Streets Are for People, Not Just Cars

By Aditi Kelshekar

Streets form an integral part of urban life but we tend to only view them as mere facilitators for movement and transport. A few streets in Aundh, a suburb in Pune, have been chosen to be re-designed under the Smart City project. The area has already been assigned a ‘Smart’ street within its jurisdiction. During our ten-day field work  we attempted to study these new designs and gather people’s opinion of it. We also noticed various ways unconventional, unusual and unnoticed uses of the streets and urban infrastructure which are a part of daily life of the streets that have been proposed to be redesigned into ‘Smart’ streets.

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Bus Stops, benches on footpaths of main roads, used as spaces for social interactions.

Street as socialising space: Bus stops, benches on footpaths, tea stalls, etc are important spots for interactions and socialising among people from all walks of life — employees of nearby corporate offices use this space for some lunch-time chit-chat, whereas senior citizens prefer such spaces for their evening discussions.

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A street vendor uses street infrastructure for support.

Street infrastructure as a space for support and storage: A sugarcane vendor at Medi-point junction, uses a street light pole as a Sugarcane ‘holder’ for support, a unique way of storing sugarcane. It also highlights the visibility of the sugarcane vendor to the passersby.

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Footpaths on interior roads are used to store business inventor

Another tea vendor on the same road locks his stall to a nearby tree for the night when the business closes. He mentioned that this was a temporary arrangement until he found a permanent space that he could rent. his earlier space is now under redevelopment and therefore they have had to put up a make-shift stall.

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Footpath outside Westend mall and other corporate offices used for e-commerce goods delivery.

Street as a space for delivery dispatch for multiple ‘online’ shopping websites:     Online shopping is now believed to be the most convenient was of shopping but these e-commerce websites have their existence mainly only on the internet. An area on Mahadji Shinde road doubles as a major delivery and pick up spot for popular online retail websites. Delivery persons are often denied access into nearby offices and employees  turn up on this footpath to pick up their items.



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Shrines on Interior Roads, one used and worshipped by labourers and the other by rickshaw drivers.

Street as a space to practice religion and spirituality: Streets of Aundh serve as spaces of religious and spiritual importance for many, who worship small shrines during their daily commute.  A tree on AIMS road near the labour adda has a small idol of Lord Ganesha, which is known to have been installed by the laborers, who occasionally make offerings to this idol and perform puja. Another shrine on the Kumar Classics Road, has been installed by the auto-rickshaw union, near the auto-rickshaw stand, where the members of the union ensure maintenance of the shrine regularly and make daily offerings and puja.



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 Mascot outside a mobile shop on the main road, providing great visibility to the brand

Street as a space for marketing and promotions: A huge mascot of a mobile company stands on the footpaths opposite Medi-point, right outside the mobile shop, using the street as a space for branding and promotion of the product.

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Chai tapri on Main Road outside corporate offices; remains shut on weekends when the offices are shut.

Street as a space for business, vending and earning livelihoods: Streets form an important market place for buying and selling goods and therefore financially support many families who earn their livelihoods from the streets. Following are stories of 3 street vendors, who struggle to make ends meet for their families and how the streets of Aundh form the backbone of economic support to them and their families. A small Chai Tapri on Mahadji Shinde road is run by five members of the same family who take turns and work in shifts. The lady who owns the stall works during the day with the help of her husband who helps out with the logistics. Her daughter, who is currently pursuing her B.Com pitches in on holidays, and her sister-in-law runs the stall in the evenings upto 10pm at night. The sister-in-law struggles to make ends meet for her family of 4, with the meagre income she earns while running her stall in the evenings. Her days are usually spent taking care of her two children, both of who have been diagnosed with kidney failure, and her chronically ill mother-in law. With the advent of the Smart city project in Aundh, will they be able to continue their livelihoods is a question that still needs to be answered.


Street as a lounge or resting space: People were seen napping in the afternoons post lunch, or resting within their stall areas. We met a coconut vendor, who regularly naps in the afternoons on his bed made with coconuts as the base along with wooden planks.


Streets have multiple uses, a few which are extremely integral to the survival of a certain section of the society. The streets form their source of livelihood. For others it may be an important space for social interactions and re-connecting with the neighbourhood. But in light of the policies to re-build streets, we have rarely seen the effort and provision to incorporate and legitimize other uses of the streets as well. Streets are simply seen and planned as roads that connect one place to the other and aid transport. Jane Jacobs, in her book ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’, emphasises on how cities have more intricate economic and social concerns than just automobile traffic. Only time will tell, if we will be fortunate enough to see such diverse uses of the street, even in the new ‘Smart city’, or will the focus of being Smart be limited to providing well-designed spaces, only in the way that is imagined to be ‘Smart’.

The Winter Institute is a full-fledged 3 credit Course in the academic calendar of the Masters in Urban Policy and Governance program of the School of Habitat Studies conducted in the first year. It is conceived as a platform for interdisciplinary collaborative learning through research and action in the field. The blog series showcases the work, reflections and opinions of the students, and not the Centre.

