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TitleUrban basic services programme in India : a critical evaluation
Publication TypeMiscellaneous
Year of Publication1993
AuthorsPrasad, DR
Pagination14 p.: 2 fig., 1 tab.
Date Published1993-01-01
PublisherOsmania University, Regional Centre for Urban and Environmental Studies
Place PublishedHyderabad, India
Keywordscommunity participation, evaluation, india, infrastructure, programmes, urbanization

The rapid increase in India's urban population has led to economic, social, and ecological disruptions and the consequent deterioration in urban living conditions. Some of the most visible forms of urban poverty are: proliferation of slums; fast growth of the informal sector; increasing casualization and underemployment of labour; crushing pressure on civic services; deprivation of educational and health contingencies; retarded growth and a growing sense of helplessness leading to crime and violence. Non-provision of basic needs such as shelter, water, education, sanitation and health has serious consequences to the health of the community and women, responsible for collecting and carrying water from long distances, often suffer the worst. Various policy interventions and programmes have had limited effect because of sectoral approaches and neglect of community involvement.
This paper examines the implementation of the Urban Basic Services (UBS) Programme launched in 1985 with support from UNICEF and Central and State Governments. Although the programme covers towns in several states, this paper refers specifically to Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. The programme, which seeks to develop urban slums by providing basic services, is guided by the principles of community initiative and participation, convergence, cost effectiveness and continuity. Neighbourhood Committees (NHCs) identify the needs of the community, prioritize them according to resources, prepare action plans and implement them. The NHC assumes leadership and takes responsibility on a self-help basis for the well-being of the community. The programme aims at community participation and self-management as well as building the capacity of slum communities to organize themselves to implement development programmes. In both Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, NHCs are composed of women members, a conscious decision since women constitute 50 percent of the population but often have marginal involvement in the development process. Women understand and manage the problems of women and children better than men, housewives are most affected by the absence of basic social services, women are more involved with the upbringing of children, and women can be empowered through community investments.
Since this programme emphasizes human development, its actual impact is difficult to qualify. Initially 250 towns were to be involved on an experimental basis but in fact only 168 towns participated and among these, there are wide variations in administrative structure, programme focus, participatory processes and impact. Community participation has been a positive element of the programme encouraging women's involvement, pride of ownership and a willingness to maintain assets created, articulation of the community's needs and implementation of programme components, and a willingness to shoulder greater development responsibilities. Loan schemes from the revolving funds managed by NHCs have allowed community members to begin income-generating activities or to free themselves from
moneylenders and develop the habits of thrift, saving and prompt repayment. In both states a clear administrative organization established at various levels has provided guidance and supervision in the implementation of the programme. Training for officials, non-officials and community leaders has brought awareness of the problems of the urban poor, the need for a participatory process and implementation methodologies.
However, there are some major weaknesses in the programme. In the beginning, community participation and support were minimized by hasty implementation but this was overcome by better trained staff. Some administrative problems ensued when state- and district-level officers were not given adequate support to play their roles effectively. Some key functionaries have failed to appreciate the concept and philosophy of UBS programmes. Revenue culture has clashed with participatory processes and inter-departmental coordination is weak at all levels. The UBS programme has not always been implemented as an integral part of a town development plan for poverty alleviation and municipal bodies have not always contributed their financial share. The clash of leadership between NHCs and municipal councillors has sometimes dampened the initiative of NHCs and programme staff. Training for community volunteers and for upgrading skills was inadequate while training of district level functionaries was neglected.
Although community leaders were versed in the concept, philosophy, guiding principles and programme components, some parts of the programme have not been utilized fully and flexibility has been limited by Indian bureaucracy. Finally, doubts about the continuity of the scheme have demoralized project staff. Based on the UBS programme, a reformulated programme, Urban Basic Services for the Poor, which also emphasizes participatory processes in its approach to development, is being implemented with the financial support of the Government of India.

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