People’s Vision Document for Mumbai

Development Plan 2014-34: What Mumbai Needs?– A People’s Vision

Click here for a downloadable PDF of the full report and here for a summary of the report in english and in hindi.

Introduction

There is an increasing stress on creation of “world class cities” with the single-mindedaspiration to achieve international standards rather than “liveable cities” with a mixed-
use urban fabric. The case of Mumbai exemplifies this trend. This has led to a mounting
conflict for space within the city. There has to be a thorough rethink of our stance on the
importance of diversity within the city spaces in order to true urbanism, rebuild our cities so that they are ecologically sustainable and regain communities that are healthy and socially sustainable. For this the people need to have a vision of the kind of city they wish to live in; one in which resources are cornered by the privileged few thereby leading to exclusion and conflict or one with dynamic diversity where each individual’s worth is understood and acknowledged thereby encouraging interdependence and integration. Moreover the people need to reclaim their own right to the city by establishing and engaging in democratic management over its urban rediscover the principles of deployment.

The city of Mumbai – presently – is an epitome of inequality and poverty that plagues
our urban centres. The informal settlements that dot its landscape and the homelessness
that is visible on the streets are a testimony to that. Exclusion of the urban poor – who
form the majority in Mumbai – is set into the biased and non participatory top down
process of formal development planning. This leads to undermining the rights of
majority of its residents, thereby worsening the already abysmal conditions of the poor
denizens in Mumbai.

Through this People’s Vision Document, we attempt to challenge and break the
exclusionary planning and non-participatory mechanisms that decide the future of the
city. This we believe will be a rudimentary step to counter the imaginary visions floated
by the state, citing the imminent need to make Mumbai a “world-class” city. Engaging
all resources towards this goal, without ensuring basic needs of infrastructure and space
to make the city more inclusive, healthy and liveable for ALL, would be a failure of the
planning process. We hope that the state, the BMC and the average Mumbaikar
understand that our stance is not against Mumbai’s development, but for the inclusion of
the urban poor – who form 70% of the city – in this development process. The presently
ongoing Development Plan (DP) revision process in Mumbai is one such major space
for us to assert our right over our city. The new Development Plan (DP) slated for 2014-
34 should address the various issues the city is currently facing and propose a holistic
approach to tackle the same.

The DP process – till now – has not been participatory; it has been a perfect example of
a top down, secretive process. Only after consistent pressure from a number of partner
organizations and institutions who pointed out major discrepancies in the Existing Land
Use (ELU) survey that forms the base of the DP did the BMC relent and take some steps
towards opening up the DP process to us Mumbaikars. In the ELU stage, we all came together and fought for the correct mapping of our informal communities, our gaothans,
our koliwadas, our villages, our playgrounds and other aspects that are crucial to our
rightful existence in the city. In the same stage we also engaged with the BMC in
ensuring that the most marginalized sections like the hawkers and homeless are also
included in the ELU. We fought a huge campaign on ground regarding the ELU and
tried to spread the word to as many as people and organizations as possible.
But we, who participated in the ELU campaign, felt that we should not stop at the initial
ELU stage. In response to the present top down planning process a wide range of NGOs,
CBOs, citizens and experts participated in a collaborative process to draft a “People’s
Vision Document for Mumbai’s Development Plan” through several meetings and
discussions [- over a hundred stakeholder and interest groups representing diverse
communities in the city along with experts and activists, who participated in this
collaborative process (and are the authors of this report), have now come together in a
campaign called Hamara Shehar, Hamara Vikas, Hamara Niyojan, Abhiyan (Mumbai)].
This document enlists the demands of people for their city – to be included in the
upcoming DP – from 14 important aspects. These 14 categories have been represented
graphically below. As can be seen, these categories vary from the most hotly debated
issues like housing, education and health to some unexplored issues like the needs of the
hawkers, children and homeless.

image

Work on enlisting the demands from varied perspectives started in May 2013 and the
process went on for three months before the demands were finalized following a lot of
debate. Our sincere hope at every stage has been that our initiative for the development
plan process which entails participation from varied groups and individuals, as also a lot
of debate, will not go in vain. We also believe that the utmost relevant concept of
people’s participation will come into full force for DP revision (and any further) process
in Mumbai, thereby translating into housing for urban poor and land for school, health
care, hospital, playground, roads etc. The people’s vision articulated herein, we hope,
will result in making our city a happy space for everyone including the urban poor and
other marginalized sections, and its development would reflect the needs and aspirations
of Mumbai’s underclass, which has been consistently left out until now.

Note:

  • It is to be added before concluding that the various categories mentioned within
    the document are not mutually exclusive and are rather interdependent. The
    Development Plan has to take note of these in an integrated manner, without
    compartmentalization or differentiation – since this will lead to exclusion. The
    sole purpose of dividing the document into categories was to highlight the
    specific demands of each group and to register these needs in the larger public
    cognition.
  • It is also to be added that the various categories included within this document
    are not exhaustive in any manner. There are specific needs of many other groups
    of people such as “sex workers”, transgender etc. that need to be considered by
    the authorities in the final plan. Detailing such needs was out of the scope of this
    document considering the paucity of time.
  • Another point to be noted is that this document is modeled around the present
    conditions and due to technical limitations was unable to estimate the future
    needs. This limits the scope of the demands in certain ways, considering the
    rapid increase of immigration in the city. One suggestion that we have reiterated
    to tackle this issue of the development plan being relevant to the size of the
    population is to undertake the revision of the process within a shorter period than
    the current twenty years.

“I will give you a Talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest
man [woman] whom you may have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is
going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him
[her] to a control over his [her]own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj
for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts, and your
self melting away.” —One of the last notes left behind by Mahatma Gandhi in 1948.

RIGHT TO THE CITY

“The question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from that of what kind of social ties, relationship to nature, lifestyles, technologies and aesthetic values we desire. The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization. The freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights”. —David Harvey, 2008

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