Meeting with Basthi Vikas Manch at CESS – 11/6/2014

On 11th June 2014, we met with area convenors and co-ordinators of Basthi Vikas Manch from 3 areas: Bholakpur, Addagutta and Rasoolpura. The meeting was also attended by Simpreet Singh of the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan in Mumbai.

The key issues identified in the meeting were as follows:
1. The non-availability of reliable data on slums.
2. The lack of a single institution which can be a repository for all information regarding slums.
3. The lack of an institution with the power and mandate to settle land disputes, and ambiguities in slums.
4. The gradual decline in proactiveness on the part of the government with regards to slums. It would earlier issue pattas, or possession certificates, of late, it has issued no such documents.
5. The massive corruption in housing schemes. There is no transparency in the finances of the scheme. Also, there are many cases of private land-grab of land allotted to housing schemes.
6. In many places, houses built for LIG households have gone into the hands of MIG households.
7. In slums, there is no clarity of ownership over land. Land, even in the absence of any title, has been divided and traded and leased out on the basis of an ad hoc notarized document commonly known as “no entry”. These no entries are being exchanged like freehold titles.
8. There are a massive number of tenants in slums living in very small spaces.

In the meeting these issues were set against the context of the new Telangana state coming into existence. It was taken as an opportune moment to make certain demands of the new state. The following were the action points derived from the meeting.
1. To write a letter to the new Chief Minister of Telangana to re-invigorate UCD with its erstwhile powers to serve as a key nodal agency for data, complaints, resources pertaining to slums in the city.
2. To collaborate and generate data consisting of histories, case-studies, surveys in the 3 areas represented at the meeting in order to better understand and address the problems in Hyderabad’s slums.

The above is a brief summary of the meeting. For the full minutes, read below.

Notes from meeting 11.06.2014

Background introduced by Anant Maringanti

    • Housing is increasingly seen by policymakers from the narrow perspective of property, whereas in reality, houses are where people start their lives from. Housing rights are the entry point into claims on the city.
    • We want to study housing policies from the perspective of people struggling for access to housing particularly in the urban context. We are interested particularly in how people actually manage to get housing – through squatting, renting, getting regularizations and applying for government provided housing and how they fight against evictions both individually and collectively.
    • So, we want to listen to your stories and what you think should be priority areas for research. Our general impression is that these are the key issues in Hyderabad.
      • Evictions
      • Issue of pattas
      • Strategies of living without pattas
      • Role of Communist Parties, basti leaders, NGOs
      • Notification of slums (If you see the history of slums in Hyderabad, when there’s money from outside there’s been an increase in the number of slums. In the last 15 years, there’s been no increase in the number of slums because there’s no money pumped into slum improvement programs . There are around 800 non-notified slums in Hyderabad.)
      • Housing finance (earlier the government gave loans for incremental building. Most people did not repay. After 2003-4 loans are being given directly by banks. In the new financial system, the banks are interested in houses that are pre-built by contractors and handed over to the allottees.)

 

Simpreet Singh:  We (Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan) are also interested in mapping slums. But we want to do this carefully so that it will be useful for the people rather than for real estate developers. So, we need guidance from you in deciding what to map and what not to map. So we have tried identifying rough locations of slums. Our idea is not to harm people by our research.

Anant:  When we talk about slums, we have to talk about land. In Hyderabad, there are several slums under the Secunderabad Cantonment Board. The state Slum Improvement Act does not apply there. So, they never get notified. In Visakhapatnam, there are 741 slums, most of them on railway and port lands. These also are not notified. They can be evicted without any compunction.

Introducing the participants (Md. Munawar Chand)  : We have people from Rasoolpura, Addagutta and Bholakpur here. These are all people with a lot of experience. Addagutta is called the biggest slum in Asia.

Chand:  Hyderabad’s Old City has had slums even before independence. Mohammed Nagar in Bholakpur was created in 1948. These places have not changed at all in all these decades. People come from villages to cities, taking loans. See a possibility. They build a house where they can. The government does Rajiv Gruha Kalpa, RAY, JNNURM etc and evicts people. It can only evict because it doesnt have the ability to convince people. The government does not understand issues of the slums. The research will help us make a proper policy to understand on the ground problems. Problems vary from slum to slum.

