Notes on the fourth panel discussion
(Gautam Chatterjee, Vidyadhar Phatak and Pranay Vakil; moderated by Rahul Mehrotra)
The final panel discussion summarised the twoday-long seminar in the following broad themes:
1. The importance of a good Development
Plan and how housing and urbanisation as processes are closely linked to each other and cannot be isolated.
2. The trinity of mobility which includes access, livelihood, and land, is intrinsic to the question of housing. We have seemingly disregarded the connection between land markets, labour markets and transportation.
3. There are many interesting issues at a macro level that affect housing, such as employment and labour markets and implications of geography on housing solutions. The fundamental challenge across most parts of India is how to get people out of agriculture into other activities, and where would such activities evolve; in the villages or in small towns or in metropolitan centres. But given the economy of scales of Indian cities, there is a very strong drive to migrate to larger metropolitan centres, or at least cities with populations of more than a million. These conditions need to be addressed while discussing housing in the country.
4. Land is an asset; it has an opportunity cost. If one really wants to deal with the problem of the housing of the poor in the cities, state intervention in matters concerning the land is inevitable. Public intervention is also important for building and extending the infrastructure. If there is an opportunity to expand the supply of land in terms of extending infrastructure, then half the battle is won. This is an essential feature of the sites and services approach, where one intervenes in land and infrastructure and lets construction follow. Another key to addressing housing is the idea of retrofitting; but to conserve the housing stock, infrastructure becomes extremely important.
5. There is an urgent need to upgrade land recordkeeping systems which may be achieved by using technology and a digital platform.
6. Most of the housing policies in India are imagined around Mumbai which highly limits the implementation of policies across the geography of the country.
7. One of the key areas is the monitoring and evaluation of schemes, whether individual housing schemes like the Slum Regulation Authority (SRA) or national schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). There is a lack of objective evaluation and transparency. 8. The biggest question around housing is the role of the government and how does it fulfil its responsibility of providing housing for all. One of the ways would perhaps be the coming together of the public and private sectors, where institutions become enough robust to support the government.
9. The state imposes unrealistic regulations which lead to violations which in turn are directed into fiscal instruments. This negates any incentives for following regulations; for example, Mumbai recovers about 6000 crores through just condoning violations.
10. In the Seminar, there was a provocation claiming housing as a fundamental right of the citizen. There have been many steps forward towards this, and there are interesting examples across the country of significant interventions that need to be consolidated. We need to build a repertoire of tools and processes that can be implemented in this context. Academic institutions, government bodies, and individual researchers can come together and build this knowledge bank that becomes a good starting point for the challenge of housing.
The notes on the fourth panel discussion are prepared by Ela Singhal.
Extracted from The State of Housing in India — a documentation of the inaugural seminar for the exhibition titled The State of
Housing in India, curated by Rahul Mehrotra, Ranjit Hoskote and Kaiwan Mehta, and proposed to be held in 2018 in Mumbai. This is an initiative of the Architecture Foundation in collaboration with the Urban Design Research Institute, and published by Spenta Multimedia. All photographs published here are by Robert D. Stephens.