How the Street Environment Influences the Experience of the City

By Nehal Thorwade

“The streets are rivers of lives in cities” – William H. Whyte

The street is an important factor in the urban ecology. The street helps us effectively move around the city. It is also a shared space between pedestrians, residents, vendors, vehicles and nature. It is where the public life of a city is played out. This photo essay focuses on how the newly designed Smart Street that has been developed on one section of DP Road in Aundh, Pune, tries to maintain a balance between the pedestrians and vehicular traffic. The design also embraces nature and trees. On the other side, existing, older streets designs as seen from Season Road and the rest of the section of the DP road, creates various complications for pedestrians walking on the street. These older designs eliminate the environment and see nature as an obstacle in the design process. The newly designed street, in my opinion, is breaking the hegemony of vehicles on the street and treats the pedestrians as the king of road by acknowledging their need for space. The new design is a melange of nature and street which gives justice to all its users, pedestrians as well as vehicles without disturbing the existing flora.

I argue that Smart Streets give more value to pedestrians and trees. Through new designs, the size of the footpath is increased for pedestrians to walk on. The trees on sides of the road are included as a part of the street furniture by making sitting arrangement so people can sit under the shadow of a tree. 

 

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An older street design on Season Road, Pune

In the above picture we can clearly see how older streets were designed. There is no standard size of footpaths — each street has different sizes and patterns of footpaths. On some streets there is hardly space for one pedestrian to walk on. This forces them to walk on the side of roads and this could be dangerous. In comparison the Smart Street (in the two photos seen below) is equipped with spacious footpaths so pedestrians can walk comfortably. These footpaths provide ease to the visually challenged and are pedestrian and nature friendly.  

 

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The Smart Street stretch of DP Road
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The Smart Street stretch of DP Road

The second observation I want to make is about how trees are included in the design of the street. In the picture below, the tree in the middle of the road is conserved but there is a lack of proper vision of including nature in design. The position of this tree on the road could lead to vehicular traffic and any lay man can view this as an obstacle on the road. This gives rise to conflict between nature and the existing street design. The Smart Street (as seen in the picture above) to some extent is designed according to the trees on the street. The designer has kept the trees in mind while planning the street. The trees are used as street furniture or street furniture is created around trees. A seating arrangement is made up of stones (as seen in the third picture below) that gives the feeling of nostalgia and being more close to nature rather than sitting on iron benches. On the current street design trees exist but their role on street is obscure. This component in the Smart Street design is a kind of a revolution according to me.

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A tree is seen as an obstacle and adds to the vehicular traffic
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Street designs are not planned around or to include trees.
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The Smart Street to some extent is designed according to the trees on street, the designer has kept the trees in mind while planning the street. The trees are used as street furniture or street furniture is created around trees.

 

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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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html

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Solid Waste Management Systems a must for Smart Cities

By Vidhy Shethna

“Maza Swapna, Smart Pune” (My Pune, Smart Pune), an effort to be in touch with what Pune’s citizens feel about development priorities and standard of living, initially began as a multidimensional approach to overcome the problems of urbanization. However, while focusing on infrastructure and other recreational activities, the Smart City Mission overlooked a very basic issue like solid waste management. On the one hand it claims to have alliance with the Pune Municipal Corporation, on the other it fails to exercise efficient management between the Swachh mission and the PMC. The smart street in Pune, namely, D.P. road is the only street which has adequate number of public dustbins. On rest of the streets, there are hardly any or in certain cases like the stretch of street from Medi-point hospital to D.A. School, there are no dustbins. This leads to disposal of waste and garbage by the surrounding residents on the street. This poses a severe threat to the health and hygiene of the people.

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The area under construction which is now used for garbage dumping. The broken signage is symbolic of dilapidated condition of the street.

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Two different garbage collecting trunks: The one on thetop is a ‘Swachh’ cart and the one on the bottom is the PMC garbage trunk.