Stories:

    • Story 1 (Anant): I used to think that work/rozgaari is important. On one occasion, when I asked women rag pickers who were evicted from the Musi River bed, why they would not consider securing a work place first, they one lady told me the reason as follows: “I have a 13 year old girl. I am sleeping on the road. At night, someone it could even be the policeman can do something to me or my daugher. If we are not able to work, we will be hungry. But if we do not have a roof over our heads,we may not even be alive. That was when I realized that there was a gender aspect to this. Work and housing are not neatly separated for people.
    • Story 2 (Chand): I visited Mankhurd – Lalu Bhai compound recently in Mumbai. It is a complex for slum dwellers. When there was allotment, some people did not get houses. These are people who have been evicted several times. They have been evicted multiple times. People have been waiting for the last ten years, to get a house. Hyderabad has several slums with such instances. 
    • Story 3: At 3 AM on the riverbed of Musi there was a fire in 1998. All the squatters were shifted to Gudimalkapur within hours. This was around the time when Nandanavanam was being planned. An old lady supposedly kicked a kerosene lamp by mistake and set the slum on fire. I did not understand how anyone dealing with so much paper waste, would keep such a lamp near her foot while going to sleep.
    • Story 4: During Chandrababu Naidu’s time, they put up boards declaring  government properties. The following government allowed private owners to encroach on the very same lands.
    • Story 5: In the adivasi slums, when the land value increases, politicians eye them and then they evict them. Sometimes people are put on land, till the land value increases and when they’re ready to sell it, they’re evicted. A government that cannot make laws should at least stick to the ones already made. 50 years, people still dont have pattas. G+1 have become G+2/3. RAY – 26000 crores, not sure where it went. There’s no proof of any of that money being spent. The people who plan and design for the public sit in an air conditioned building. They don’t understand needs of the poor. Out of the 35 gajas(sq. yards), the contractor sells off 5 gajas. People live in 27. No doors, windows. Kitchen, Latrine. No proper staircase. People have died falling from these rickety staircases. Slum dwellers needs rights, protections. All issues pertaining to the poor in the urban has to be given to an agency in the city. We need to put pressure to get this done. Whatever you do, RAY and JNNURUM, the power to handle the program has to be given to a city level agency. UCD, Revenue, APHB, MEPMA no one has clue. No one takes accountability.

 

    • Mehdipatnam Story – Behind LB Nagar Big Bazar, land was given to Adivasis. S. Satyanarayana with the help of collector removed them and captured the land. Now they are building apartments for 60-80 lakhs. BVM fought but we lost. Collector said he’ll help but did not show. The community was beaten up when they weren’t ready to give up the land. We lost the trust of the community. People were sprayed and thrown in the jungle. Some of them came back.

 

  • Parliament to ratify something. The real work is to happen at the UCD, GHMC at the local level. The RAY and others provide model acts. We should think about how to find solutions at the city, state level or a whole new level. Maybe we should have a slum minister, there’s one at the CG. RAY and all are their doings. We should try to create a local level minister at the state and see if it works there. We could try for a city level board for slum alleviation. In Chennai, there’s a slum board. There they will have to fight this board. Here in Hyderabad, there’s no one to fight at the UCD. We need a slum board in Hyderabad with an elected member to hold accountable. If we have 20-30(32 percent) percent of population living in slum like conditions, we need an office pertaining to slums. Otherwise we dont know what to do. We could create a body with elected members from the Basti. If Hyderabad has x MLAs and x MPs. Two three MPs have to take up responsibility of all the problems in slums. Then, we will have clarity on whom to approach. Now, the slum data from revenue department, GHMC, MEPMA , JNNURM all vary.

