Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Our letter of intent for our trip to India, to Sheela Patel at SPARC

Dear Ms. Patel,

We are current students at the Graduate Program for International Affairs at The New School. We are working with Michael Cohen on an independent research project, which will take us to Mumbai during the month of January (specifically from January 3 – 24, 2010).

Our interests are in exploring the voice that slum residents have within the Indian democracy, the organizations working on their behalf, and the impact of government initiatives. While in Mumbai we hope meet with different organizations: SPARC, PUKAR, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and the National Alliance of People’s Movements. During our final week we hope to attend the annual Cities Alliance meeting at which government representative will be present. During these three weeks we will gather information through interviews with members of the stated groups, and their stakeholders such as importantly the slum residents themselves.

We are in the process of surveying the current literature and are in constant conversation with Dr. Cohen and the India China Institute and other faculty currently researching related issues. Vinisha Bhatia just finished a paper focusing on the roles of slum dwellers, policy makers, and NGOs in sustainably addressing the issue of slums and urban migration. Her paper explores: securing tenure; addressing migration at its root by forming secondary cities; as well as looking at various urban redevelopment policies. She is arguing for using all three means as a way to effectively address slum proliferation. In the summer of 2010, Vinisha looks forward to participating in the Uganda International Field Program (IFP) of The New School in which she will take part in an internship with Cities Alliance. Cecilia Golombek is interested in pursuing questions of what makes a sustainable, inclusive and successful democracy. She looks forward to using this experience to learn about the slums of Mumbai and the Indian democracy first hand. In the summer of 2010 she hopes to elaborate on the questions of citizenship and participatory governments on the Nepal IFP.

Both Vinisha and Cecilia will take the data and information that they collect during this three-week trip in India to produce independent study papers in their spring 2010 semester. In conducting the research and interviews together we will be able to incorporate two different points of view while looking at the same data and contexts. This will give our papers and study a more in depth analysis of rights, the Indian democracy, and the current state of urban development in India. We hope to also create a lasting connection between SPARC and The New School in which our fellow and future students will be able to engage in further discussion on the issues surrounding the slums of Mumbai and urban development.

This study and trip will be a wonderful opportunity for us to expand our knowledge in the areas of rights, democracy, and urban development through primary resources. This experience and the papers that we will produce in the spring will allow us to approach the rest of our academic careers with more in depth understanding of the issues. With an opportunity such as this, we are excited to expand our understanding, change our outlooks, and create more enriching academic and professional careers.

Thank you very much and we look forward to meeting you in India!

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