Reorienting Infrastructural Development in Slum/ Slum Rehabilitation area for Persons with Disabilities
17 years old Priya with Cerebral Palsy lives with her mother and grandmother in one of the slum rehabilitation areas in Mumbai. She has been unable to go for therapies since the past two years. Her mother says, ‘It has become more difficult for me to carry Priya on my back whenever she has to go for therapy. We live on the fifth floor and there are no lifts or ramps’.
“Every morning it is a struggle for me to get out of my house and use the toilets. I find it very difficult to move out of my wheelchair and sit down on these commodes,” says Raghu, 53, who has Locomotor Disability, Delhi
“Even with the provision of a wheelchair to help me increase mobility, the lanes are too narrow for my wheelchair to pass through. And I have to be confined at home all day or be dependent on someone to help me make it through these lanes. It gets rather too frustrating and lonely many times”, shares Sapna, 30, Paraplegia, Dehradun
Like Priya, Raghu and Sapna, there are thousands of other people with disabilities belonging to the economically weaker section, for whom, accessing daily basic health and other services is challenging due to poor infrastructural planning in the slum areas. The absence of any ramp or tactile line or elevator in the vertical slum redevelopment buildings makes life difficult for persons with disabilities to commute. The stairways of these buildings are dark and old with no proper maintenance. Existing lifts are mostly left non-functional, making it hazardous and unsafe; especially for children. The community toilets in the slum area are with the absence of provision for persons with disabilities. Most of the time these toilets are crowded, and in this rush, persons with disabilities are the ones who have to compromise and be the last in the long queue. The lanes within the slum area connecting the houses are not wide enough for a wheelchair, crutches and other mobility aiding equipment to pass through freely. In this pretext, another severe issue in the slum/ slum-rehabilitation area is the lack of waste management. These lack in the maintenance of hygiene and infrastructures also result in a number of rising cases of acquired disabilities in slum areas. All these external circumstances therefore compel them to depend upon other people for their daily chores, decrease their participation in decision making and adversely affect their independence. Though the slum redevelopment policies in India vary across the states but overall all, those fall short to identify and address various requirements for persons with disabilities. In India the slum redevelopment policies require a major reorientation in terms of building design, provision of basic services like toilet, water and electricity or roads and other required infrastructure like physiotherapy centre, nearby special schools etc.
So what can be the way forward? One of the prime measures to be taken for this problem is to provide supporting infrastructure in slums and slum rehabilitation areas for people with disabilities. The slum dweller with disabilities should have the provision for appealing to the nearby ULB for infrastructure requirements especially in case of vertical slum redevelopment. For eg. the person should have the scope to appeal for changing of the allotted floor in case he/she has been allotted a higher floor and there is no provision of ramps or elevator etc. Similarly, in slum areas, families with disabilities should be provided with the leverage to appeal for a change in location to nearby community toilets or other public spaces based on the type of disabilities they have. This can be done through the participation- centric planning procedure. The provision of disability certificates should be made used to prioritise the cases of people with disabilities in terms of providing them with suitable infrastructures and provisions. These being said, these interventions would be largely unsuccessful without supplementation of qualitative studies to assess the needs and lived-experience of the persons with disabilities. Focus group discussion consisting of the people affected, in-depth interviews with even more vulnerable groups such as women, LGBTQIA+ community, SC/STs within the PWDs community should be initiated before and during the slum redevelopment planning process.
Both the Central and State government should essentially look out for convergence of slum redevelopment programmes with various other infrastructural schemes so as to avoid duplication and reduce cost of implementing inclusive infrastructure/environments. For instance under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, there is a 5% allocation for capacity building, Information Education & Communication (IEC) and Administrative & Other Expenses (A&OE) (Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation, 2015). These allocations can be utilised to provide capacity building training to Anganwadis for early identification of disabilities, sensitising the residence on disability and making families with disabilities aware of their rights. Social Audits can also be carried to check whether these slum rehabilitation buildings have proper inclusive infrastructures in place. Under the Swachh Bharat Mission, more allocations can be made to build special toilets in the community toilets, and maintain clean lanes. In this regard, the Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility Policy) Amendment Rules, 2018 (Ministry of Corporate Affairs, 2018) is also a very useful means to bring private corporations to build inclusive infrastructures in these areas preferable. Considering the economic condition of the slum dwellers, both Central and state governments should have provision for more inclusion in the state policies for the same for further betterment. The quest for affordability shouldn't be the reason for failing to achieve accessibility.
There should be at least one common minimum framework for the infrastructure provision all over the country which will include the differential requirement of the persons with disabilities living in slum areas. Furthermore, the slum redevelopment policies formulated by the state governments should include facets of the Model Building Byelaws framed by the MOHUA which essentially focuses on a ‘Barrier Free Environment’ through ‘provisions for Differently abled, Elderly and Children including Site development, Access Path/ WalkWay, Parking, Building requirements, Stair, Lifts, Toilets, Drinking Water, Refuge and signage’ (Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, 2016). Swachh Bharat Mission has also published a ‘Handbook on Accessible Household Sanitation for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs)’, under which it has given a detailed account on how to plan and implement inclusive sanitation. It is time that states and urban local bodies take stringent measures to follow the guidelines made. For eg. the Slum Sanitation Programme in Mumbai and Tiruchirapalli has included the disability friendly community toilet facility in the slum areas with disability friendly seats and separate toilet blocks. Smart City Mission in India has also been one of the pioneers in bringing focus to inclusive infrastructural development. Cities like Udaipur, NDMC, Varanasi, Pune and Guwahati have included features of accessibility for persons with disabilities in their area-based initiatives. Surat and Varanasi city have various projects implemented in convergence with Accessibility India Campaign such as retrofitting buildings (both government and private), barrier free footpath, disabled friendly toilets, and ghats. Having mentioned these initiatives, smart cities have huge potential to extend the effort on making slum/slum rehabilitation areas disable friendly. While planning infrastructures, smart data can be utilised to analyse the number and kinds of infrastructural demands that are there in a particular area so as to initiate smart planning in slum areas.
Last but not the least special focus should also be given upon appeal and grievance redressal mechanism. The ULB should formulate a civic body within the slum/slum rehabilitation areas which can help the dwellers to connect to the government more easily and faster so that the requirements of the dwellers, especially with disabilities, can be easily met and more contextualized development of the slums can be done.
Bio of the authors:
Ipsita Chanda is a Geographer Planner from School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal. She has an interest in social planning and land use planning and culture study.
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Ministry of Corporate Affairs. (2018, 09 19). Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility Policy) Amendment Rules, 2018. Retrieved 12 16, 2020, from http://ebook.mca.gov.in/notificationdetail.aspx?acturl=6CoJDC4uKVUR7C9Fl4rZdatyDbeJTqg3JBqXFllMpiUuqe0hZtXIisTh+miKwSFtESNRsH0i6DnHhGKaU8uDsHMFkyxO1vv83XY1PejeJ+I=
Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. (2016). Model Building Byelaws,2016. Retrieved 12 16, 2020, from http://mohua.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/MBBL.pdf
Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation. (2015). Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojona, Housing For All Schemes Guideline. Retrieved 12 16, 2020, from https://pmaymis.gov.in/PDF/HFA_Guidelines/hfa_Guidelines.pdf