Community Building in Talpura, Jhansi
The narrow street averting from the main road is lined with brick houses on both sides. The stone slab covered drains and the painted pucca houses at the entry gives an impression of a residential pocket better than what is envisaged as a slum. But as we move forward, the reality starts to sink in. The katcha houses with temporary plastic sheets for shelter start proliferating haphazardly on both sides of the narrow lane. At some places, the living areas have been extended into the street, and what is left is used by children to play, women to sit and socialize, and occasional stray cattle to loiter. The street appears to be a mayhem of activities and people.
That is the first impression of Talpura, a squatter settlement in Ward no. 12 of Jhansi city in Uttar Pradesh. Each settlement has distinct characteristics in terms of the people, the urban fabric and density of population. While some notified slum pockets have dense habitation, others have a rural character having been converted from a gram panchayat to an urban slum because of the expansion of the municipal boundary of the city.
PRIA started working in Talpura in July 2016, and has been conducting surveys, structuring the community by regularly organizing meetings, and has been successful in creating a Settlement Improvement Committee (SIC) with members from the community. PRIA, through their various participatory processes, has been able to build trust and a sense of familiarity in the community.
The meeting this morning centred on various issues, concerns and unfulfilled expectations of the community, of which sanitation was a major concern. The need and the procedure for the building of toilets were duly explained by the team to the community. Some assistance was also provided to the people regarding filling up and submission of forms to respective controlling authorities for construction of private toilets. The slum dwellers were particularly cheerful about the opening of a newly constructed community toilet. Women's participation and representation was very visible, with the women coming forward to voice their opinions. An effort was also made to clarify their queries about the procedure for procuring ration cards, the stipulated funds allocated for the construction of private toilets, and various other issues.
The community showed great zeal and interest in the discussion which can be attributed to the recent Independence Day celebrations, attended by the ward councilor. This was a first of its kind initiative for the community. The celebrations not only brought the people together but also gave them the opportunity to interact with the ward councilor and bring their issues to his notice. On the occasion, the community pledged to keep their surroundings and abutting streets clean, and have now placed dustbins in front of their houses.
Marginalized communities are slowly becoming aware, self-dependent and empowered. Local governance has become accountatble, by bridging the gap between the community and the ward councilor.
Project: Engaged Citizens, Responsive Cities, supported by EU India (2016-1019), which aims to stengthen civil society of the urban poor to participate in planning and monitoring of sanitation services in Indian cities