Vote Bank Politics, Lobbying and Favoritism: Discrepancies of Slum Formation and Existence

The Andhra Pradesh Slum Act, 1956 is the first and popularly the last (slum) progressive legislation made by the state government of Andhra Pradesh (Banerjee. Guha, 2010). According to the act, a slum has to be classified on the grounds of whether the settlement is hazardous or safe considering the land of settlement (like river banks, marginal railway lands, open lands, public parks, roadside pavements, under bridges and drainage canals). If the slum or squatter found to be the hazardous land then the settlers have to be shifted to another safe location. If the location is safe and healthy then the government has to recognize the slum as Notified and should provide land entitlements along access to basic amenities.

For a certain period, the government followed and implemented the 1956 Slum act but very soon when it realized that the amount of land and financial resources are decreasing it forced the government to change its stance. From the 1990s the process of inspecting the slums to notify or relocating them has taken downward drift relieving the government from the slum welfare duties. The last recognition of a slum as notified was in 1994 (Ibid). This shift towards non-inclusive urbanism from responsible urbanism by the state government is one of the major reasons for the relentless rise in the slum count in the city of Hyderabad. The slum count rose from 1,250 in 1995 to 2,100 in 2007. The housing deficit in Hyderabad accounted to be 440,000 units. 99% of these are required to categories of EWS and LIG (Ibid).

Slum dwellers are the most manipulated section in the urban areas by the politicians. Every time the politicians make promises saying they will provide housing, entitlements, construct schools, roads and sewerage, but all the promises get evaporated with the end of elections. During the slum visits for data collection (B.A. dissertation), I found most of the slum dwellers are manipulated by their elected representatives time and again by believing the hollow promises made by the politicians. In a slum called Sainangar in Nagole, Hyderabad people are promised before the elections that they will be provided with the land titles but after the elections, the very person (elected Corporator) who promised them had tried to evict the dwellers saying that they are non-locals (Non-Hyderabadis). He tried evicting the dwellers with a motive to provide the land to the locals (Nagole villagers). The Corporator’s divisive notions created antagonism towards Sainagar slum dwellers and support to his cause. Somehow the slum dwellers through legal action saved their homes for the time being.

There are certain places in Hyderabad which are selected or notified as slums for the sake of availing the benefits provided to the slums. One such place is Laxminagar in the new city area in Hyderabad. Although Laxminagar is a middle-income group dominated area with two or multi-storied buildings, people had demanded to declare it as a slum so, that they can avoid betterment charges and can avail some other facilities too. These kinds of undemocratic activities are also carried out by public representatives in order to benefit their communities in several cases in the old city. This will result in a reduction in allocations in resource pooled for the development of slums and squatters. If the ULBs or the Bureaucracy doesn’t consider it as a serious offence and criminalize such manipulations then the Hyderabad never becomes a slum-free city.

Conclusion

Provision of Land Entitlements is one of the major steps to solve the problem of slums. Although it may create depopulation in rural areas, recent developments in the areas which land rights are provided had seen an upward drift in the construction of Pucca housing. Out of all the slums excluding the dilapidated building slums, 18% of total slums are pucca houses. All the 18% pucca houses are constructed in the areas in which land titles are sanctioned (Deb, 2006). So, sanctioning the land titles will definitely motivate the dwellers to invest in their housing as they get relieved from the insecurity of eviction, demolition or relocation. Indeed all the slum dwellers were willing to construct their own houses if provided with land pattas (entitlements) during primary data collection in Hyderabad slums. If the government does not want slum and squatter settlers, who contribute to the working force of the city, to remain excluded from the city, it becomes its duty to consider the factors like incentivizing the housing, land provision and inclusive policy-making. There is another kind of relation between informal settlements and politicians which is more of symbiotic in nature. Slum and squatter dwellers are to vote a certain candidate who in return will ensure them protection from eviction or demolition. Although it is manipulation of electoral system and democracy as a whole, still such symbiotic relation ensures a habitat (obviously vulnerable) to the disadvantaged sections. Though the dwellers are in a pact with the leader regarding the immunity from eviction, the question of redeveloping or land entitling is inconsiderable to the leaders. There is another kind of slum proliferation in which a slumlord build hutments overnight on government land and rents it to the floating populations. Once built it will be almost impossible to demolish or evicting as the slum lords will pay off the politicians and bureaucracy for immunity, in simple words bribe does the negotiation and pact (Das, 2007). There are many other dark sides to the problem of slum proliferation and expansion in almost every city in India. In Manipur despite the fact that 36% population lives in poverty, the 2011 Census had declared it as a slum-free state. In reality, it is not the absence of slums or developed neighbourhoods throughout the state rather it was because of the change (increase) in a number of households to certify a slum as a slum by the census. So, it is quite noticeable that even the bureaucracy wants to ignore and ridicule the existence of slum and its dwellers.

References

Banerjee, S. Guha. (2010). ‘Accumulation by Dispossession’. Pakalapati, Umesh, Varma. “Hi-tech Hyderabad and the Urban Poor”. SAGE Publication. New Delhi. Pg. no. 125-150.

Das, Amiya. (2007). ‘Urban Planning in India’. Rawat Publication. Jaipur.

Deb, Patel. (2006). ‘Urban Studies’. Naidu, Ratna. “Dilapidation and Slum Formation”. Oxford. New Delhi. Pg. no. 205-221

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