On paper, Swachh Bharat authorities are supposed to collect garbage door-to-door ensuring that residential waste is separate and collected duly on time, while PMC collects waste only from commercial estates like institutions or hospitals. But the ground reality is different. The Swachh Mission charges 50 rupees per family per month for providing the service, which is unethical in the eyes of the civil society who are already taxpayers. While PMC does not indulge in the conflict of the civil society and the Swachh authority, it does its duty of collecting waste only from concentrated places. The lack of efficient collection of garbage has led to ‘on the street dumping’. Residents staying on that stretch of the street, on a daily basis, dump the garbage on the side of the road as shown in the picture. There is no segregation of dry and wet waste. The waste collection is done twice-a-day from these spots. The accumulating garbage adds to the already existing problem of street and traffic congestion. The garbage collecting vans along with the trucks, are parked right next to itm blocking the entire street for as long as 15-20 minutes leading to a major traffic jam. By now, people in this vicinity are acclimatized to such an impoverish state of living.

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The condition of the street before and after garbage collection.

While I was surveying on the street, I also found that there were signages reading ,’no parking’ and ‘no garbage dumping’ which were in a very dilapidated condition.  I also managed to meet the health inspector of the area who himself felt helpless about the state. He claimed that there wasn’t any conflict between the PMC and Swachh mission but they were aware of the conflict between the residents and the Swachh Mission. Moreover, surveying the informal vendors brought to our notice that most of them either burnt the waste including plastic or carried it back home because of lack of clear instructions or infrastructure. Lack of awareness and biased attitude of the PMC towards collecting their waste led to such this inefficient measure.

Growing urbanization has led to the launch of the Smart City Mission. However, this “independent functional body” while progressing to a great extent has left behind a trail of unresolved issues. Moreover, this approach is exclusive and has by now developed fear in the minds of the informal sector that they can be thrown out anytime.

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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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html

 

 

The Sacred and the Street: The Unseen Relations of Temples with the Streets of Aundh

By Natalia Chakma

Aundh is a suburb in the city of Pune. It is under the area where the Smart City Pune Project is being constructed. The Smart Street in Aundh was one of the first projects to be completed in the city. The Smart Street is constructed on DP road that stretches from Parihar Chowk to Bremen Chowk. It was inaugurated on October 17, 2017. The other end of the Smart Street extending from Parihar Chowk to DAV school is still under construction. We noticed that the Smart Street which was entirely developed had no temples, whereas the street that was still under construction has a few temples that have been documented below.  

In September, 2009 the Supreme Court announced that there shall be no construction of religious structures on public space, public parks or public streets, and for the existing unauthorized religious structures, the court said that the State Administration shall review those case by case and take necessary actions. Emphasizing the order passed on 2009, the Supreme Court in 2011 restrained the state governments from granting permission to build religious structures or statues on public lands.  

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This is Shiv Dhatt Ganesh Temple. It is built by Gokul Gaikwad, whose ancestors owned large amounts of land Aundh, and remain one of the most influential families of the city. Gokul Gaikwad is also the third brother of Dattatray Gaikwad who was the ex-mayor of Pune Municipal Corporation. The priest of the temple takes care of the cleanliness and basic amenities of the temple. People come to visit the temple from the neighbourhood as well as from distant areas like Pimpri-Chinchwad, Baner, etc. When one views this temple from the other side of the road, it looks like it is on the footpath but when one sees it closely the shrine is actually beyond the property line. The compound wall of the temple seems to extend a little onto the footpath though. No notice has been given by the authority about the condition of the wall and what is going to happen after the Smart City road is completed.

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This temple is built by a local of Aundh. He is the land owner of the particular area where the shrine stands. Hence, like the previous temple, it looks as if its standing on a public space but the temple is actually on private land. The local people around, especially the tailor besides the temple looks after it. Mostly the people living nearby come to worship in the temple. After the Smart City road is constructed the temple will be renovated and glass-fitted.

Both these temples looks like they are on a public space but in the owners claim that they are on a private property. They are in a confused space.                              

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This temple is built by the auto drivers of the area and they take care of the temple. Earlier the temple was a little ahead of the footpath but was a source of hindrance to the vendors who sit there because the size of the temple was much bigger. So these drivers negotiated with PMC (Pune Municipal Corporation) and shifted the temple and reduced its size so it doesn’t cause any problem to anyone. Though the construction of these religious structures are illegal on public spaces, they are allowed to exist.

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This temple is on Sarjaa Road. The temple is looked after by the auto drivers. As the picture shows the temple is on the footpath i.e a public space which is against the laws.

The above two examples have a similar story of construction on a public space. They are an outcome of the collective feeling of brotherhood and belonging to the place. It can also be seen as an informal exercise in claim making. Both the temples are built beside the auto stands, so there is always someone to protect and take care of the temple.

