Skip to main content

Policy makers must focus on right to shelter, bolster sustainable housing


By Moin Qazi*
The Gaekwad family lives in a single-room house on the outskirts of Mumbai. The family cooks, have meals and sleep in the same room—which is also used as a play area by their three-year-old child. Lack of credit has prevented the Gaekwads from getting loans to improve their living conditions. The Gaekwads are actually among the millions of Indians live on sidewalks and railway platforms, and in illegal slums and shanties.
There is little more critical to a family’s quality of life than a healthy, safe living space. However, this section of India’s poor lives in inhuman conditions and is often under the threat of displacement, harassment and arrest. Over the last decade, India has substantially expanded its net of welfare policies, aimed at lifting its millions from poverty. It seems that the time has come, now, for the ‘right to shelter’. Priority for housing ought to be higher than education and health. Sustainable and inclusive housing solutions, indeed, could bolster large economic growth quickly and efficiently.
There was a time when landlessness, which inevitably accompanies poverty and its attendant ills, affected a smaller part of the population. However, the number of landless people has been rising in the country. The ones without land join the ranks of the worst ones in extreme poverty and the tasks of poverty alleviation become even more difficult. Considering the links between landlessness and poverty or the need to score better successes against poverty, it is very important to put a hard brake on the process of becoming landless.
Landlessness and the lack of secure property rights among the poor are among those inequities that perpetuate poverty, hold back economic development and fan social tensions. Demographic shifts, combined with poor or non-existent land ownership policies and insufficient resources have resulted in a surge of slum creation and further deterioration of living conditions.
Hernando de Soto’s 2000 book “The Mystery of Capital” makes a very startling revelation. “The hour of capitalism’s greatest triumph,” declares the famed Peruvian economist, “is in the eyes of four-fifths of humanity, its hour of crisis.” De Soto explains that for many people in the developing world, the land on which they live is their only asset. If that property is not publicly recognised as belonging to them, they lose out—missing out on some of their highly deserved social benefits. Where land security is absent or weak—that is, when men and women do not receive recognised legal rights to their land and can thus be easily displaced without recourse—development efforts flounder, undermining conservation efforts, seeding injustice and conflict, and frustrating efforts to escape poverty.
A major impediment to the acquisition of a housing finance is the lack of official land titles . People do not have documentary proof of being owners of the piece of land on which they live.. Many low-income villagers have owned their land for generations. Community-recognised institutions can help legitimise claims to land that have been long tenured by a household.
The United Nations has estimated that more than 70% of the world’s population lives without any formal acknowledgement of ownership of land. That is both a human and economic problem. Without the security of ownership, the poor often invest little in their homes, the result being a fragile home that cannot withstand natural disasters including floods. Whereas, when people have secure land rights, they invest in improvement projects, work more hours without fear of land theft, and are more likely to take loans using their new property as security.
Lack of ownership right deprives peop0le of so many basic amenities. Once titled, they could obtain access to several government benefits. Even a small plot can lift a family out of extreme poverty. Land ownership is often the bedrock of other development interventions like owning land boosts nutrition, educational outcomes and gender equality. The converse is equally true.
According to the National Family Health Survey, only 19% of the rural population lives in pucca houses, whilst the remaining 81% live in kutcha or semi-pucca structures. 87% of homes in villages do not have access to toilet facilities. Nationally, the total economic impact of inadequate sanitation is estimated at US$53.4 billion. Kutcha (or “raw”) structures have walls and roofs made of materials such as unburnt bricks, bamboo, mud, grass, leaves, reeds, or thatches. Semi-pucca structures signify that either the walls or the roof are made of pucca materials. Pucca (meaning “solid”) structures are considered permanent and are made out of cement, concrete, oven-burnt bricks, stone blocks, tiles, and timber.
Several state governments in India have provided a degree of tenure security to poor households, which grants residents of unauthorised settlements specific period licences for their land or an official assurance that the user will not be forced to vacate the property. It also provides evidence so that usual and customary local practices support this assurance. All these rights entitle the occupant to “presumed ownership“.
The leading non-profit, Landesa, which is doing pioneering work in this field, can be involved in training local NGOs to aid in this task. Landesa partners with progressive governments to develop pro-poor and gender-sensitive laws, policies, and programmes that strengthen land rights for the poorest people. Their land rights experts work with government officials, local leaders, and rural residents, developing scalable, practical and innovative solutions to pressing problems like land rights issues.
Landesa has a three-pronged approach. First, it conducts research on land tenure’s effects. Greater data and information make it easier for working transitions to secure property rights. Following this, it provides legal consultation and support for government officials willing to make improvements in legally vulnerable communities. Finally, it educates communities on the various aspects of land rights, since legal systems often seem inaccessible to people who cannot read or cannot read well.
The government should implement an out-of-the-box approach to break down the thickets of red-tapism. What is actually needed right now is revolutionary and cutting-edge reforms that rip through the dense jungle of paperwork and documentation. Given the scale, the need for adequate and affordable housing presents significant business opportunities for the private sector, especially for developers, investors and financial institutions.
What is finally needed is close and passionate collaboration. Inspiration does not occur in a vacuum. It is a beautiful contagion that passes through individuals who touch each other’s lives. One inspiring achievement has a tendency to raise a sense of possibility in others. The one who is inspired performs his own feats and inspires others, and so on down. Even as we grapple with mounting challenges, healers are rising up to cure the ills. They are going to hollow places and creating communities and building relationships that change lives, one by one.