To see institute reports from previous batches visit our website:



Are Smart Streets Pedestrian-Friendly?

By Chandrima Biswas

Pune is a growing metropolis and one of the first cities to be declared a Smart City under the Union Government’s ambitious plan. At the very outset, one must laud the city for its efforts, although the idea of this blogpost is to highlight the problems that the city still battles against in order to become a true Smart City. For this blog post, the focus is on issues that plague pedestrians in the city. For this piece, the writer studied the 1.1km long ITI Road from Parihar Chowk to Baner Phata Chowk. The model smart street observes more economic activities on both the sides as the street is lined up with formal shops, whereas ITI road has more of informal activity at certain places, especially in the later half of the day. The ITI Road is evidently a busy road, as a lot of the commuters take this road daily to reach the IT sector, and as a result the traffic increases during peak hours.


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The bus-stop opposite the ITI Gate is literally on the road in the absence of a pavement.


One of the key factors in becoming a smart city is the efficient use of public transportation systems. A look at the photograph above makes it clear that while it would be wrong to say that the city of Pune does not have proper bus-stops, the entire point of them existing is rather ironic. This bus stop besides the ITI Gate stands not on a pavement (which doesn’t exist on this side of the road) but on the road itself, leaving pedestrians and public vehicle commuters at the mercy of speeding traffic.


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A lamp post is used as a bus-stop as seen on ITI Road, opposite a jewelry show room.

The stretch has a total of seven bus stops, and given how heavy the daily commute is, it needs a lot more. Several of these bus stops are also severely damaged, as shown in the picture above. At particular points no proper passenger shelters exist at all, even on the road. While a tree outside a jewelry showroom is being used as a bus-stop, the opposite side has only a lamp-post is marked as a stop.

Traffic lights also exist only at Parihar and Baner Phata Chowks, with the rest of the 1.1km stretch going virtually unmonitored. There is also no mobile traffic monitoring unit, with the city’s traffic department manning only the crossings, and that too, during office and rush hours. The designated pedestrian crossing areas are also at these two points only, but being a 1.1km long stretch, people are often compelled to dodge traffic and cross, especially at the intersections.

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Pedestrian is seen crossing the road in the absence of a pedestrian walkway.

C.P. Chiplunkar a senior citizen who is a daily user of the pedestrian plaza said, “It becomes extremely difficult and risky for us, the old people, to cross the road due to the lack of proper pedestrian crossings.” He further added, “Accidents have also increased recently, as speeding cars often run over people who try to cross the road.”

The lack of pavements on certain parts of the ITI Road is another major concern. The road is lined on one side with the iconic pedestrian plaza. The other side does not have any walkable space in most of the places, leading to the bus stand being on the main road. The discontinuous and uneven  footpath are also a major concern, as they also have a significant role in providing safety to the pedestrians.

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The footpath vanishes in certain parts of the ITI   Road, forcing people to walk on the streets.
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This image shows how the footpath is not continuous on one side of the ITI Road posing threat to pedestrian safety.


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Uneven footpath along the ITI boundary wall.

Not only this, several areas of the plaza also double up as parking zones, which means that there ultimately remains very little area that can be claimed by the pedestrian.

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Pedestrian plaza converted into a parking area, forcing those who walk onto the streets.

A traffic constable, Mr. Pathan, who was on his duty at Baner Phata Chowk said, “The residents as well as the users should cooperate with us more to make the streets safer and more accessible. People should start realizing their duty and responsibility, and contribute to that.”

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Snapshot of Pune’s Model Road as part of the Smart City programme.
Photograph by Tushar Anand

In contrast, Pune’s Model Road (as part of the Smart City initiative) takes into account both of these problems. What is most intriguing is the pedestrian crossing however. Given one of the streets’ main goals to be ‘smart street’ and disabled friendly, the pedestrian crossing is at the level of the pavement, making it higher from the road-level. This allows the creation of a table-top plateau at each intersection, causing speeding cars to drop their speed. This further meant that the blind and the disabled (including those with wheelchair access) would neither have to go through the difficulty of tumbling off a footpath edge nor have to fear speeding vehicles headed their way.

Prachi Mahajan, a visually challenged student, said, “I expected to walk independently using the tactile path that was provided, however the path was discontinuous in nature and as a result of which the entire purpose of walking independently was defeated.”

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As opposed to the model road, branches of trees used as dividers due to lack of proper dividers on the ITI Road..

This of course, is not to say that the Model Road is without problems. The road runs from Bremen Chowk to Parihar Chowk. The road is neatly divided (as opposed to ITI Road, which used branches of trees as a road divider, picture above), and the pavements are almost continuous with tactile signs and elevated crossings for the blind and the disabled. These however, do not take away the negatives. Several portions of the tiled pavements have already caved in, making it dangerous for disabled individuals to traverse without the risk of harm or injury. The tactile signs too, are not continuous, and are often taken over by parking zones, entrances to people’s homes or even trees which stand in the way, making it difficult for people to move around independently.