What is legal? What is illegal? Both, ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ are contested concepts and often tend to exist in the same space, together. When one talks about legal streets it means streets with definite spaces for parking, visible property lines, footpath uses, etc which exists only on paper. For example, there are designated places for parking, but people park their vehicles wherever they want to, and very often they are allowed to do so. Street vendors very commonly vend in no-hawking zones since vending is their only means of livelihood. Though all these are seen as “illegal” on paper, in practice they are either allowed or tolerated for various reasons, or they continue to resist and exist despite the backlash from state authorities or the police. Similarly, building of temples on public spaces are considered “illegal” but are allowed.

It is the local people who make decisions about building temples. These decisions are made on the basis of a feeling of belonging to the neighbourhood. Though India is a secular country, its population has immense faith in religion. So anything that is related to religion becomes sensitive and no one questions the construction of religious structures on public spaces. Once a temple is built it becomes very hard to demolish. However, there are a few cases of temple demolitions. Some of these demolitions have taken place with high security personnel guarding the state officials and wokers to avoid violence against the demolition squads.

Lastly it is interesting to see that there are no temples on the Smart City road which has been completed and hence, the upcoming Smart City roads will look different from the older, already existing streets that have been organically developed through multiple incursions, negotiations and informal acts of claim making.  


 

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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html

 

Informal Local Power Structures in Everyday Governance

By Kunal Chaturvedi

“Bhaji walon ka nazariya chahiye to unhi se poocho, mujhe kya pata hoga” (If you want to know about the perspective of vegetable vendors, ask them. Why are you asking me?), was the response to our question about the views of Pune city’s vegetable vendors on the Smart City Project. The blunt reply shocked us, and we began to wonder why exactly were we interviewing this big-time builder/businessman and local strongman on an issue that does not concern him. However, interviewing him was not our decision. We were taken to his office by the leader of the vendors himself, who quite explicitly told us that the de facto authority in the area lies to a large extent with the strongman’s family. In fact, many of the vendors in the market refused to directly answer our questions, stating that any untoward statement that they might make will invite the disapproval of him.

This, and other such experiences faced by our team on the very first day in the streets, combined with the large hoardings and the signboards on various buildings, roads and colonies made it very clear to us who the dominant landlords in the area were. We later came to know that the patriarch of the powerful family was in fact an ex-mayor of the Pune Municipal Corporation, whereas his close family members also served as former corporators. On the other hand, the business and building interests of the family are looked after by another family member who we spoke to. The family fielded a woman candidate from within the family in the year the ward was reserved for women leaders raising suspicions about the real decision makers behind the candidate. There has also been an allegation of misrule during one of the family member’s leadership while serving as the elected representative from the area.

The key to understanding the family’s hold over the area lies in the history of the pattern of landholdings in the area. As one of the family members claimed in an interview with members of our team, the clan is an offshoot of an erstwhile dynasty from Gujarat, and was given the land in the area as part of their jagirs. Upon inclusion of the Aundh region into the Pune city limits in 1950, the area was “handed-over” to the PMC by his father, who was the sarpanch of the area at that time. However, despite the loss of formal authority over the area, the informal hold of the family continued, particularly due to them maintaining ownership over significant amount of land. This informal authority is perhaps best reflected in the views of a large number of residents about the developmental trajectory of the area. These residents point out to the fact that as late as the 1990’s, the area was dominantly agricultural. Over the last two decades, as one elderly resident claimed, the area was developed as a residential-cum-semi-commercial zone by the on of the sons of the ruling patriarch in response to the expansion of the effective city limits due to continuous migrations. The fact that many residents still give the credit for the infrastructural development of the region to the them is an important insight to the extent of the family’s hold over the minds of the people in the area. In fact, even today, the family owns several IT parks and corporate hubs, along with a petrol pump and several vacant plots planned for further construction in a local neighborhood named after one of the earlier scions of the family. The claim has been taken one step further in the family’s website used to promote party propaganda, which states that the developmental works done by them in Aundh were the reason for the selection of the area for the Smart City Project.  Moreover, the family also hold significant interests in public facilities such as the private school and a hospital located in the area, with the principal of the school herself referring to it as the brainchild of the patriarch in an interview.

