[mpisgmedia] Award for housing rights activist

>From The Hindu today. Grateful for any more info on the award, awardee, his work and the activities of COHRE


Award for housing rights activist

By Our Special Correspondent

MUMBAI, NOV. 24. Rajeev John George, a 34-year-old housing rights activist from Indore has been named as recipient of the 2004 Housing Rights Defender Award.

The Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) presents the award annually to an individual who has shown "outstanding commitment" to the realisation of housing rights for all people. "The award recognises Rajeev's outstanding contribution to the struggle for the right to adequate housing in India. He has worked tirelessly for over 12 years mobilising communities against forced evictions and empowering urban poor leaders to advocate for the housing rights of their communities, including adequate land for housing development and security of tenure," said Scott Leckie, COHRE's executive director.

"One of Rajeev's most significant contributions towards the realisation of housing rights in India has been his highly innovative strategies in developing pro-poor interventions in the City Master Plans of Indore and Hyderabad," said Mr. Leckie. Most cities in India have a City Master Plan, which makes provision for the resettlement and housing needs of the urban poor in accordance with statutory requirements. Deenbandhu, the non-government organisation founded by Mr. George, surveys land in Indore and prepares detailed maps of all urban poor settlements. The survey results are transferred into the digital format known as GIS (Geographical Information System), which uses satellite images to cross-check and extend land-based mapping techniques. The mapping techniques used by Deenbandhu have helped identify locations designated for the relocation of slum-dwellers but illegally occupied by influential groups, in violation of the City Master Plan.

Mr. George has been commended for his work which has played "a catalytic role in bringing to light the unjust practices of powerful elites, who continue to deny the housing rights of hundreds of thousands of urban poor in India by illegally occupying lands in major cities that have been set aside for the resettlement of slum dwellers." He has been working with homeless people and slum- dwellers since the age of 22, when he undertook a field assignment at Gotu Ki Challa, one of the slums targeted in the Indore Habitat Improvement Project (IHIP). During this assignment, he decided to live with the slum-dwellers. Rajeev's time at Gotu Ki Challa equipped him to understand the problems of slum-dwellers from an insider's perspective.

Mr. George is well known for his role in the establishment of the National Forum for Housing Rights in 2002, and is currently the forum's convener. The NFHR is a national network of independent organisations in India focusing on housing rights issues.

Mr. George lives among the urban poor in the slums of Indore with his wife Belu, a social worker, and is currently undertaking a doctoral degree.

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