Mumbai: India’s Smart Cities Vision overlooks poor people and will only lead to exclusive cities, a coalition of of diverse people’s movements and organisations has said.
The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) criticised the Narendra Modi government for allegedly spending millions of rupees on running full front page advertisements in national dailies on the first anniversary of the Smart Cities project. “Millions were also spent on the event organised in Pune, which was meant to grab eyeballs of readers to assure [voters] how much the Modi government has committed to bring ‘Achhe Din’ [good days],” Medha Patkar, the head of NAPM, said.
“However, the rampant demolition drive taking place across various cities by evicting the poor presents a contrasting picture,” the activist added.
In a review of the execution of plans on the ground, NAPM said the ambitious Smart Cities plan is accompanied by two other plans concerning urban development — the Atal Mission for Urban Transformation and Rejuvenation and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Prime Minister’s Housing Project) (PMAY).
Talking about Maharashtra, Bilal Khan of NAPM said, “The government offers rehabilitation to the slum dwellers of pre-2000 years. Even under PMAY, the central government has left it to the state government to decide on the cut-off-date, which means that only persons who fall under the cut-off-date will get benefit under this project. The rest will be left at the mercy of the state to be evicted anytime.
“The Delhi High Court had once noted that eviction without rehabilitation is a violation of ‘bundle of rights’.”
In case the post-2000 families desire affordable housing which would be built under PMAY, it will not be economically feasible for them to actually afford it, he said.
This is because the EMI and the monthly maintenance will consume a considerable amount of their family income, which is around Rs6,000 (Dh324) per month.
If these homeless families happen to be in Mumbai and choose to stay in a night shelter, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has nothing to offer them.
“The BMC recently responded to a Right To Information query stating that it has not constructed a single night shelter in the city as per the National Urban Livelihoods Mission. The Central government released a fund of Rs1.52 billion for the current fiscal year but it is lying unused and not a single rupee has been spent towards construction of nigh shelters.”
Moreover, according to the NAPM, the PMAY is lagging behind as per its phased plans as far as Maharashtra is concerned. Khan also goes on to say, “The houses built under various schemes are exploited for the benefits of real estate industries and corporates. This state government has gone one step ahead in exploiting officially as it has been allotting housing meant for Economically Weak Sections and Low Income Groups to its MPs and MLAs.”