*Development expert

Comments

TRENDING

Only 15% businesses provide employees real-time sustainability dashboards: Study

Kyndryl in collaboration with Microsoft has released the findings of The Global Sustainability Barometer study. The study, conducted by Ecosystm, finds that while 85% of organizations place a high strategic level of importance on achieving their sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data. A Kyndryl note: *** Kyndryl (NYSE: KD), the world’s largest IT infrastructure services provider, in collaboration with Microsoft , today released the findings of The Global Sustainability Barometer study. The study, conducted by Ecosystm , finds that while 85% of organizations place a high strategic level of importance on achieving their sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data.

देशव्यापी ग्रामीण भारत बंध में उतरे मध्य प्रदेश के आदिवासी, किया केंद्र सरकार का विरोध

हरसिंग जमरे, भिखला सोलंकी, रतन अलावे द्वारा* 15 और 16 फरवरी को निमाड के बड़वानी, खरगोन और बुरहानपुर में जागृत आदिवासी दलित संगठन के नेतृत्व में आदिवासी महिला-पुरुषों ग्रामीण भारत बंद में रैली एवं विरोध प्रदर्शन किया । प्रधान मंत्री द्वारा 2014 में फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने का वादा किया गया था, 2016 में किसानों की आय दुगना करने का वादा किया गया था । आज, फसलों का दाम नहीं बढ़ रहा है, लेकिन खेती में खर्च बढ़ता जा रहा है! खाद, बीज और दवाइयों का दाम, तीन-चार गुना बढ़ चुका है! किसानों को लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने के बजाए, खेती को कंपनियों के हवाले करने के लिए 3 काले कृषि कानून लाए गए । 3 काले कानून वापस लेते समय प्रधान मंत्री ने फिर वादा किया था कि फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव की कानूनी गारंटी के लिए कानून बनाएँगे, लेकिन वो भी झूठ निकला! आज जब देश के किसान दिल्ली में आपको अपना वादा याद दिलाने आए है, तब आप उनका रास्ता रोक रहें है, उनके साथ मारपीट कर उन पर आँसू गैस फेंक रहें हैं, उन पर छर्रों से फायरिंग कर रहें है! देश को खिलाने वाला किसान खुद भूखा रहे, क्या यही विकास है?

How the slogan Jai Bhim gained momentum as movement of popularity and revolution

By Dr Kapilendra Das*  India is an incomprehensible plural country loaded with diversities of religions, castes, cultures, languages, dialects, tribes, societies, costumes, etc. The Indians have good manners/etiquette (decent social conduct, gesture, courtesy, politeness) that build healthy relationships and take them ahead to life. In many parts of India, in many situations, and on formal occasions, it is common for people of India to express and exchange respect, greetings, and salutation for which we people usually use words and phrases like- Namaskar, Namaste, Pranam, Ram Ram, Jai Ram ji, Jai Sriram, Good morning, shubha sakal, Radhe Radhe, Jai Bajarangabali, Jai Gopal, Jai Jai, Supravat, Good night, Shuvaratri, Jai Bhole, Salaam walekam, Walekam salaam, Radhaswami, Namo Buddhaya, Jai Bhim, Hello, and so on.

