Governance and Social Justice in the Indian City - IIA NATCON 2016 Presentations

Events Diary Dated:  Dec. 19, 2016
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Indian Institute of Architects - Karnataka Chapter

Below is a brief on the speakers, moderator and the thoughts put forward by them in Session 3 titled 'Governance and Social Justice in the Indian City' at the recently concluded IIA Natcon 2016 at Bengaluru.

Focal Points:

  • Are the current structures of urban governance adequate? If they are not, what kind of reform do we need?
  • How can citizens participate in the governance of the city?
  • Is our current imagination of the city too elitist? How can we make our cities more inclusive?
  • How do we approach the challenge of urban housing in India?
  • Should housing be a fundamental right?
  • What role can the private sector play in urban administration?

About the Speakers:

Pankaj Joshi, Executive Director at the Urban Design Research Institute, studied architecture in Mumbai and then obtained a Master in Urban Conservation from UK in 1998. In private practice as a conservation architect since 1999, his works include a wide range from planning, urban design, conservation and architecture in Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat. He has served on the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee of the State Government and was on the Board of Governors of the Heritage Conservation Society of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). He is a visiting professor at schools of architecture and the joint convener of the Mumbai Study Group, an interdisciplinary forum, at the Academy of Architecture, Mumbai and a member trustee of SAVE forum, an environment action group in North Mumbai. Among other books edited by him, he has been instrumental in initiating the Mumbai Reader (2006-ongoing) which is an annual feature compilation to provide a glimpse of the complex dynamic of the city at Mumbai. He has also, in the last eight years, initiated a city-wide planning advocacy campaign with more than 250 organisations to participate in the Development Plan preparation in Mumbai.

Kirtee Shah has had a 45 year long professional career in six parallel and overlapping streams that include architecture practice,grass roots work as an NGO, policy advocacy and development-disaster reconstruction, institution development. and project consultancy. The search for 'content and social relevance' in professional work:, the desire to serve the 'alternative client' and an attitude to de-learn and re-learn in face of new challenges have shaped his work. Besides studies, field projects, organization development and policy related wonk in rural, urban and tribal housing for the low income and other disadvantaged groups, he has worked extensively on large scale post disaster reconstruction projects in India and abroad.

He is Chairman and Chief Architect of KSA Design Planning Services Pvt Ltd an Ahmedabad based firm of practicing architects, with projects in various parts at the country and outside. He is founder/co-founder of several people centred urban design and housing rights oriented organisations including the Ahmedabad Study Action Group(ASAG), the India Habitat Forum (INHAF), the Home Losers' Service Association of Ahmedabad (HOLSAA: set up following the earthquake in Gujarat in 2001) and the Ashoka Innovator for the Public, He has been president / chairman at various civic groups in the habitat and human rights space such as the Habitat Intentional Coalition, the Bangalore based Institute tor Cultural Research and Action (ICRA).

He has been on several committees set up by the Planning Commission of India (on housing, urban development and urban poverty matters), was on the Board of Directors of Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO ) and has consulted with UN agencies, the World Bank, Cities Development Initiatives for Asia (CDIA), etc,

Sheela Patel is the founder Director of Society for Promotion at Area Resource Centres (SPARC), an NGO based in Mumbai that has worked over three decades through an alliance of the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) and Mahila Milan: two community based organisations to create voice and identity to the urban informal residents of cities with a focus to ensuring the presence of women in these voices. Together they work in 9 states and 70+ cities in India.

This Indian alliance is also the founder of Slum/Shack dwellers International (SDI) since 1996, proposing a global network of national federation of slum dwellers in Asia, Africa and Latin America operating in 33+ countries and over 500 cities.

Himanshu Burte who moderated the session, has practiced architecture, and written extensively on the poetics and politics of the built environment since 1990, His book Space for Engagement:
The Indian Art Place and a Habitational Approach to Architecture (Seagull Books, Kolkata, 2008, proposes an alternative conceptual framework for architecture centred on the act at dwelling. A former Fulbright Fellow, he teaches at School of Habitat Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TlSS), Mumbai Research interests include modernism, public space, urban infrastructure, housing policy, theatre architecture and sustainable urbanism. He is pursuing a PhD in urban planning from CEPT University, Ahmedabad and is a member of the Editorial Advisory Panel of Marg Publications.

Speakers' Thoughts:

Pankaj Joshi, Architect and Director, UDRI Mumbai, focused on 'Imagining Planning far All: The Case far an Open and Equitable City' in his presentation. Pankaj feel that the planning process in Indian cities appears to straddle several internal contradictions in the spheres of services and utility delivery, environmental aspirations, transport and infrastructure, housing, health and education provisions. This has been the case for over six decades in Mumbai probably in many other Indian cities, yet our unitary Development plans and Regional plans are still hashing out the same propositions which have been tried and failed several times.

The questions therefore requiring substantial introspection are:

  1. Are we serious about role of people and people's representatives in the city planning process, which in its true sense addresses the provisions of the 74th Constitutional Amendment?
  2. If every person has a right to vote does she have a right 10 plan?
  3. Is planning culturally neutral?
  4. How do we imagine informal city and stop treating it through the lens of formal?
  5. How do we really see planning mechanisms for governance and social justice which can make us imagine a city and its myriad process to deliver a city plans that are truly "sarvajanik" or "open and equitable for all?"

Kirtee Shah's presentation focused on 'The Indian Urban Challenge: Much Needs To Change'.

Kirtee think that India faces grave urban governance challenge reflects glaringly in the stories of three national capitals. The country's financial capital, Mumbai, has half of its population in slums, over 8 million. Delhi, the political capital, has its air so polluted that it now ranks as the world's most polluted city, while the Delhi High Court described it as the 'Gas Chamber'. And in Varanasi, the religious and spiritual capital of India, has the country's most revered Ganges so polluted that it requires a special ministry and a high cost cleaning mission. The message is more than symbolic: that if we have failed to manage these capitals properly, what is the chance that we are doing better-or will do better- elsewhere, where resource are scarce, public attention is less glaring and institutions in charge of governance and management are even weaker? And what kind of social justice do we expect where more than half the population goes without safe drinking water and adequate housing?

'Can Informality Be Accommodated Within The Present Governance Structure?' - was the focus of Sheela Patel's presentation.

Her talk dwelled on what should be the basis in urban India to detect whether the governance structure is ok? What should be the basis on which we should we explore if the laws work for everyone? What do we do if the laws don't work for over 30-60% of the population? What do we do when there is a steep imbalance in wealth creation which is owned by less that 5% of the population? If the governance does not work, can we even begin to speak of social justice?

Source: IIA, Karnataka Chapter. Reproduced as Digital Partner, NATCON.

Find the other presentations here:

Session 1, Session 2, Session 4, Session 5, Session 6

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