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 as a 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 of it is used by children to play, women to sit and socialize, and occasional stray cattle to loiter around. The street is like mayhem of activities and people.
That is the first impression of a slum as soon as one enters these settlements. The squatter settlements of Jhansi city in Uttar Pradesh have distinct characters in terms of the people, in terms of the urban fabric and the densities. While some of the notified slum pockets have dense habitation, the others have a rural character being converted from a gram panchayat to an urban slum because of the expansion of the municipal boundary of the city. Among these 75 slum pockets, there is a slum pocket by the name of Talpura situated in ward 12 of Jhansi in which PRIA is working on a programme called “Engaged Citizens, Responsive Cities”.
PRIA had started working in this settlement 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 with members from the community. PRIA and its members, through their various efforts have been able to build up a trust and a sense of familiarity in the community. Of many such efforts, this visit to meet the community was also one.
This meeting was centred on various issues, concerns and unfulfilled expectations of the community, of which sanitation was one of the major concerns. The need and the procedure for the building of toilets were duly explained by the representatives of PRIA to the community. Some assistance was also provided to the people regarding the filling up and submission of the forms in the respective controlling authorities for construction of private toilets. Besides, the slum dwellers were also persistent about the opening up of the newly constructed community toilet, for which PRIA has advocated consistently.
The community showed great zeal and interest in the discussion which can be attributed to the recent celebrations of Independence day on 15th August 2016, which was a first of its kind initiative for the community taken by PRIA in association with the ward counsellor. These celebrations not only brought together the people but also gave them the opportunity to interact with the ward counsellor and bring their issues to his notice. On the same occasion, these people also pledged to keep their surroundings and abutting street clean which was visible in the form of dustbins present outside the houses.
The meeting with the community showed a lot of women representation and participation, with the women from the community 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.
All these efforts have been directed towards making these marginalized communities aware and self-dependent, thus empowering them, in the process. The local governance has also been facilitated, by bridging the gap between the community and the ward counsellor. By all these initiatives, PRIA’s vision of community participation in building up of cities is being taken forward by encouraging the marginalized communities to participate, giving them a voice and striving for an inclusive and equal development.