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TitleThe political and administrative context of slum improvement : two contrasting Indian cases
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsBaken, R-J
Pagination18 p.; 16 refs.; 4 boxes
Date Published2008-11-19
Place PublishedDelft, The Netherlands
Keywordsdeveloping countries, development, india, slums, social development

This essay deals with slum improvement. It focuses on the contrast between high-flown project intentions and the sobering reality of the politics of project implementation. It thereby attempts to give some answers to the above issues. Moreover, it presents a beginning of a way out of the political and administrative impasse. It tries to achieve this by giving a description of two contrasting cases in India. The first case is typical for many slum improvement projects in India and other developing countries. On paper, it is all-encompassing, integrated and participatory – a typical UNCHS “best practice”. In practice, it is none of these things. The second case is much more modest. There is no predetermined, all-round plan. In terms of organisation, mobilisation, teaching and learning the kind of slum improvement highlighted in the second case builds on what the slum dwellers themselves know and understand. In terms of output, it concentrates on community toilet blocks. The first case concerns slum improvement projects in Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam, two rapidly growing million-plus cities in Andhra Pradesh (1988-1996). It describes and analyses the problematic interaction between slum dwellers and the (local) government. The project was based on a number of unrealistic assumptions and approaches, e.g. with respect to dweller participation and the capacity of existing infrastructure networks. It invited patronage and corruption. Rather than truly including slums and slum dwellers in the urban civic space, the project delivered special slum (health, credit, livelihood, education and infrastructure) products of a substandard, makeshift quality. The second case is that of the 10-year experience in the construction of toilet blocks in Indian urban slums by urban poor federations and women's co-operatives, with the support of the NGO SPARC. In its effort this alliance (called “the Alliance”) improved sanitation and washing facilities for hundreds of thousands of poor households and proved that such facilities could be both affordable and manageable. Apart from this concrete outcome, the efforts of the Alliance and its partner slum communities resulted in the gradual reconstitution of citizenship for the slum dwellers. Indeed, for all those involved - government agencies, slum dwellers and NGOs - the whole exercise was a training in “deep democracy”.(authors abstract)

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