Thursday, November 12, 2009

Our Project: Slum Resident Voices in Indian Democracy

Through this project we will travel to the city of Mumbai during the winter break of the 2009-2010 school year, and study specific aspects of the lives of slum residents. We are interested in the voice that they have within the Indian democracy, the non-governmental organizations working on their behalf, and impact of government initiatives. While in Mumbai we will follow different NGOs for three weeks: SPARC, CRISIL, PUKAR, and PRAJA. Our final week will be dedicated to meeting with government agencies. During these four weeks we will gather our information through interviews with members of the stated groups, and their affiliates such as the slum residents themselves. We are in the process of surveying the current literature and beginning conversations with SPARC’s founder Sheela Patel, as well as creating contacts within CRISIL, PRAJA and the Mumbai Municipality. Our faculty mentor’s relationship with Cities Alliance will allow us to take part in an observational study tour of the slums of Mumbai being given by the Municipal government.

We are applying for the India China Institute Student Travel and Research Fellowship at The New School. Taking part in the fellowship to look at these issues surrounding the slums of Mumbai will further our academic careers. Vinisha Bahtia is currently writing 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) 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 month-long trip, to produce a independent study paper in their spring 2010 semester. In working on the fellowship together we will be able to incorporate two different points of view while looking at the same data and contexts. This will give the paper and study a more in depth analysis of rights, 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 project will be a wonderful opportunity for us to expand our knowledge in the areas of rights, democracy, and urban development through first resources. This experience and the paper that we will produce in the spring semester will allow us to approach our summer IFPs with more in depth understanding of the issues. With an opportunity such as the one that we are proposing here, we are excited to expand our understanding, change our outlook, and create an even more enriching academic career at the New School.

Below are sample questions that we hope to use as a basis for our data collection. Questions will vary by interviewee and will change or be adapted based on further research and local situation.

Questions for SLUM RESIDENTS

- How long have you been living here?

- Did you build your home, or are you renting?

- Where did you move from? What necessitated your move here?

-Do you work? If yes, how far do you travel to work?

- Are you happy here? Are there changes that would make you happier?

- Are the NGOs that are working here advancing these changes that you wish to see?

- Do you feel like you have a role in influencing or making policy?

- What have you seen of government involvement here? Is it responding to your wishes?

- Do you vote?

Questions for NGOs

- What is the image of your optimal city?

- What is your role in urban planning and development?

- How has your work changed over time? In particular, with the move from a centralized to a decentralized government.

- Who are the stakeholders in your organization?

- How do you measure your success? What goals have been achieved and what are still in progress?

- How are successes replicated or adapted?


- What is the image of your optimal city?

- What is the role of the citizen and the role of the NGO in urban planning and development?

-Who are your stakeholders?

- How is your success measured? What goals have been achieved and what are still in progress?

- How are successes replicated or adapted?

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