Communication and participation challenges in precarious settlements restructuring projects : experiences in Delhi and other Indian cities

Abstract : Citizen participation is a question that has long been debated in academic circles (Arnstein 1969). Equally prevalent in the development discourse and in recommendations made by international institutions, has been the principle of participation as a guarantee of good governance (Christens & Speer 2006). The principle of community participation further conforms to the international human rights framework with regard to the right to adequate housing. In India, this principle has been emphasized, to varying degrees, in the policies and programmes surrounding slum clearance, launched since the 1990’s. It is notably the case of the national strategy of “Slum-free city planning”, Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) that was launched in 2009. This paper will first analyse the manner in which the involvement of the slum inhabitants is envisaged in the framework of national policies as well as in programmes put in place at the state level, specifically in Mumbai and in Delhi, since 1990. We will demonstrate in particular how the concept of participation is based upon a notion that these residents are organized into a “community” and are represented by NGOs and community-based organizations. Second, we will explore the manner in which these principles are, or are not implemented on the ground by examining some slum demolition operations as well as some rehabilitation or resettlement programmes, with or without housing. Participation is a process that may involve the population at different levels, as Arnstein (1969) aptly analysed by proposing a ladder of citizen participation. Our analysis will centre on the first levels of participation, namely informing and consulting the residents. Access to information, is in fact, the prerequisite for effective citizen participation. Concurring with Jordhus-Lier et al. (2015), our case studies in Delhi and Chennai indicated that several factors limit the circulation of information, and subsequently the involvement of project affected people. The main limiting factors proved to be: withholding of information by certain actors, late communication, and ambiguous roles played by intermediaries (local leaders and NGOs). Observations on the ground also put into evidence the challenges of a representative and equitable consultation of slum residents in the context of heterogeneous (non) communities affected by different interests. The participation of civil society organizations within “invited spaces” (Cornwall 2002, Miraftab 2004), according to the terms and conditions imposed by state authorities, opens up the debate (including among the NGOs) on the benefits to the slum residents of being engaged versus a strategy of confrontation and mobilization within “invented spaces” (Miraftab 2004) of claim making controlled by the base. Our analysis is based on field surveys and interviews conducted in Delhi from 2007 to 2015, and in Chennai from 2011 to 2013.
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Véronique Dupont. Communication and participation challenges in precarious settlements restructuring projects : experiences in Delhi and other Indian cities. Agnès Deboulet. Rethinking precarious neighbourhoods. Works, paths and interventions, ⟨Agence Française de Développement⟩, pp.179-193, 2016, Etudes de l'AFD. ⟨ird-01967684⟩

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