Given that the pavements are meant to serve a more wheelchair friendly purpose, they roll onto the level of the street at certain intersections instead of dropping. This also means that the pavements remain prone to usage by motorists who often drive their motorcycles and scooters. In such situations, it becomes even more difficult for those with difficulties to navigate on their own.

Thus, we see streets are not complete without accounting for the safety of the pedestrians. Even the model street under the smart city project is not entirely flawless. The authorities for their future endeavours should design streets which not only provide modern facilities to the pedestrians but also takes into consideration the safety element of the street. Proper pedestrian crossings, bus stops and footpaths for all should be constructed to bring down the number of road mishaps. However, it’s not just the duty of the authorities to provide the facilities but also of the pedestrians to make use of them and cooperate and maintain them to make sure that they build a safe environment around them.

The Winter Institute is a full-fledged 3 credit Course in the academic calendar of the Masters in Urban Policy and Governance program of the School of Habitat Studies conducted in the first year. It is conceived as a platform for interdisciplinary collaborative learning through research and action in the field. The blog series showcases the work, reflections and opinions of the students, and not the Centre.

To see institute reports from previous batches visit our website:


Smart Cities and Street Vending: How New Plans and Policies impact Hawkers

By Prachi Mahajan

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A stock image of a neighborhood in Aundh. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the month of October 2017, as a part of our Urban Policy and Governance course work at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, we conducted a study in the streets of Aundh. Nine streets of Aundh were proposed to be redesigned as a part of Pune city’s Smart City Mission, including a stretch of road from Parihar Chowk to Breman Chowk and a part of Dhole Patil road (popularly known as DP Road).

Aundh is an affluent suburb in the north-west of Pune in Maharashtra, India. Since the mid-1990s it has developed significantly as a residential area with proximity to the University of Pune and the Software Technology Parks of India Complex at Hinjewadi. The suburb can be divided into the old Aundhgaon and the newly constructed suburban areas.

The road from Parihar Chowk to Breman Chowk is currently being redesigned as a part of Smart City Pune project. The layout of the road plans to address traffic problems during peak hours and parking problems. Moreover the layout has a well designed space for pedestrians, a cycling track and sitting arrangements around trees, Wi-Fi, vertical garden, etc. However, this road has been declared as a No-Vending Zone.

This article outlines that though there are policies for the street vendors in place, the vendors are not well informed about them. Following a protracted struggle, resistance movements and national mobilisation of hawkers by hawkers and activists for almost two decades, the Government of India brought out a progressive piece of legislation – the The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, that does not frame street vendors as offenders but instead promises legal recognition of hawkers and protection from forced evictions. Although the laws are written on paper, the vendors are not well-versed with those laws. The article argues that the ambitious Smart Cities Mission has failed to strike a chord with the economically impoverished strata of the society, who could face displacement once the projects are implemented. Not only were the vendors clueless about the smart city plan, but those who had attended a presentation held by us on the matter could hardly comprehend the salient features since it was too technical.

We decided to conduct a quick study in nine major stretches in Aundh to understand the plight of street vendors. The first street vendor we spoke to was a juice shop owner and he has been working in the area since 2001. He said that the Municipal Corporation team comes regularly for inspection and takes away the items for sale in his shop. In order to get the items back, he has to bribe the police by paying them Rs 500. This puts the vendor at a loss because instead of earning profit, he has to pay fine to the police so he can continue to earn his livelihood in order to sustain his family. He has also applied for a licence over five to six years ago. He has also paid Rs 5000 to an official in order to get the licence but still has not received his licence. He still has receipts of his application. He said that most of the residents also complain that he should not be allowed to sell goods but some residents are very cooperative as they try to understand the needs of the street vendors. He also has an alliance with the house across the street where he could keep his goods at night free of cost with the permission of the owner.

The second vendor we spoke to was a shoe polish vendor and he also had the same problem. He did not get a licence but he wanted it. He has been there since five to six years. Another vendor whom we talked to had a seasonal shop. He sets up things for Diwali, Holi, etc. He also had the same problem that he had applied for the licence but did not get it. When Municipal Corporation people come they take his goods from the shop which means that he is displaced from a particular place. He has been there since ten years. When there was no development as such and the streets were not developed and there were no people roaming around, it was considered unsafe to walk in that area at night and stealing was common at that time. He also had the same problem that the residents complained  about his shop despite the fact that they have an opportunity and are comfortably able to purchase goods of daily use from his shop. The only thing he wanted from the smart city mission was a space for vending.

The vendors just knew that there was a policy for street vendors but they were not at all aware about it. In other words, they were not aware of the basic rights and facilities which they could avail by registering themselves with the trade unions. The senior police are very hostile towards street vendors. They keep on moving them away. Despite the law on paper, that is, the Street Vendors Act (2014), the conditions of the vendors have become even worse as they earlier just had to pay to the police and now they also have to pay a bribe for the licence but still do not get their licence. We need to understand the fact that there have been so many movements for the street vendors yet their conditions have not improved. Despite the act being implemented they are not informed about their dues.