The developmental trajectory of the area, and more importantly the perceptions of the people about the driving forces behind it reveal that the power that the family holds in the area despite holding no constitutional posts at present is built upon the continuance of the feudal mindset and the deep imbibing of the informal relations of power that have historically existed. As a result, several client-patron relationships have sprang up between members of the family and various local stakeholder groups, the most glaring example of which is perhaps the mandai mentioned earlier. The vendors in the market were given formal recognition as well as a semi-permanent place to sell their wares by one of the family members during his tenure as the mayor. Today, an unusual alliance has developed between the vendors and the ex-mayor, with the family providing security of tenure and business to the vendors, and the vendors providing ground level political ‘feelers’ for the family. The political connections, though covert, are visible in the perceptions of the people, who firmly believe the area to be a Congress stronghold under the family, and claim that the recent BJP victory in the municipality elections is owed exclusively to electoral malpractices.

Apart from the historic sociopolitical factors that have shaped the hold of the family over the area, considerable credit is also owed to the personal charisma and accessibility of these power figures themselves. As we found out, while every vendor in the mandai was unwilling to speak independently to us, almost all of them had access to one of the son’s contact details, and one of them served as our guide to his office. Similarly, the patriarch himself walked down till his petrol pump to meet the team which went to interview him, and took them to a café owned by him nearby. Several residents in the area claimed that it was this accessibility that makes the family the rallying point for the community in the area. However, regarding the question of the limits of this accessibility during the period of his incumbency as the mayor, no definite answer could be found, since people of the area either completely support or are totally against them. Similarly, the overt willingness displayed by one the businessmen in the family towards establishing a forum for cooperation between various stakeholder groups in the area points out to the fact that this family serves as a merger of interests between different sections of the society. While themselves belonging to the rich, upper class of big builders and businessmen, they also patronize local small vendors and hawkers, leading to an effective, informal and local level dispute resolution mechanism. Moreover, the family sometimes serves as an effective link between the stakeholders in the area and the bureaucratic and political decision makers, using their considerable political and money influence to alter and reshape decisions.  Obviously, this cooperation only holds true as long as there is no direct conflict of interest between the family and the stakeholder group.

This nexus of political as well as capital power within the family becomes obvious upon meeting the two brothers. While one of the brothers fits perfectly into the image of a politician, dressed immaculately in white Kurta-Pajama, and speaking in the diplomatic, political lingo, the other is the image of a modern-day capitalist, dressed in western formals, and speaking a language replete with legal and business terminologies.

In such a scenario where multiple formal and informal power structures including elected representatives, dominant political families and individuals and bureaucrats exist together, it becomes interesting to note that the poorer sections of the society are often dependent on their relationship with a particular power figure, and this loyalty is maintained irrespective of whether he/she is in formal power or not. Moreover, as evidences from the interviews of the mandai vendors point out, the negotiations between various power figures is such that a group loyal to a particular power figure is often left alone by the opposition even when its patron is not in power. Thus, while the system of multiple power structures appears incomprehensibly complex, the whole system manages to work out through a web of negotiations and adjustments between various groups and stakeholders.

* All names have been deliberately removed to protect identity.

 


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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html

Smart Streets Vs Street Vendors: Can Visions of Development be Inclusive?

 

By Divya Bharti

The use of a street is not just limited to movement from one end to the other. A street is a spectrum of different uses ranging from economical to social to physical — a kaleidoscope, if you will. Streets are spaces for earning livelihoods, they are a recreational space, a playground, an interacting space, a socialising space, a celebratory space, a stage, or put simply, streets are a space of multiple claims and contestations, which vary from one street to another and also from rural to urban. This photo essay looks at an urban street in Aundh, a suburb in Pune City, which is set to become “smart” under the Smart Cities Mission. Ever since the Smart Streets project has been announced, the street vendors have started receiving notices of eviction. Only a few have been promised rehabilitation to another location.  

What is an urban street? Some say it is a ‘public space’, others call it a ‘public good’, and yet a ‘common pool resource’. In all the contested definitions of a street, one thing that is conspicuous is that “a street is a limited and valuable, non-excludable but rivalrous resource” (Jain & Moraglio, 2014) which should be accessible to each and every member of the society. But is it the reality? Each claimed and contested space of a street tells a story of its own — of how that place was acquired.

