June 22, 2008:The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM) is a subterfuge to foist the agenda
of market-driven urban reforms on to all State Governments without any democratic debate or public discussion. This was the conclusion arrived at after two days of deliberations at a National Seminar on Challenges to JnNURM, held in Delhi on June 21-22, 2008, at the Indian Social Institute. Representatives of activist groups and civil society organisations from17 cities covered under the Mission were unanimous that these reforms would prove disastrous for the cities and their working populations. These cities include Bangalore , Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow , Allahabad , Agra , Guwahati, Patna , Kolkata, Dehradun, Mumbai, Nasik , Vishakapatnam, Varanasi , Faridabad , and Delhi . This was the third seminar organised by Hazards Centre on this Mission .
Almost all the delegates coming from these cities have been involved in mobilizing the urban poor for their entitlements and analyzing the JnNURM and its consequent CDPs (City Development Plans) and the impact on the city. Hence, they were not only equipped with information on the Mission but were also familiar with the conditions of the people at the grass-roots and an understanding of their requirements from the city. Two years after the commissioning of the Mission , the consensus was that the JnNURM has done nothing but transferred the onus of providing services and infrastructural facilities from the public sector to the private sector. This has not even brought in any significant market investment leave alone providing efficient and accountable services.
In all the cities, the City Development Plans have been prepared by a set of empanelled Consultants without any working experience of urban planning, in the absence of any sound primary baseline data, and without widespread consultations with the urban population. A preliminary analysis of 15 CDPs published by Hazards Centre, the organizers of the Seminar, opened the debate on the conditionalities underlying the process of the preparation of the CDPs. Sanjay Vijayvergiya from the Centre for Policy Advocacy, Lucknow showed how the Mission documents stated that if a City is unable to implement the mandatory reforms within a fixed period then its next installment would be stopped. Thus the Government of India was treating the State Governments in the same manner as the international funding agencies like ADB were behaving with India . According to him, there are five mega projects similar to Mission and all the documents indicate the same transition from the public to the private sector. Hence, the wider context is that of the struggle against the concerted efforts of the Central Government to sell our country to the international merchants and corporations.
Dunu Roy of the Hazards Centre, Delhi , explained the structure of JnNURM and which agencies have been given the tasks to frame, appraise, and implement the Mission . He showed how the same class of people are present in the National Steering Group, the Technical Advisory Group, and also in the Monitoring Committee and Reforms Appraisal Committee. He also pointed out that, at the level of implementation, the major share of the funds from the Mission is going towards road widening, water, and sanitation programmes, and that too in the cities of the four States of Maharashtra, Gujarat , Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh.
Kalayni Menon Sen of Delhi gave a presentation on the Mission Toolkit to supplement the point that the manner in which they are prepared implicitly favours a non-democratic and elite vision of the city. Ranjan Kumar of Nidan, Patna illustrated how even the city corporators did not know of the CDP and the implication for the urban local body as well as the city. Dr J. Adsule from Committee for Right to Housing, Mumbai spoke on the previous deliberations on JnNURM and how people have begun coming together on one platform. Kshitij Urs from Action Aid, Bangalore emphasized that the Mission was facilitating the shift of democratic institutions of governance to centralised rule that favoured the rich and powerful.
After a rich discussion on different aspects of the Mission and how it was unfolding in the real context of their cities, the delegates arrived at the following decisions:
- A slogan was coined to bring together people from different cities on the issue of the "Working Class City" or "Mehnatkasho ka shaher".
- A Citizen’s review of the Mission will be conducted to challenge the scheduled mid-term review by the Ministry and the ADB and their consultants.
- For this purpose, a Citizen’s Toolkit will be formulated and distributed among all those citizen’s groups willing to conduct such a review in their city.
- On November 14, all the city reviews will be combined into a Citizen’s Report and a nation-wide protest launched against the JnNURM.
- Information on the Mission and the Citizen’s review will be widely disseminated at local, State, and National levels.
- A process would be initiated to prepare an alternative working class perspective document for the planning of the city.
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