Tamil Nadu brahmins are at cross roads, their future scenario remains uncertain

By NS Venkataraman*  For over 70 years now, brahmin community in Tamil Nadu have been abused, insulted and even physically attacked on some occasions by those who claimed that they were part of the so called dravidian movement. However, brahmin community silently and helplessly ducked under pressure and showed no signs of resistance or fight back.

Laxmanpur Bathe massacre: Perfect example of proto-fascist Brahmanical social order

By Harsh Thakor  The massacre at Laxmanpur-Bathe of Jehanabad in Bihar on the night of 1 December in 1997 was a landmark event with distinguishing features .The genocide rightly shook the conscience of the nation in the 50th year of Indian independence. The scale of the carnage was unparalleled in any caste massacre. It was a perfect manifestation of how in essence the so called neo-liberal state was in essence most autocratic. 

How Mahakavi Sri Sri defined political and cultural metamorphosis of Telugu society

By Harsh Thakor  Srirangam Srinivasarao, popularly known as Sri Sri, or called Mahakavi (The Great Poet), held a reputation like no other Telugu poet. Today, on June 15th, we commemorate his 40th death anniversary. Sri Sri transcended heights in revolutionary creativity or exploration, unparalleled, in Telegu poetry, giving it a new dimension. His poems projected the theme or plight of the oppressed people at a scale, rarely penetrated by poets, giving revolutionary poetry it’s soul.

1982-83 Bombay textile strike played major role in shaping working class movement

By Harsh Thakor  On January 18th, 1982 the working class movement commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Textile Workers Strike that lasted for 18 months, till July 1983. It was landmark event that played a major role in shaping the working class movement. With more than 2.5 lakh workers from 65 textile mills joining in this strike for almost two years, this strike became one of the most significant strikes in terms of scale and duration All democrats should applaud the mill workers’ united battle, and their unflinching resilience an death defying courage continues to serve as a model for contemporary working-class movements. Many middle class persons harboured opinions that the Textile workers were pampered or were a labour aristocracy, ignorant of how they were denied wages to provide for basic necessities. The Great Bombay Textile Strike is notably one of the most defining movements in the working class struggles in Post-independent India. Bombay’s textile industry flourished in

India may be fastest growing economy, but it is one of the most unequal countries

By Vikas Parasram Meshram  The economic disparity gap continues to widen with economic disparity.  A large portion of the population is dispossessed, while the poor continue to get poorer. They struggle to earn a minimum wage and access quality education and health care, suffering disinvestment from persistently low incomes. These widening gaps and growing inequalities have the greatest impact on women and children.  The Oxfam International report is known to have expressed concern that, on the one hand, the wealth of some people in the world is increasing at a rocket speed.  And the number of rich people is constantly increasing. As a result, the income of the common man is increasing very little, while the wealth of the rich class has increased manifold.  Not only in India but in many other countries of the world, the gap of economic inequality is continuously widening. Oxfam International in its annual report on economic inequality at the World Economic Forum meeting last month, sai

Adapting to edge: Urban and coastal climate resilience - fostering collaborative alliances

By Enid Dsouza  Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) India hosted a workshop on ‘Adapting to the Edge: Urban and Coastal Climate Resilience’ as part of the Climate Action Workshop Series in New Delhi. The workshop brought together experts, practitioners, government bodies, CSR leaders to initiate dialogues on fostering nature-based solutions for a climate-resilient future.

Israel's merciless bombing of Rafah faced huge protests across the globe

By Harsh Thakor*  With the numbers of the murdered in Gaza surpassing 28,000 people, Israel mercilessly conducted bombing to prepare for a genocidal attack on the displaced people in Rafah. Peoples of the world keep rose up like a spark turning into a prairie fire.