The courage of the vendors amidst all the uncertainty is laudable. They set themselves up for the same struggles every year, and yet persist. The national economic figures show that the informal and unorganised economy accounts for more than 90% of India’s economy — the vendors and hawkers form a big part of it. They essentially cater to the basic needs of people, are accessible and available at short distances saving time and cost of travelling, yet they remain unappreciated. Everyone wants them, but not at their doorstep. So where should they go? This essay looks at whether new visions of development safeguard the interests of street vendors.

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“None of us have permanent jobs here — we deal with uncertainty every day.”

Image 1: Sharda Ashok Rakshe, the lady in the brown sari, has been selling her wares in the Aundh area for 30 years. Every year during Diwali, she temporarily claims this section of the street to earn an extra income. This unauthorised claim over space means that she has to fight to keep it, and pay a fine to get her things back every time the officials take away her wares during a raid. She and others like her are not allowed to erect any kind of structure that hints at permanency such as an overhead structure made up of aluminium sheets. There is no formal governing arrangement for these kinds of temporary livelihoods to exist, so they are forced to exist in precarious, informal spaces.  

Image 2: The ‘Shri Siddhivinayak Sweet Shop’ on the opposite side of the road belongs to her husband, who has been living in the area for over half a century. There’s an ironing shop besides it which also belongs to them, and they have rented it out. So why does she need to resort to the above-mentioned temporary means of livelihood? She says, “Permanent job to nahi hai yahan kisi ke paas, to ye sab karna padta hai”. (No one has a permanent job here, so we have to do these things). Currently, they are worried because they’ve been told that they will be rehabilitated to another place. They, along with the other residents, in the adjacent basti (locality) are resisting. They say that they are getting a small space in the new place and no rights to a shop. They don’t want to leave the space they’ve created in exchange for a smaller one far away.

 

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“Smart City means good footpaths, roads, dustbins — but we don’t come under ‘Smart Cities’, do we?”

Suryakant Kamle, owner of the street side stall in an auto, has been in Aundh since 2008 and has had a license since 2011. However, he is still not allowed to claim this space. He has not faced the threat of eviction yet, only orders to move his shop because his license is a travelling license and not a permanent one. Though he has a license, he has no idea about the Street Vendors Act, 2014. The Street Vendors Act 2014 accords street vendors with rights to livelihood and protection against eviction. He doesn’t have a problem with being shifted elsewhere if it meets his needs of vending. He says “Smart City to hona chahiye, par idhar se utha ke udhar chod do aisa nahi hona chahiye, kidhar to jagah milni chahiye” (Smart city should be there but moving us from one place to another should not be the trend, we should get a designated space). On being asked what does he mean by ‘Smart City’, he says, “Smart city matlab standard area, lighting, footpath, acchhi road, dustbins…to hum to nahi aa sakte na smart ke andar.” (Smart City means a standard area with lighting, footpath, good roads, dustbins…so we can’t come under smart, can we?). When asked what if everything is made ‘smarter’, his reply was, “sab smart nahi ho sakta….bas humein ek area de do ‘smart sa’ khada rehne ko”. (Everything can’t be smart, just give us a somewhat smart area to stand and vend).

How and why does such a perception develop in their minds that they don’t belong in the ‘smart’ or the ‘urban’? One factor could be the state’s and public’s apathy (and sometimes antipathy) to their plight and the constant displacement in the name of “development”. What is “smart” about a city if it can’t cater to every citizen’s need?

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‘Why should the street vendors leave? We were here before this village turned into a city.’

The above pictures show the same area with a slight difference. The picture on the left shows the space has been claimed till the parking lane, but the picture on the right shows the space claimed is just till the footpath. This change was observed within a period of a week. The vendors have been here for over 25 years, since the time it was a rural-agricultural area. One of the vendors claims to have a license for five years, yet he and others like him face the threat of eviction. The shops in the background of the second picture have come up after the development of the area. These shopkeepers frequently lodge complaints against the vendors to get them evicted because they apparently reduce the visibility of their shops and create problems of parking. They claim that the occupation of the footpath forces the senior citizens to walk on the road which results in accidents. The vendors in response ask: “Hum kyun jayein? Hum yahan pehle se hain…” (Why should we go? We were here first.)

Whose claim in the above contestation for space holds more weight? Let’s look at another claim over a similar space…

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“We are a government authorised dairy, we won’t answer any questions.”

