area) and NDMC (New Delhi Municipal Corporation - which accounts for about 3% of Delhi area- according to them and Delhi Cantonment accounts for roughly 2% of the entire Delhi area) would deal with an issue as basic as building of toilets. “The work culture of the two and the mobility of funds for the MCD and NDMC cannot be compared”. If, the MCD asks for certain funds, then the MCD – which is BJP-led will first have to give the request to the Delhi Government – which is Congress-led, which, due to political repulsions and because they don’t want BJP to ‘get what they want’ as that will lead to implementation of some part of the BJP agenda and so BJP will score higher on the political report card and then, the Congress, is scared that next time around they ‘may be thrown out of power’ (!). And so, quite naturally, some ‘cuts’ are made by the Delhi Government in the request. Then the request goes to the Centre, which also is also Congress led; so, there will be further cuts there. ( it seems the more the hierarchy, the greater the chance of political repulsions and so BIGGER ‘cuts’)
On the other hand, an NDMC request for funds goes directly to the Central Government. The disbursal of funds for the NDMC can be expected overnight where as the amount of time that it would take for disbursal of funds for MCD cannot be predicted! Over and above this, the politically influential people live in the NDMC area, so a request which is ‘pushed’ by this ADDED political influence only gets returns much faster!
(This is probably what is responsible for the GREAT difference between the public toilets in the NDMC area and the MCD area – its sad that a BASIC NEED such as that of public toilets is getting neglected due to political reasons!)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Blowing my cover.

Three email warnings from Jyotika and some pointed invitations to join the CCS blog have finally prodded me into action. I'm Naomi, i'm a certified lurker, its fun to read what everyone's getting upto in their respective parts of the country:).

I'm working on the impact of the NREGS on rural-urban migration. Its kind of a duh hypothesis, that in a region where the NREGS is implemented properly, migration will decrease. I'm assuming migration isn't good, because men get separated from their families-studies show most rural-urban migrants are men- and they migrate because of the lack of opportunities in their villages, and also they often dont have enough money to send back as remittances, so the theory that the remittances could help the village develop wouldn't really hold. If the NREGS provides a steady source of income for them, then they will have a strong economic incentive to remain in their villages. I'm linking migration with the spread of AIDS so am hypothesising that by decreasing rural-urban migration, the spread of AIDS-migrants are a high risk group- can be slowed down. The reason why i want to do this is to get actual empirical proof, that in some places where the act is implemented well, its doing a lot of good. I really believe that this act is one of the more worthwhile efforts to target poverty..Anyway am pretty excited because the field work will start from monday, and i'm crossing my fingers hoping i'll get up to date migration data.

Back to lurking:)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Some Interesting Links

Hey guys, I found some good articles at, and Mint:

An Artist's Freedom, The Tribune: ""

Road test for commuter etiquette: ""

Salil Tripathi on P. Sainath: ""

Matunga racket, Amit Varma :""

Even if you don't read all of them, do read the last one (it's sad & scary to say the least)!

Note that in this entry, Amit Varma says, "We can choose not to gamble or to do drugs, but sexual orientation, like the colour of our eyes, is something we’re born with." Or is it?

I am not too sure about that (that is not to say I have anything against gay men/women or find them weird though!).
What do you think?