 RASOOLPURA

  • No one knows whats happening. In 2005, 3000 people did a dharna at the collectorate. The issue was resolved between the cantonment, GHMC and CG. After 1980, there has been a notification of slums. Indira Gandhi said not to evict people from govt lands before elections. Government has issues here because most of the land here is private property. Urban Land Ceiling Act has come to an end. All the nawabi land is under Govt custody. Hyderabad has largest proportion of slums on private land. CG, SG have different planning. In the cantonment, some land is with defense, state government. Cantonment is just a municipal authority. Cantonment has 13 villages under them during the Nizam. Police and Sanitation was their responsibility. 12 were of Salarjung. 1 was government. In 1962, Government took land for the airport and gave compensations. Collector said the land is defense land, we will give building value NOT land value. It clearly establishes, that the defense has no power over the land. To notify a slum, you need to notify a village. Here there’s a lot of overlapping. There’s no clarity on village boundaries. The slums are political establishments. The leaders don’t have good intentions, these are extensions of vote bank politics. Revenue records are not easy to get. ULC act – Government land that was acquired and surveyed. There has never been a town survey in the cantonment. Thokatta village in the GHMC. Civil area is not demarcated. But also not allowed to merge with GHMC. No record of which village falls within which jurisdiction. Govt. doesn’t give pattas because they cannot do it. Petitions from 2012, that prove legal heirs of Salar Jung. Till now, govt was custodian of it. “1950s se chor kaama chal re.” Government cannot establish ownership. People make affadavits for water connections for 200rs. Ration cards must also be bought; for White – pay 3000 rupees, Pink – 4000 rupees.
  • SC is so hatke, it doesnt fall under the British. Hyderabad’s is a story of bad land records. When there’s a change of power, there’s modification of land records. Clean and Green Hyderabad – SG order, there has to be no pending file for more than 2 months. The government would punish them if there was. Idea being process file in 2 months. As a result, officers started burning files.

