FSI for high-rises, but slums, hawkers left out

If the draft development plan (DP) is to be believed, the city neither has enough slums nor enough hawkers for them to be recognised and planned for. The DP, the city’s blueprint, has left out the city’s slums as well as street vendors from its 20-year-long vision for the city.
Updated on Feb 22, 2015 01:16 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByKunal Purohit, Mumbai

If the draft development plan (DP) is to be believed, the city neither has enough slums nor enough hawkers for them to be recognised and planned for. The DP, the city’s blueprint, has left out the city’s slums as well as street vendors from its 20-year-long vision for the city.

Instead of outlining the way forward to ensure better living and working conditions for the city’s urban poor, it has said local plans must be prepared to help specific localities. This effectively means the plan will leave out nearly half the city’s population.

The DP has neither mapped the city’s slums, its infrastructural inadequacies, nor outlined a clear vision for them. It also remains silent on the large sections of the city’s population that are engaged in informal sectors, such as hawkers, rag-pickers and construction workers.
By doing this, the DP has repeated the mistakes of the previous DP, which came into effect in 1991. The failure to find a holistic approach caused a steady exacerbation of the problems of unaffordable housing and street vendors in the past two decades. History, then, may repeat itself because of the DP’s lopsided approach to planning.

“A plan that does not include the city’s socio-economic base is not a development plan at all. Instead, the BMC should just call it a land-use plan since it is largely dealing only with land and FSI issues,” said Dr Amita Bhide, chairperson of the school of habitat studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

The 2011 Census figures said the city’s slums contained 42% of its population, which comes to nearly 52 lakh people. Rather than working at improving the living conditions, the DP says local area plans for specific slums should be made later. Such neglect is criminal, planners say.

“Slums are not just residential units but have thriving economies. Thousands are employed there with vivid requirements of their own,” said executive director Pankaj Joshi. According to Joshi, the plan could have mapped their needs and provided infrastructure for these employment centres to prosper.

Similar is the neglect of the city’s street vendors. Surveys have shown there are at least 1lakh street vendors in the city. With five members in each household on an average, this would mean nearly 5 lakh people depend on hawking as a profession.

But the plan, apart from wanting to construct street arcades, ignores the profession. “The BMC had a separate consultation workshop with stakeholders from the informal employment sector, but included nothing in the plan. They have clearly postponed any sort of intervention and as a result, neglected it,” said Aravind Unni, architect and planner from YUVA.

Planners say that such a failure might mean the city, while dreaming of becoming an international centre, will continue to have a majority of its people in sub-standard living conditions, leading an ‘illegal’ existence.

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