Anti-poor and anti-national ‘Housing Rights Event’ in WSF 2004 at Mumbai

Statement released about 'Human Rights Event' at WSF 2004

(4-day event by Human Rights Law Network, Hazard Centre, Nivara Hakk Suraksha Samiti and National Forum For Housing Rights with confirmed participation of UN, HIC and COHRE and possible participation of Mr V P Singh, Ms Shabana Azmi and a Brazilian Slum Dwellers Band)

As professionals committed to planned development, which in India is premised on distributive justice, we wish to counter propaganda proposed in the above ‘event’ (as per its details circulated via e-mail).

We do not wish to comment on the organizers’ stated motives for participating in WSF, viz, to ‘utilize’ it for networking, catapulting, etc. Ourobjection, besides to their ideas about burning judgements, etc, is to their five ‘Goals’, to be converted at end-of-event to ‘5-point agenda or Action Plan for housing rights in India’. These assume ‘lack of pro-poor urban planning’ in India about which they will have ‘meaningful debate’ (#1). They will create ‘consensus’ against forced evictions (#3), ensure ‘national policy’ for resettlement and rehabilitation (#4), promote a ‘consortium or alliance’ to make housing a Constitutional right(#5). On Master Plan provisions/processes they will have ‘critical discussion’ (#2).

1. In India City Plans ARE pro-poor. Their statutory provisions amount to citizens’ settled entitlements, not open to ‘meaningful debate’ on howthese might be endowed by rights activists.
2. In India forced evictions are illegal in terms of city Plans and stopping them is not awaiting activist ‘consensus’, but consensus against disregard of law, notably by those insisting it does not exist.
3. India’s (draft) national slum policy – prepared in 1997-99 in consultation with NGOs – already has comprehensive provisions for R&R and no more ‘national policy’ is needed on this count.
4. A housing rights ‘consortium’ floated in India 20 years ago only shifted focus from housing rights to human rights in evictions. One promoter, become UN Rapporteur, is participating in this event.
5. In India Master Plan provisions/processes guarantee housing rights. Popular ‘critical discussion’ is needed only on their subversion for eitherexcessive up-market development or ‘policies’ / ‘projects’ to downsize entitlements of the poor (usually with foreign aid and/or NGO participation).
6. We CONDEMN burning of Court judgements to undermine confidence in law and justice rather than, say, celebrating on global platforms fair judgementsby our Courts to promote rights.
7. We CONDEMN abuse of popular activism (poster / slogan contests, slum dwellers band, etc), for celebrating here anti-imperialism global solidarity, against our sovereign law / institutions.

Indeed, we CONDEMN in totality a ‘housing rights event’ that, instead of highlighting pro-poor planning law in India, denies / disparages it to suggest state failure on a global platform. Beyond expressing hope that this outrageously anti-poor and anti-national ‘event’ is an aberration, we do not wish to take issue on the ‘event’ per se. But we do take issue onits imperialist ‘endowment paradigm’ position – same as of, say, global visions, world-class infrastructure, etc, being gifted to us with no basis in our law. A more anti-poor position is hardly possible at this point in history, with forces of liberalisation, privatisation and decentralized planning yet to be harnessed within and seeking abandonment of statutory frameworks for distributive justice, such as city Plans.

WE CHALLENGE THE ORGANIZERS OF THIS AND SUCH ‘EVENTS’ TO DEFEND THEIR ‘PRO-POOR’ ACTIVISM IN A PUBLIC DEBATE ON CITY PLANS, AT THE EARLIEST AFTER WSF 2004. We claim their activities are incapable of being pro-poor and their propaganda against Plans is fomenting civic unrest by eroding public confidence in democratic systems, delaying Plan entitlements of the poor to benefit market forces at cost of making urban problems intractable, diverting / eroding capabilities of urban institutions and professions, and promoting an inherently imperialist paradigm by fabricating illusion of it having popular support. And:
(a) We propose the Public Debate be held in the Capital under aegis of any of our democratic institutions or global anti-imperialist platforms. For its ‘origin’ in WSF, we give WSF first call.
(b) We request our democratic institutions to support this Public Debate aswell as to take position on its outcome and we are writing to them in thisregard.
(c) We request organizers of anti-imperialism platforms in Mumbai to conveywithin them this demand. We regret for now we can only offer to them printcopies of it in English.
(d) We invite all supporting the entitlements’ perspective to join us in prior discussions. Please mail to [email protected] with details (proof) of commitment to this position.

Gita Dewan Verma, Planner, Delhi
Poonam Prakash, Planning Educator,Delhi
Shabnam Patel, Architect / Educator,Vizag
Uma Adusumilli, Planner, Navi Mumbai (Ph: 022 55918406 (O))

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