Friday, January 05, 2007

When squatting is better than 'upgrading'

In Delhi, reports Inter Press Service News Agency, "there seems to be no place for the poor."

In preparation for the 2010 commonwealth games, at least 70,000 homes have been razed. In October, the Nagla Maci squatter neighborhood was bulldozed and relocated 45 km away in north-west Delhi.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Development Authority has handed 350 acres of land earmarked for slum re-housing to private developers. "Newspaper reports have revealed that the builders plan to build 750 luxury flats on the land while the housing for the poor will be in high-rise towers with no lifts or private toilets," IPS says, while pointing out that this inequality actually institutionalizes slums. "In February 2002, Motia Khan, a 40-year-old slum in the heart of Delhi, was demolished, and relocated to the Rohini area in blocks spread over five floors. Flat owners are still paying monthly installments of 2,000 rupees (roughly 45 dollars, which is more than half their monthly income) for flats without lifts, water supply and choked drains."

With characteristic understatement, the IPS dispatch concludes, "In-situ upgradation for slum improvement can happen only if people force governments to keep their election promises."

In other words, progress is possible only with tough, take-no-prisoners community organizing.


Sabrina said...

With all my energy I send you my best in helping this world that is set apart. At least your knowledge of squater communities reached me in my corner of the world and in that there is hope. I will share my knowledge with others.
The dream of owning a place that is mine is very much in my hopes. I allow my life to be shaped by the regulations that achieving that dream puts on my life and my family. I hadn't thought of achieving that dream with the freedom that squatters have but their desire and achievements are truly amazing.

I saw your talk at TED and I hope you have met Cameron Sinclair. Find a way to give people of great value the dignity they deserve...

Jerome said...


I just saw your TEDtalk. It was really interesting and makes you think.

Good luck for your future projects!


Mai said...

Just came across your blog while surfing.

I read a lot here I didn't know. But this I do know: Between the poverty, the congestion and the air pollution, Delhi comes close to my definition of hell.

rn said...

Thanks for your comment, Mai. It's true that some squatter neighborhoods are shockingly awful. Add to that the sheer mass of humanity and the fumes from cars, factories, and open fires and, yes, I can imagine you might feel like you've descended beyond the first circle.

That being said, many governments and non-profits and most journalists and academics have yet to figure out that the solution to this degradation lies in working with the squatters. They are citizens and they have a great deal of energy and power. Harnessing that energy in a positive way will start the process of transforming the hell you witnessed in Delhi.