The module formulated by the government is not at all inclusive and has clearly not been thought through. The street vendors were told that once the smart city plan comes into place, they will be allotted systematic shops to function from but they have no idea where they will be shifted when construction starts on that stretch. The vendors and hawkers were earlier given a presentation on the matter but it was so technical that they could not understand what was being discussed.

In almost all states, a major problem with the smart city plan is that the common people barely get a chance to put forth their demands and requirements. The presentations given to the people are often so technical that they fail to understand what exactly is being communicated. There is a huge confusion as to whether the street vendors will be displaced or what arrangements will be made for them while the work is on.

In summary we have tried to analyze and define the informal sector. However, we are still a very long way from really understanding this phenomena which is of such major economic, political and social importance in all countries, developed as well as underdeveloped.

Street vending is spreading dramatically. As a result, to compete with others in the local market, vendors increase their hours of work. What we further observed in our study is that the vendors are less aware of the government policies which are available to them. What we found interesting was that they easily disclose the sum of amount which they give to the local police. Hence, we think that the government should provide the vendors with legal space for their activities.

The Winter Institute is a full-fledged 3 credit Course in the academic calendar of the Masters in Urban Policy and Governance program of the School of Habitat Studies conducted in the first year. It is conceived as a platform for interdisciplinary collaborative learning through research and action in the field. The blog series showcases the work, reflections and opinions of the students, and not the Centre.

To see institute reports from previous batches visit our website:



Winter Institute 2017-18: From the Governing of Commons to the Commoning of Governance

By Ratoola Kundu

Photograph by Abhishek Anil

The commons is any shared resource or domain, which though not owned by any private person or group, may be used by everyone involved in it, even for private benefit, as long as such use does not exclude others’ ability to do exactly that. Commons don’t exist ready-made. They have to be produced. Commons are thus produced through collective practices of “commoning” through variable local arrangements that are more or less equalitarian, incorporative, and fair (Gidwani and Baviskar 2011).

Increasingly however urban commons and the communities they sustain (both civic and ecological) are under immense threat from the neoliberal state and market. The expropriation of commons can be particularly devastating for the urban poor in cities (Gidwani and Baviskar 2011). Not only are these spaces/resources being rezoned, enclosed, privatised, or are being re-regulated and put under new regimes of control that exclude certain groups from accessing or using these commons, but the work or labour of those who are involved in making the commons through a complex, creative and contentious collective process of making rules, practices of negotiating, governing – is being swiftly undermined and erased, thus threatening principles of collective action and ways of “doing” democracy.

Through this Winter Institute, we sought to examine whether the process of commoning can be extended to the domain of governance. Can we move from a mode in which somebody governs and another is governed, to one in which the domain of governance is co-produced, co-maintained and co-transformed? More particularly, what happens when one takes this idea to the governance of the street, and seeks a mode in which it is produced as a commons through a production of the governance domain itself as a commons – moving from governing of commons to the idea of commoning the governance? What kind of a social space, and what kind of social process are we moving towards then? These are the orienting questions for the pedagogical project of the winter institute. 

The street is not a commons legally. But it is turned into one through appropriation, claims, negotiations, contestations and everyday patterns of use. However, the idea of an urban street as commons where multiple uses and users jostle for space, where informal codes, contingent alliances and governing arrangements have evolved historically out of an animated negotiation and decisions by multiple stakeholders, is under deep threat especially in the context of rapidly changing mobility patterns in cities giving way to a preference to assign the use of the street to the simple and single function of the unobstructed flow of motorised vehicles. This has had devastating impacts on the lives and livelihoods of the urban poor particularly the street vendors who depend upon the streets for their livelihoods.

While the Street Vendors Act 2014 seeks to enhance, facilitate and include street vendors in the decision making processes around the promotion and regulation of street vending in cities through the democratically constituted Town Vending Committees, and protect vendors from evictions, the ways in which cities and streets are being reconfigured through Smart Cities Missions that deliberately bypass local informal arrangements of governing streets, creating great distress to the poor who have far fewer channels of voicing their needs that the more vocal residents welfare associations of the wealthier sections have access to.


