Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Abstract 2014 Andrea Hagn

Andrea Hagn, Department Architecture, ETH Zurich


Of “old bastis” and “new slums”: Persistent and emerging inequalities in the socio-spatial fabric of the temple town Puri in the context of government programmes for slum improvement

With this paper I would like to contribute to rethinking inequalities in South Asia, with a particular focus on the ‘intersections’ of various markers of difference and inequality in India. In the context of two ‘flagship’ urban development programmes, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY), my research explores what makes urban poor communities successful in accessing these schemes to improve their houses and neighbourhoods. Acknowledging that the concept of urban poor communities in itself deserves reflection, the research in Puri is guided by the question who in Puri has had or will have access to these schemes, first?
The emerging socio-spatial fabric of the temple town contains old bastis, homogeneous neighbourhoods with a particular caste identity and occupation linked to the Jagannath temple. While old bastis are ‘traditionally’ socio-economically marginalised communities, they often own land. Land ownership, however, is one of two markers that distinguish these
communities from new slums; they are, secondly, local communities. In a racist urban sociality that speaks of the beach facing an old village of fishermen from Andhra Pradesh as “the African beach” (in fact, it is the biggest new slum in Puri), being from Puri and “always linked with Jagannath” makes a difference when it comes to accessing BSUP. Yet, despite their privileged access to BSUP, old bastis suffer from persistent inequalities when it comes to dealing with bureaucracy and politicians in order to cope with the failure of BSUP. It remains to be seen whether their experience with bureaucracy and politicians as well as other key stakeholders is different from the experience of communities in new slums, the heterogeneous “mixed communities” of migrants from Orissa and beyond. As encroachers and illegals, these are now, for the first time, surveyed and mapped under RAY, the “Slum- Free India Mission”. While again the question is who is on the “list of RAY slums”, it is even more important to see who will be in the first phase of RAY.
With “new slums” representing a major vote bank to local politicians, I argue that RAY represents a turning point in the transformation of the socio-spatial and political fabric of Puri.

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