How a people’s movement in Nagpur worked tirelessly towards tenure security of slums

Highlights from the struggle showcased in the Atlas of Utopias 2019

Atlas of Utopias 2019 featuring YUVA-SVM’s story of change

A people’s movement facilitated by Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA) and a people’s organisation Shehar Vikas Manch (City Development Forum), in the city of Nagpur, has been recently selected to feature in Atlas of Utopias, an initiative by Transformative Cities. The Atlas is a collection of inspiring change narratives led by communities, showcasing interventions towards access to water, energy, food and housing systems, featuring 33 stories from 24 countries.

We are excited to be featured in the Atlas, as an example of how cities and collectives are fighting for their rights and leading change. This blog attempts to take readers through the journey of the people’s movement towards tenure security in Nagpur as it unfolded.

YUVA and SVM have actively supported communities in Nagpur in their fight for access to basic rights, entitlements and land tenure security. This ongoing movement, which has already spanned 15+ years, has seen many challenges and significant milestones along the way. While people’s efforts eventually resulted in the granting of individual land titles for residents in slums of Nagpur city, implementation remains slow. However, there is no denying the impact of the movement towards ensuring tenure security of informal settlements. It is worth emphasising, also, that this engagement required a long-term strategic and tactical approach to change — with people’s ownership to sustain the movement and drive change at the centre.

In the 1980s marginalised populations living in slums in Nagpur were denied access to basic services (water, electricity supply, healthcare facilities, quality roads, etc), and lacked tenure security. In the absence of adequate habitats, generations experienced deprivations constituting gross human rights violations. To address challenges faced by the people, the North Nagpur Vikas Aghadi (North Nagpur Development Forum), a people’s organisation, was established in 1984 by Anil Wasnik, a journalist and social activist. It was successful in pressurising the municipal administration to extend basic services to economic weaker section (EWS) plot holders on land belonging to the Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT).

In 1997, YUVA launched the Nivara Haq Abhiyan (campaign for the Right to Housing) in Nagpur and began facilitating the set up of community based organisations (CBOs) in Nagpur’s slums. These efforts were coalesced in 2004 when SVM was formed as a collective of CBOs to spearhead people’s struggles towards land tenure security or malki patta (land titles) as it is locally referred to. Over the years, YUVA and SVM have worked together on multiple campaigns and advocacy efforts to facilitate the provision of tenure security through land titles.

With collective strength, numerous rallies and representations were made to the Nagpur Legislative Assembly. Given the pressure of these sustained and focused interventions, the Government of Maharashtra issued a series of Government Resolutions granting land titles for slums in Nagpur and other cities of Maharashtra.

The first Government Resolution (GR) passed by the Housing Development Department of Maharashtra related to land tenure for slums in Nagpur in 2002. As per this GR, households were eligible to receive land titles if their names appeared on the voter’s list on or before 01/01/1995 and if the residents possessed a government-issued photo pass (a document issued to all slum households), given that they form a co-operative society and the tenure rights are held by the society. This GR was not implemented but people’s pressure towards implementation continued. The continuous movement led to two more GRs in 2016. The GR of 16 July 2016 extended the eligibility to all households within the cut of date of 01/01/2000 and pushed provision of land titles so as to access benefits of housing up gradation under the Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana (Urban). The GR of 24 August 2016 was applicable only for slums on Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) land, which were offered tenure rights for 30 years on a joint-ownership basis (with the husband and wife as co-owners), with the first 500 sq. ft. provided free for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes/Other Backward Classes (SCs/STs/OBCs) in Nagpur. Another positive initiative followed soon after — the 3 January 2017 GR, which extended land tenure to all slums on government land in Nagpur and across other cities of Maharashtra except Mumbai, Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad and Thane.

These GRs, when implemented effectively, can impact 3,088,481 people living in slums across the state of Maharashtra.

With the movement’s organic growth and membership, it has adapted advocacy strategies to respond to changing political climates, keeping the people’s demands at the centre of all interventions. Media engagement has focused on how public support can be built on the question of adequate housing, with data-driven commentary on people’s housing and land rights.

To ensure public support and commitment, the goals of the movement have been clearly communicated from the start and the power of participatory, democratic and inclusive action has been stressed. Public meetings, discussions and information sharing sessions have been organised at crucial times, and people’s ideas and opinions have been given space, to drive the movement forward with collective efforts.

While the people’s movement has achieved significant results so far, the dream of tenure security for every slum resident is still to be realised. Slow implementation remains a major road block to the same. However, the people’s movement in the city remains strong and there is optimism that sustained efforts will yield further results. The dream of tenure secure settlements means living free from the threat of forced evictions, the ability to access loans for housing up gradation, a better quality of life and a more equal urban future.

Read YUVA-SVM’s story featured in Transformative Cities’ Atlas of Utopias here: https://transformativecities.org/atlas-of-utopias/atlas-57/

YUVA works towards #InclusiveCities with capacity building and empowerment of the marginalised.

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