This Winter Institute was a ten day exercise by the students and faculty of the Centre for Urban Policy and Governance, TISS, Mumbai in collaboration with CEE, Pune which thus sought to develop a critical understanding of how urban streets are perceived and used by multiple stakeholders through formal and informal mechanisms of governance (codes, rules, regulations and practices) and to indicate spaces and mechanisms that support “commoning of governance” of the street – i.e., spaces/mechanisms/institutions that enable collaboration, facilitate sharing and cooperation for collective action to co-manage and co-create the street as urban commons. The exercise took place in the residential cum commercial Aundh-Baner-Balewadi area in Pune where the idea a of world class city is being pushed through a slew of physical infrastructure projects that seek to reconfigure the space of the streets and allocation of space and uses of streets as part of the area based proposal of the Smart City Mission in the city. In 2016, a Special Purpose Vehicle – the Pune Smart City Development Corporation Limited was formed to implement the Mission in Pune. New guidelines for street re-design for the city came into being at this point building upon a certain conception of “Whole Streets” which does not fully specify whether street vendors are included in this vision of whole streets and if so, how. However, around the same time, Pune has also proactively formed a Town Vending Committee to protect the livelihoods of street vendors and open up a space to foster mechanisms and dialogues amongst various stakeholders, including the vendors themselves. Given these contradictory forces that push and pull at street vendors, this exercise was conducted to deliberate upon potential spaces of overlap, or mechanisms and practices that will enable negotiation, mediation, cooperation and collaboration across different stakeholders with respect to governing the street, with vendors at the centre of that decision making arrangement?

The following blog post series by the students of the Masters in Urban Policy and Governance program at TISS Mumbai is based on this exercise and their reflections upon specific facets that engaged them. The Winter Institute is a full-fledged 3 credit Course in the academic calendar of the Masters in Urban Policy and Governance program of the School of Habitat Studies conducted in the first year. It is conceived as a platform for interdisciplinary collaborative learning through research and action in the field. It is a continuous module of approximately 2 weeks duration, involving immersion in a community and location. Students and faculty are engaged in a research on a well-defined thematic for a period of approximately two weeks. During each Winter Institute students (and all other participants) are trained in a research method or skills that are outside the core curriculum of the UPG program. It is expected that students learn to analyse and understand issues, as well as develop possibilities of strategic response to them, as they are studied in the field. Students typically work in mixed groups on contemporary issues identified by collaborators on the field, guided by one or more faculty members, and their output is designed to be of direct use to the host community and local collaborating organization.  


Demolition drive against street vendors in Salt Lake City, Kolkata

By Ratoola Kundu and Anushyama Mukherjee

On December 12, Salt Lake city, adjoining Kolkata, saw a spate of violent evictions against street vendors in Karunamoyee junction, a busy junction where East-West metro works are underway. Around a hundred and fifty small and big, temporary and semi-permanent structures were demolished by the Bidhan Nagar Municipal Corporation, including Ben Fish, Ganguram sweets, Mio Amore – a popular confectionary shop, and a Trinamul Congress party ward office. Although there had been warning of a possible evictions, vendors had refused to vacate their spots as for most of them this was their only livelihood. So far there has been no word of rehabilitation and the civic officials maintain that no new permanent structures will be allowed to be set up on the pavements and that more evictions to clear pavements will be carried out in a phased manner.

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A rally protesting hawker evictions taken out by opposition parties belonging to the Left. 

Forced evictions have intensified over the past few months in the satellite city which recently hosted the FIFA under 17 World Cup. Right before the mega event, a number of informal shops and settlements were cleared around the Salt Lake Stadium, prompting a mass protest rally by street vendors and evicted slum dwellers under the banner of Joint Forum Against Forced Evictions, demanding an end to the evictions and adoption of rehabilitation measures.

In 2015, Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal had announced that hawkers would not be evicted and that a policy would be worked out wherein they would be enumerated, given trade licenses to operate and be entitled to social benefits and schemes while ensuring that traffic flowed properly and pedestrians had enough space on the pavements to walk. In the last two years following this announcement, the city of Kolkata had seen fewer large scale forced evictions of street vendors. At the same time however, sporadic evictions have been taking place in and around Kolkata, particularly around transportation and related infrastructure projects. The state government has also steadfastly refrained from enacting the central level Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Vending) Act 2014 that prohibits evictions and calls for the enumeration of all street vendors, a democratic Town Vending Committee comprising multi-stakeholders, and the designation of vending and non-vending zones in a city, in spite of sustained pressure from the Hawker Sangram Committee,  federal union of street vendors in the city.

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Debris of evictions at Korunamoyee junction, Salt Lake city

It seems that the stalemate situation has been broken in the satellite city of Salt Lake prompting street vendors and unions supporting them to review their strategies and future course of action given the sudden climate of insecurity. Our colleague at the Centre for Urban Policy and Governance, Dr. Anushyama Mukherjee who along with Dr. Ratoola Kundu has been conducting a study on the Right to the Streets in Kolkata, was in Karunamoyee post the eviction to assess the situation on the ground. Some of the street vendors who had surreptitiously crept back to the spot to salvage their goods or else had put up temporary mobile vending stalls on wheels seemed disoriented and disillusioned by the move. They sensed a shift in the government’s attitude towards the urban poor particularly with the announcement of more mega events and urban infrastructure projects.