This dairy in the picture above has been there for almost 20 years. It’s a brand supported by the central government and hence, is an authorised stall. It has a license for vending here, meaning it doesn’t have to face any trouble with the authorities. The dairy owner refused to answer any questions; instead he had just one line to say “Hum sarkari dairy hain, hum koi jawab nahi denge…” (We’re a government authorised dairy, we won’t give any answers).

The above examples show the unequal (and unfair?) behaviour of the state towards one kind of vending over another. Why this distinction? Why does one vendor have to constantly haggle and struggle for survival, while the other is secure?

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‘Some residents help us out, others complain.’

The above picture is a curious case of an informal and unexpected form of negotiation between a vendor and a resident. This juice vending stall run by two brothers has been on this footpath since 2001. Their problem is that “municipality wale utha ke le jate hain” (Municipality people take our things away). The fine to get their things back is Rs 500. It has been almost 5 to 6 years since they had applied for a license. They have also paid Rs 5000 to some official as bribe. When asked about the problems with residents, he says, “kuch achchhe hain, jinhe fark nahi padta, par kuch complain karte hain” (some are good who don’t mind our presence, but some complain). The good ones include people from a house just across the street, where he gets to park his wares at night, free of cost. What the brothers want, like the other vendors, is a license to vend.

Streets are like a coin with two sides, a visible realm and an invisible one. The intricacies of these two realms come with their own contradictions conspicuous in the various contestations one might see walking down a street (in a reflective mood). The claims on streets are decided by a number of things including one’s class and caste to one’s position in the socio-political hierarchy. The legality and permanency of these claims and contestations depend on the money and power one has or can wield to influence the decision-making process. A vada-pav stall owner becomes inferior to a restaurant owner; vehicles become more important than livelihoods. What/who decides which claim should stay and the other done away with? The Indian streets appear to be a restricted and a limited-use resource. Should they be that way? I would say no. The state is responsible for all its citizens but where should one go, when the state does not deliver justice? The need of the hour is to give a serious thought to these claims/contestations and develop a mechanism where the voices of the ‘unheard’ and the ‘unaccounted’ are taken into consideration and their demands are met. There is a dire need for reforming the existing processes of public engagement, participation and the overall governance structure to make the service delivery system more inclusive, equitable and just. It is imperative to take action if India wants to achieve the esteemed Sustainable Development Goals and become a developed nation, which won’t reach fruition if there exists a Bharat that is impoverished in an India that abounds.

References:

Jain, A., & Moraglio, M. (2014, August 31). Struggling for the use of urban streets: preliminary (historical) comparison between European and Indian cities. Retrieved from International Journal of the Commons: https://www.thecommonsjournal.org/articles/10.18352/ijc.461/


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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html

 

 

Walk This Way: Travails of Pedestrians in Pune

By Najwa Abdul Rasheed

Right of Way is a commonly used term in the transportation lingo. But whose right of way prevails? Is it the car owners’ zooming down the widened roads or the pedestrians’ who extend out their hands while crossing the roads, murmuring a prayer under their breath? In a country with no particular demarcated place for pedestrians there exists numerous nuanced ways of crossing a road.

Though as a kid, I’ve been taught theoretically how to cross a road: “look right, then to your left and again to your right”, I was introduced to an absolutely different way of crossing during my excursions through the streets of Pune. This is what my friend who doubled up as my Pune guide instructed me: “Maintain eye contact with the driver. Once a connection is established after locking the gaze, interact with your eyes regarding your intention to cross the road and voila! You’ll find yourself on the other side of the road.” Though it seemed crude, it surely did work while traversing the streets.

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Chitale Chowk, Bajirao Road

At Chitale Chowk, Bajirao Road, we failed to see the zebra crossing initially because the traffic had enveloped it completely. Crossing at the apparently demarcated place, one had to jostle among the two-wheelers and four-wheelers.

The mad traffic was a contestation for space; private vehicles with buses, vehicles with pedestrians and even private vehicles with themselves. In this frenzied rush, a scooter happened to graze past a brand new Royal Enfield bike, breaking off a portion of the tail lamp, but the rider of the bike found no time to stop and look at the damage caused amidst all the commotion and cacophony.

