Thursday, 18 April 2013

A law that is a double edged sword - Sheela Patel

The real challenge of informality in cities and their label of “encroachments” is very troubling. In a well managed and inclusive city context where everyone has the opportunity to find a place to stay, having a tough law that stops encroachment is something that makes sense. In Mumbai however we have a dual crisis. Firstly if we believe that the BELL CURVE principle is correct, it means that majority of the population falls in the middle and extreme deviance with too much land or no land is less, then it demonstrates that the law and the governance is working well. However when a city has over 50% illegal structures , then something is wrong with the laws and the planning systems.

Secondly, when land is framed to be exclusive and out of reach of most people, then not only the poor live in a constant fear of being evicted, they also find that the absence of overarching legal framework to protect them.  Thus, informal “protection” which is extortionist and almost feudal adds its burdens to the insecurity they face.

It is within this context that we have to view such a news item. While on the face of it the BMC seems to get freedom to manage the city, the real deep question is how many of these evictions are taken up for what reason. Often when slum dwellers show “disrespect” or do not follow the dictate of a local leader, it is followed by eviction orders.

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