One middle aged street vendor at the spot commented “I have no clue what is happening. I feel this is happening because Salt Lake is conducting Book Fair this year and government wants to see clean roads and pavements as Book Fair attracts a lot of global customers. But again, I think state is also thinking of hosting more games and events like FIFA hence the city should look clean and we are supposedly a menace in the city. It is the same government who supported us during 1997 and now look what they are doing? Isn’t all of them are the same?” He was referring to the Operation Sunshine movement in 1990’s which was carried out by the then Communist led government which had carried out massive and brutal demolition of some of the largest hawker dominated stretches in Gariahaat, prompting public outcry and the mobilization of street vendors into a strong city level and finally national level struggle for a recognition of their right to livelihood. Ironically, at the time, Ms. Mamata Banerjee who was in the opposition at the state level, had stood by the hawkers and vehemently protested against the evictions.

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A pavement from which shops were removed, Korunamoyee junction, Salt Lake city. 

Dr. Kundu and Dr. Mukherjee’s research in sites such as Gariahat, Hatibagan, Esplanade and Rajarhat also indicate that though evictions have dwindled in those sites over the past two years, the street vendors are using multiple strategies of negotiation unique to their territory with a wide variety of stakeholders in order to stake claim to the streets. There is a lack of knowledge among street vendors about the rights, provisions and benefits that the enactment of the Street Vendors Act of 2014 will endow them with. There seems to be little cohesiveness across the vendors except for those registered with the Hawker Sangram Committee making it difficult to push for the implementation of the Act. On the other hand, there has been a growing opposition to the street vendors from shop owners and other traders associations across the city who see their business being affected by the thriving business on the street. Opposition to vendors is also growing from an emerging middle class who are voicing their displeasure at not being able to walk on pavements or are facing issues with parking spots, or are simply aspiring towards a city that is “better planned” and therefore hawker-free. Spectacular mega-events, proposals for becoming smart cities and large scale urban infrastructure projects have also prompted the removal of informal settlements and vendors from pavements as capital seeks to transform the very spatiality of the city.

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Remains of the day

The street vendors have tentatively adopted a wait and watch policy not wishing to antagonize the present government though they are worried about their livelihoods. One hawker selling evening snacks from his mobile cart said, “It happened very suddenly. (They)Did not give us time to think and act. I do not think we should protest because in that case state will go against us even more. We are hoping for a mid-level negotiation hence we are not going into the protest mode right now. We need to observe the state action for a few more days. In any case, we have lost our livelihood, there is nothing left for us anymore.” However, it seems that there will be more inhumanitarian evictions in the near future jeopardizing the livelihoods and disrupting the lives of street vendors and their families raising an urgent need for collective action and implementation of the Street Vendors Act of 2014 in West Bengal.


A Proposed Typology of Homelessness in India

By Anup Tripathi

Formal housing as an issue and as a social good remains a peripheral matter with regard to the public policy in India. Barring a few policies and programmes allocating housing to the rural and urban poor, and upgradation and redevelopment of slums, the Indian state has not been very enthusiastic in creating a universal system of formal housing for its population with varying needs. As a result, Indian cities are inhabitance sites of various kinds of informal housing arrangements, which more often than not, are difficult to classify as ‘slums’ or ‘homeless settlements’. Since citizenship entitlements are dependent upon the formal or recognized housing arrangements, a number of citizens living in informal housing arrangements have difficulty in accessing their citizenship rights. In extreme cases, they have to even live up with partial or absolute denial of citizenship rights. Thus, inaction of government in the realm of housing acted as a trigger for the civil society organizations to work on the issues pertaining to it.

Dwelling arrangement of a homeless family at Girgaum Chowpatty, Mumbai

The usage of the term ‘homelessness’ in India began with the advocacy efforts and
intervention programmes undertaken by the civil society organizations. While planning and implementing interventions with the homeless people, civil society actors employ various criteria for identifying the homeless and use various terminologies for them. There are a number of social categories which have been identified as representing the homeless people.

Sometimes, for the purpose of intervention and also for giving a meaning to the agency of the homeless people, a number of labels are used for them. However, there are quite a few advantages and disadvantages of such articulations. In addition, there are a number of tensions and disagreements within the civil society discourse when it comes to defining homelessness.

A Proposed Typology of Homelessness
Housing is generally referred to as a lack of physical structure of living in the formal propertied system of housing and not as an opportunity for upward mobility or for attaining a stable condition of living. There are numerous such conceptualizations of homelessness and inadequate housing arrangements as done by the civil society actors and various state agencies. These conceptualizations create different constituencies of people with similar living conditions through various categorisations that are aloof from each other, if not pitted against each other. Rather than classifying people into precariously housed, inadequately housed, houseless or homeless etc., a cognition of homelessness should look it as active housing in face of the harsh urban life. Given my discomfort with the prevalent conceptualizations of homelessness, I would like to propose a typology of homelessness based on my PhD research work. I suggest that homelessness should be cognized through two distinct categories- 1) ‘precariat housing’ which looks at housing as opportunity and 2) ‘houseless people in need of care and protection’ for whom shelter homes can be envisaged as enablers and not as places of confinement.