 

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Gayakwad peth near Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai

The Gayakwad peth near Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai is always abuzz with pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Walking around in that area on a weekend was a more tedious task than anticipated. One had to watch out not only for fellow wayfarers and vehicles, but also hand carts which were in plenty near the market. With the biggest vegetable market in Pune and a plethora of stalls in the vicinity, walking was more of a shopping experience.

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Garware Chowk. Picture courtesy: Times of India

 

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Subway crossing at Garware Chowk

This subway crossing at Garware Chowk, near Deccan Gymkhana, provides a respite for pedestrians from the continuous flow of traffic at the chowk. As vehicles dart across the roads above, the wayfarer crosses the road freely from beneath. Though it bore a deserted look at night, a pair of elderly people had seated themselves at the meeting point of the three subway crossings. With an informal seating arrangement in the middle, it served as a placid spot bang in the middle of a busy intersection.

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A vendor sells earthen lamps at the entry point of the subway at Garware Chowk.

The subway crossing, apart from catering to pedestrians, also served as a means of livelihood for Kamle, an earthen lamp seller, situated right at the entry point. She and her daughter place their stall at the exact spot every year before Diwali. Kamle claims that this spot has been used for her seasonal stall since she was a kid.

 

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Maruti Chowk, Laxmi Road

Here is Suraj Hajare, a manager at multinational bank, manning the traffic at Maruti Chowk, Laxmi Road, on a Sunday afternoon. He and his band of volunteers from Samarpan Foundation, ranging from students to doctors, step in to volunteer and ease pedestrian movement at Laxmi Chowk, Raman Bagh Chowk and Maruti Chowk on weekends.

As a man behind the driving wheel expressed his resentment at having been stopped at the junction, Suraj riposted, “Bhaiya, you have to stop for only 30 seconds”. Even the pedestrians are taken aback when he stops them from crossing the road when the vehicles zoom past. But Suraj says that over the span of one year during which Samarpan Foundation has taken this initiative citizens awareness has increased; they themselves would stop at the intersections and refrained from jaywalking.

There was a traffic policeman too at the junction, who was oblivious to the flowing traffic. He was nestled in a corner playing on his phone. As a driver passed by the junction, he conveyed his frustration to Suraj at the apparent lack of action of the policeman, while Suraj could just smile, shrug and carry on with his voluntary work.

 

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The view from Shaniwar Wada

Climbing atop the Shaniwar Wada, it was a pleasant shift for me from being a pedestrian to an aerial onlooker. The overhead perspective from atop this 18th century historical fortification, the seat of the Peshwas of the Maratha empire, is a grandiose scene, especially the garden complex on the other side of the ramparts. Though the roads were lined with footpaths, it often gave way to hawkers and trees, forcing the pedestrian to walk on the road while jostling with the moving as well as parked vehicles for space. Historical buildings interspersed amidst the multitude of people and vehicles allude to the history of the old quarter of the city.

Amidst all the dissonance on the streets with swarms of people moving about; some with a definite purpose and destination in mind, some in no particular direction whatsoever, there exists a harmony of sorts — an order amongst the disorder, a sequence in the chaos; and therein lies the allure of Pune’s streets.


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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html

 

National Workshop on ‘Realising the Right to City in India’

Aundh stock picture

When: April, 16 to 17,  2018, New Delhi
Organisers: Right to the City Campaign in collaboration with Centre for Urban Policy and Governance, TISS and YUVA

This is a closed workshop and is open to only invited participants.

The ‘Right to City’ (RTC) concept introduced by Henri Lefebvre in the 1960s as a praxis has now been formally adopted as part of the ‘New Urban Agenda’ by the UN international Conference on Habitats in 2017. At least a few national constitutions such as those in Brazil, Ecuador and some in Africa have included the term and some of its principles. The formal inclusion of RTC in the urban agenda has not led to either greater clarity on the concept nor has it led to a greater commitment to more inclusive and just cities. In fact, even in countries where the agenda has been instituted in national constitutions, cities remain sites of contestations within an overall ethos of pursuit of capital. Beyond operationalisation, the debate around whether RTC is a moral claim or a justiciable claim, whether it is a set of individual or collective rights, whether RTC comprises of rights in the city or rights to the city; the political processes and the institutional sites for realisation of right to city remain.

