India: Urban Renewal and the Illegalisation of Poor

Urban Renewal and the Illegalisation of Poor

Being re-imagined and re-designed with ambitions of becoming “world-class”, Indian cities are in the throes of change. There is no longer any space in it for the poor, the working class and their squalid settlements. Demolitions have always been tools to clear the lands and disperse the poor. However, the policy of resettlement which, no mater how imperfectly or incompletely implemented, tempered the violence of demolitions for the past few decades is also being done away with now. With “urban renewal”, as demolitions have gradually acquired the façade of legitimacy, the urban poor acquired ‘illegality’ being termed as “encroachers” on “public land”. The fundamental rights of life, livelihood, housing and shelter guaranteed constitutionally are now been reinvented and replaced by a legality that sees the urban poor as encroachers and a threat to civic existence. The language of the administration, judiciary and the political elite has changed.

Voices of the urban poor, who form majority of the urban population and are most affected by this”urban renewal” are ignored at best and brutally suppressed at worst. While the increasingly poor conditions of civic amenities in urban areas, ineffective local governments, corruption and so on remain problems that the government must deal with, the question that begs to be asked is how and for whom they are when achieved bypassing democracy and denying the majority their Fundamental and human rights? Who stands to profit?

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