Bharat Nagar Slum in Wadala, Mumbai
A precarious dwelling arrangement in Bharat Nagar

1. Precariat Housing (Housing as Opportunity)
Housing oneself in a city outside legal settlements including regularized slums requires tremendous fortitude and enterprise in an individual, family or group of individuals. The different kinds of inadequate dwelling arrangements on pavements, shop awnings,
unauthorized slums or ‘homeless settlements’, parks, pavements, platforms etc. indicate that the people residing in them look at housing as an opportunity to lead a stable or better life. The everyday life of such people shows that there are various kinds of material dimensions to housing like identity, citizenship entitlements, healthcare and sanitation, incomes and expenditures, finances and savings, availability of food and livelihood, social networks and relationships etc. which are socially produced and reproduced. These dimensions also help them gain a better condition of living for themselves or at least navigate through them.

Through their struggles, grit and determination, people living in such inadequate housing arrangements add on different dimensions to housing; thereby making it a compoidea required for a decent living rather than a mere physical structure for living. By actively housing themselves outside the formal housing system, these people seek to consolidate their ‘gains’. In my opinion, instead of referring these people as ‘homeless’ or ‘homeless migrants’ or ‘houseless’ or ‘precariously housed’ etc. or qualifying them under the umbrella terminology of ‘homelessness’, all types of informal inadequate housing arrangements should be referred to as Precariat Housing. ‘Precariat Housing’ is any kind of dwelling arrangement which is not formal and regularized. Most of the urban poor engaged in various kinds of economic activities house themselves in such precariat housing arrangements which is a progression for them in terms of consolidating their gains or attaining stability in their living situation. Therefore, the idea of viewing homelessness in terms of dispossession or lack of a normative physical structure of living does not do justice to the idea of housing as an opportunity. Hence, if homelessness or lack of housing is to be cognized as active housing, then referring to it as ‘precariat housing’ is useful in terms of presenting it before the state as an arena deserving state action in the form of policies and programmes. Referring to precariat housing through different categories like homelessness, houselessness, inadequate housing, precarious housing, non-regularized slums, pavement dwellings etc. is counter-productive since these categories do not speak to each other. The presence of different constituencies of people with similar housing conditions also limit the state action and civil society intervention in the arena of housing and welfare. In addition, the everyday life of the inadequately housed people shows that if the opportunities of housing are not supported or provided with, then people living under them get pushed to the margins from where it becomes very difficult to improve one’s life situation.

A housing arrangement near Mumbai Central Station, Mumbai

2. Houseless People in Need of Care and Protection (Shelter as Enabler)
All those homeless people who are living on the most extreme margins of urban life- the ones who are not able to improve their life situation and are unfortunate in their lives, as a result of which they are leading a houseless life and have little care and support from others should be referred to as Houseless People in Need of Care and Protection. All such individuals and families including disaster affected, destitute and mentally ill amongst them should be provided with state run shelters which serve as enablers for them rather than being places of confinement. Such shelter homes can be conceived as service homes for providing various types of services and citizenship entitlements to persons in need of care and protection. The services may include providing identity documentation, legal aid, psychiatric care, counselling, healthcare, adult education, vocational training and job placements, anganwadi or ICDS related services, livelihood, repatriation, day care centres etc. Instead of referring to such people as homeless, I am using the term ‘Houseless People in Need of Care and Protection’. It is imperative that state being the ultimate protector and caretaker of all its residents takes care of them, and so, these people are not ‘homeless’ as they are to be provided care, support and protection by the state.

Dr Anup Tripathi is currently working as Assistant Professor at FLAME University Pune. His areas of interest include urban poverty, housing and environmental governance. This is an edited excerpt from his PhD thesis. 

Engine Urbanism (An Excerpt)

Text and photographs by Himanshu Burte

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Anybody returning today to Mumbai after 25 years is likely to walk (or drive) into an experience of everyday life and urban space that has changed drastically, though most of the city also stands as it is, where it is. The towers, sprouting up everywhere, repeat, everywhere, are of course the most eye-catching of additions. In a matter of 15 years, the tallest of erstwhile exceptions (like the once-legendary, 26-storied ‘Usha Kiran’) have been dwarfed by a new routine of towers over 30 storeys high, and growing. Flyovers and elevated rail (metro and mono) have inserted tall, long colonnades of concrete in the centre of streets, presenting a newly ambiguous public space underneath for the homeless, car owners, the Municipal Corporation and middle-class residents to covet and fight over. And driving is a different experience from as recently as the year 2000 with the Bandra–Worli Sea Link and the Eastern Freeway, for instance, speeding up north–south travel, even as the six-laning of the Jogeshwari–Vikhroli Link Road, and the construction of the Santa Cruz–Chembur Link Road enable you to even think of driving between the eastern and western suburbs. Walking, too, has changed. No more the familiar cut across the street to follow a desired line as before: footpath railings and concrete medians keep you on the straight and narrow. The extravagantly named ‘skywalks’—foot overbridges from an era of desultory governmentality, now roofed and rebooted—hope to decide where you may cross the road (and, along the way, peep into the many bedrooms they graze, if you do climb up or down two storeys). Meanwhile, road widening has even taken away entire footpaths, especially on arterial roads like the Sion– Panvel highway that heads out to Pune.