According to Jordi Borja, “the development and legitimization of civil rights depend on a threefold process: i) cultural, hegemony of the values that underlie these rights and the act of demonstrating them; ii) social, citizen mobilization to achieve their legalization and iii) the creation of political and institutional mechanisms and procedures that ensure their implementation, to formalize, consolidate and develop policies and thus make them effective”. The RTC needs to be conceptualised and realised at all these levels.

What is the vision/s of a city as conceptualised by RTC? What new dimensions are added to realisation of rights by the notion of city? What claims to the city are various struggles and movements around the country making? For whom? How far or close are these claims from the existing policies/ governance mechanisms? What new moral or strategic strength does the RTC lend to these struggles? These questions are at the heart of the organisation of a National Workshop on ‘Realising the Right to city in India’ in New Delhi on April 16 and 17 2018.

The Indian context is characterised by a scenario in which several aspects of urbanisation and what is happening in the urban are ‘in transition’ and contested. These range from defining the urban to the nature of urban governance and design of institutions to the meaning of justice and inclusion for diverse social groups who contribute to cities in myriad ways but whose contributions remain unrecognised and whose presence in the city is an exercise in indignity. The process of claim making for many groups in the country has largely been made from the frame of human rights at large and very rarely through an urban lens; mobilisation has been at regional and national scales and hardly ever at an urban scale. The last few years have seen enhanced claim making and assertion of toilers and settlers in urban areas of varied scales across the country and moved beyond the restrictive geography of metros. Above all, the turn of the new millennium and the launch of urban policies that espouse ’urbanisation as the growth engine ‘for the country has lent a new intensity and urgency to localised struggles around rights and claims in the city, to the city and to retain an open access the city.

The key question here is ‘what ‘is the city or cityness to which one is laying a claim to? Is there a form, nature of the city that we envisage? How similar or distinct is it from the Indian city of the past, today, or that which is emerging?

The Indian constitution is a highly progressive document that lays down the basis for the realisation of several rights; yet the time when the constitution was imagined was one of a largely rural India and thus it is often unable to effectively support the claims in an emerging urban India where citizenship is itself contested and where claims and welfare are tied to local residency and legality of property rights. The regimes through which the disenfranchised could claim the city are regimes that rested upon ‘humanistic claims’. These regimes are being significantly transformed. The promise of democratic, local governance is far from being realised and governance is being imagined in techno-bureaucratic terms. At the same time, concepts like housing, participation, and empowerment are being significantly redefined.

What then are the paths for realisation of RTC? Do we engage the city as well the particular groups whose claims are being expanded? How? Which spaces lend themselves to such democratisation? Does such engagement require new techniques, tools, resources? The experience of the Indian city is a highly variegated one, differing across scales but also across sectors and themes. Thus, some of the most rapid changes are being experienced in sectors such as housing, transport and infrastructure building. Other sectors are experiencing changes at a different space and realms. The institutions of governance are fragmented, and cultures of governance are experienced as sectorally specific. Claims of groups adversely impacted by processes thus necessarily must be sectorally mediated. This sectoral division creates multiple contradictions and can create lines of conflict among groups of toilers and settlers. Yet alternate ideas of cities also need to have a sectoral specificity, if they are to have some substance. What is the balance of substance and process in realisation of RTC? What is the meaning of RTC within thematics and across them? In short, how can right to city be viewed through the lens of water? Does solid waste offer a distinct conundrum of contestations as opposed to water or housing? Are some dimensions of RTC more critical than others? Which are they?

The National Workshop on ‘Realising the Right to City in India’ is envisaged as a dialogue on RTC across practitioners, activists and academics in cities across India, engaging with questions such as the ones raised above. The Centre for Urban Policy and Governance, TISS has been researching on this theme for the past couple of years, YUVA – the co organisers of this workshop have initiated a RTC campaign with multiple partners in 2015. The understanding derived in the process of research- practice forms a basis for the workshop. The objective is to discuss the way the concept is being operationalised in multiple realms, its utility and how it is being moulded through struggles in varied ‘urban’ sites in India, and its relationship to other concepts such as human rights and citizenship. Besides this ‘reflection’ over practice, we also hope that the shared understanding also contributes to an advance, a networked practice and a sharpening of new tools and ideas across various groups and academics in working towards a ‘progressive, democratic and just city’.

The schedule for the workshop is given below:

Right to the City Workshop