 ADDAGUTTA

  • Addagutta Basti – There are 12 bastis with A, B categories(under the slum act) etc. There is a population of about 1 lakh. There’s no park, no sewage, no hospital, no college. It is so hard to even walk around. One has to crawl in these areas. People have been doing it for thirty five years. In the last ten years, we have had issues with water. Now, the situation is slightly better. Houses on 35 square yard plots. So people grow vertically, cause there’s no space to expand. Jahanuma has migrant population from Bidar, Gulbarga, Bihar.
  • Transit map – we identified that areas with slums are ones with no bus routes. RTC claims we wont run buses, because we will suffer losses. In that case, we have share auto routes. People skip work because of inconveniences of transport. One cannot talk about housing, without talking about water, health, transport. They are all intrinsically tied to it. The thought that because they are poor people, they can be forgotten must change. People who live in these areas who can give us this information, can help us make it better. In the next five six months, you will have to tell us what happens locally. The story of crawling in Addagutta, Patta-less people, non notified slums, All these stories have to be told to us. We need to ask, what will you develop and how. Other wise people will keep making promises and not deliver. RAY makes plans and calls the poor idiots for rejecting houses. Otherwise, they end up razing slums. We need to ask questions and see what can be done. We have a team of people who can make maps, work with laws. We want to collect court cases, histories and then document it. If you cooperate, we can create a proper document in five six months.
  • In most of the slums, land grabbers have put cases against me in Secunderabad. After that in Citizen Courts in SC, Dewan Devdi, HC and SC, for the last 28 years i have been fighting. After 28 years, nothing has settled. Each case has 70-80, 120 people of us in the court. It feels like a mela in the court. The people in the slums have to be protected by the government. We are adopted by the government and they should defend us. Government is not doing what it is supposed to do. The landlords are grabbing the land in several instances.
  • Private organisations are one other trouble. Government leaders in issues of land have to be gathered. A colleague of Kannabiran took money and fought a case. It is not always possible. Sai Nagar slum – PEople in Bunglows have protested against the notification of slum. They got into a brawl with us. The Government should take proper steps in slum development, not slum notification. UCD is meant for slums. They should have list of slums recognised under several acts. They should have it at every office. Instead, they make us go around government offices for data. Earlier slum notification was done through UCD. in 1996, an officer in the collectorate gave the power of notification of slums from UCD to the collectorate. From 96, there has not been notification of slums. So I realised it was the decision of this individual RDO. She said. UCD wasnt properly functioning, so i took the power. Then, i notified a few slums. And after i left, it has been with them. People in the UCD or collectorate do not know about this. Slum notification power has to be with the UCD. GHMC is responsible for the slums. It says there are 3000 lakes in the city, and is unable to protect them. What will they protect slums? KCR says he wants to remove slums and build nice buildings. Every subject is linked to another, even the unneccessary is linked to the necessary. In the last 35 years, our fight has been this. In the cantonment, there is no linking. We go for a fight, there’s an objection. It is highly impossible to remove a slum. It is equally difficult to build a proper apartment in a slum. It could happen in one slum and the government can claim they are successful. One has to identify how the slum came into being, who owns it. There has to be interlinking of all such information. How does one create facilites and allot responsibility for it. A creation of ministry for slums might help. In the CG, Urban Poverty is a separate ministry. Shelja Kumari. We usually think to approach people with most power to solve our problems. If we approach the CG and try getting Poverty is a separate ministry.
  • Power
    • What are the various problems because of the present conditions? What are people doing to avoid these problems. OBCs, BCs who come from villages outside, They come into Hyderabad and take a house for rent. Everyone would want to own a house. What do these people do to get a house? How do people know how and where to get houses. There are two three places in Hyderabad, where people aggregate and take houses on rent. And in two three years, they understand the city and its nuances. These guys create newer bastis outside GHMC. Jawahar Nagar – village with 2 lakh people. 42 colonies of labourers. Every political party has a presence there. Where does this rental housing lead to. What do these people do for housing. One of this is the Rs 1000 thing. Some people know that they wont get anything for 1000. In Mangalgiri temple, there’s panakam. Half of which is always gone. People know they have to do something to get houses. What is it that they do? How is it linked to their livelihoods? People’s jobs are related to where they are from. People who work in the informal economy cannot travel as much as someone with a 9 -5 job.
  • Action points
    • No person/institution accountable for the issue of slums. Collectors are the brokers. In Hyderabad and RR, 100000 flats were to be built for Rajiv Gruha Kalpa, 1000 rupees were collected from applicants. Till today, there’s no account of where the money is, nor the houses. The collector is reckless. If we revolt, they file police cases against us. Out of the 27 yards, we rent out half of it. We have degraded thanks to the governments attitude. People neither are ready to fight, and people cannot fight. The Government is eating out of the poor mans blood. When you took money from our houses, you never built them. You never acknowledged our money, nor the fact that you didnt build it. There’s no answer to all this. 1000Rs – 950 Rs Cheque+ 2km Walking. Interest cut karke de raha hain. In Shapur, houses were built but there are no roads, no facilities. I paid 1000rs by selling my daughters gold chain in hope of getting land. It has been 9 years. I was told i will get a card in 4 years if i pay 1000 rs more. Then they asked me to pay 30000 rupees to get a house. Then they asked me to pay 1000 rupees again, 2 months earlier.
    • There are so many noentry slums. In Hitech City. Shaheen Nagar in Old City. No one knows who owns the land. I buy a notary, sell it, resell it. People dont know when they might have to shift. Property is transferred through notary. In most places, people don’t ask if you have patta or not. You write a notary and take the money and move out. So people keep selling and reselling. Ownership is proved only by having lived there. People can take multiple notaries. There’s no original benchmark to say, that there’s this much property than can be transferred. There’s no internal survey in several of these slums. When people write notarised documents, they have descriptions but no survey numbers. In the original pattas, there’s not even that. Notified slum  – T Anjaiah Nagar, there’s no patta no papers. There’s notification happening only to justify the money that they get. Earlier, people who lived in the slum, they used to get slum certificates from the UCD. This used to be a big relief while paying current bills, water bills etc. That stopped. Then patta system started. It was closed and started again. After 95 Patta system is abolished. Then there were possession certificates. Now that also has stopped.
    • GHMC should give power to the UCD, once they identify the slums and their needs. They should issue slum certificates. Pattas arent useful to the Government. Government has no revenue loss. People are relieved when they have the patta. So many struggles(300 dharnas in 16 years) we got pattas to 5000 people. UCD should be reawakened. Pattas aren’t a problem for State Government, Revenue Dept. In Delhi, Pattas system changed to Freehold. Once it changed to Freehold, it becomes private property for someone. Indian Government doesn’t have money like American Government. We only have land. It remains strong as long as the land is given to the people, if it gives away land to the private, it doesn’t retain the strength. Selling off family silver.
    • If UCD and other organisations could converge into one institution, it will be useful. In 1996, a nodal agency receives a request from people. UCD doesn’t directly notify it. They have to call 5, 6 IAS officers, Revenue, Planning, Water board for a meeting. If all of them decide, then the notification happens. After 96, the system died. Those four people coming for one meeting is impossible. The design of the structure, whether it has to be within GHMC or not can be worked. We need to do a lot of groundwork for making a case for this. Documentation before demand or vice versa. Lokayukta can be approached and tell them that give us a recommendation judicially. One could be through the media. One could be approaching the CM. One could be through Courts. We can make a proper strategy.
    • But we need to meet again. There has to be documentation. Land histories of four five places can be documented. If we can do it in these places, we can understand the complexity. People who make decisions don’t understand the complexity.

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