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What sense can one make of diverse but simultaneous changes like these? Is there a logic tying them together, one perhaps that is more generally applicable across India? I explore possible answers to these questions through this essay focused on the spatiality of urban transformation in Mumbai. I view these transformations as related to the state’s increasingly definitive conceptualisation of the city as an engine of economic growth. The state has been an important player in these transformations, both through its own spatial practices as well as through new policy provisions. In Mumbai, both were unleashed dramatically in the 1990s, soon after the New Economic Policy began to make economic integration with the global economy a common sense national goal. In spite of its distinctiveness, Mumbai’s example is relevant here for two reasons. First, its urbanism has been significantly held together by informality of multiple kinds, much like that of other Indian cities. That informality appears to have no place in the urbanism that the state has sought to institute in the city. Second, many of the interventions increasingly common across Indian cities, irrespective of their actual performance—market-led slum redevelopment and elite transport infrastructure—appear to have been first tried out together, and at scale, in Mumbai. Since the interventions and outcomes have been significantly spatial in nature, this essay overviews the transformations in the built environment and spatiality. I suggest that the new spatiality also implies a way of life—encompassing space as well as the culture of everyday life, and extending into social relations—and a ‘politics of forgetting’ poverty, marginalisation and such other bad news (Fernandes, 2004). I call this, experimentally, ‘engine urbanism’. The image of the ‘engine’ recalls the idealised modernist vision of the city as a machine. This appears to orient urban policy and governance interventions more committedly than before, and is being realised in an increasingly mechanistic urban spatiality. Engine, also, because the metaphor ‘engine of economic growth’ is now the telos of state-authorised urbanism in bigger Indian cities. This urbanism is of interest not only as a social and cultural phenomenon, but also for the political significance of its privileging of anti-political technocracy, centralised control and the rule of the market.

[…] Formal, big, private and networked: these adjectives illuminate key idealised qualities, or values, of the new urban spatiality in multiple scales. They must also be read as implying their verb forms; each describes not only a found characteristic, but also, increasingly, the orientation towards spatiality, often through state intervention or encouragement […]

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Staple urban spatial elements—all kinds of buildings and their complexes, road and rail infrastructure and allied spaces, including bridges, flyovers, railway stations, etc.,—are visibly getting bigger than before, vertically and horizontally. This is ironic in a city known—more than any other—for scarcity of space stemming from geographic limitations as a peninsular outcrop, and its peculiar political economy of land ownership.In buildings, this enlargement represents two things: (i) the accumulation and consolidation of space as commodity which translates into (ii) a promise of larger revenue streams at lower transaction costs. There is an argument to be made that the enlargement of scale is related to the increasing supply of investable global or local capital from state- and private-sector sources for various urban projects promising high-volume revenue streams(hotels, malls), or addressing real living and business needs, and use values (residence, office space, infrastructure) as well as speculative demand. The bigger the size of the project, the lower the overheads,transaction costs, the number of risk points in processes, and the higher the profit margin. This equation is advantageous, especially for remotely controlled capital, whether global or underground.This also possibly reflects a link between the increasing scale of urban elements and the push for economic integration with a wider geography. Urban policy has enabled such enlargement of scale most transparently by increasing the Floor Space Index (FSI) which limits built-up area, as well as by less transparent modes of calculating it(as through the infamous and now scrapped provision of ‘fungible FSI’, which could be interpreted broadly enough to build multiple times over the limit).One contributory local reason is the sharp rise in the price of land, urban or rural, all over the country since 2005. This is one reason for the increasing verticality of urban architecture, as more is sought to be built on the same piece of land in every city, with the blessings of state planning. Thus, a couple of years ago, I was surprised to see a horizon cluttered with multi-storeyed buildings on the outskirts of Rajkot, otherwise a city with low to mid-rise architecture. In Mumbai, and increasingly in other cities, the underlying scarcity of land prompts the elevation of transport infrastructure like flyovers, elevated roads and metro rail: existing road space everywhere is increasingly inadequate as private vehicles mushroom with explicit or implicit state sanction. The rule of the car that much of the big-road infrastructure has enforced on Mumbai’s urbanism, meanwhile, has led to another manifestation of verticality: the raised ‘podium’ of multiple storeys of covered and enclosed car-parking with a public space on top that serves as ‘ground’ for the residents of the apartment towers that shoot up from it. Podium and tower also regularly reveal another important quality of largeness today: its banality. The flyovers and towers are non-monuments, or nonuments. Banal or monumental, verticality has an important collateral benefit from the perspective of an integration with a larger, more global economy: clusters of big urban elements or iconic structures like the Bandra–Worli Sea Link both call attention to the city, differentiating it in the presumed competition of urban branding that is the context of processes of ‘worlding cities’(Roy and Ong, 2011).

This is an excerpt from Himanshu Burte’s paper ‘Engine Urbanism’. The entire paper can be accessed here: