Maharashtra: In 'Urban Manifesto', Collectives Seek Better Living Conditions for All

The demands include protecting the rights of marginalised communities and tackling the drought problem.

Mumbai: Around 40 collectives, NGOs and civil society groups have put together an exhaustive list of demands from politicians seeking a term in the upcoming Maharashtra assembly elections. Releasing an “urban manifesto” in Mumbai, the collective sought concrete interventions in the housing sector, urban governance, rights of the transgender community, youth, informal sector, homeless, environment and ecology, transport, gender, children, among other things. Organisations and individuals working in different sectors have put forth their demands, which were then compiled in a collective charter.

One of the manifesto’s primary demands is to conduct a study on the human settlements in the state. “At the moment, there is no comprehensive study of human settlements across cities in the state. This report, when developed, can be fundamental in providing a definition and framework to affordable housing. This report can also be a means to assess [the] number of vacant houses, housing needs and housing projection,” the charter states, further demanding that all adults need to be enumerated and not just the head of the household to assess housing demand.

The charter looks closely into details of the condition of slum dwellers across the state and demands a land patta or title for them.

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For the transgender community, the manifesto, along with highlighting their living conditions, demands a state-level survey to check if all transgender persons have proper identity proofs (which correctly identify their gender). In every district, camps should be organised to help the community access these identity cards and avail their citizenry rights, the manifesto says.

Vicky Shinde, a Mumbai-based transgender activist who is part of the collective, said the manifesto also seeks a welfare board to be constituted to specifically look into the issues of the community. “Sensitisation workshops should be conducted for police officials across the state to break their prejudices about the community,” Shinde said.

The manifesto has also sought a complete implementation of the Supreme Court’s landmark NALSA judgement. The state should provide the community with the best medical facilities at an affordable cost, in line with the judgement, the manifesto states.

The manifesto being released. Photo: Twitter/@brijesharya

Issue of droughts, agricultural distress

In the past five years, Maharashtra has experienced at least three severe droughts. This damaged the livelihoods of farmers and farm labourers, with many being pushed to migrate to other districts and states for work. In the manifesto, Pani Haq Samiti, a city-based NGO, sought the implementation of the measures laid down by the Supreme Court in 2016 which disallow any kind of privatisation of water supply. The directives also make the state responsible and accountable for proper distribution of water to all. The collective has also proposed a Water Security Act on the lines of the Food Security Act.

Maharashtra, a state with a population of almost 12 crore, has the largest slum population. Around 1.1 crore live in slums, while more than 2.1 lakh people are homeless. The Maharashtra Beghar Abhiyan, a collective working for the rights of the homeless in the state, pointed out the state’s unwillingness to take care of its homeless population.

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Referring to the Supreme Court ruling which said that Mumbai alone needs at least 125 shelter homes, the manifesto has demanded that the homeless population be incorporated into a larger housing policy. “Homelessness needs to be understood as a social problem, not as a crime. We demand that a circular is issued asking all government departments and service providers to treat homeless citizens with dignity,” said Puja Yadav, a project coordinator from Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA), a non-profit working with the urban poor in the state.

Rights of women

For women, the charter specifically seeks effective implementation of existing laws like the state’s Manodhariya Scheme for victims of sexual assault, along with other provisions to ensure women live safely and with dignity. The charter lays special emphasis on a woman’s equal economic rights, access to affordable housing, safety and health services.

The collective began working on the charter over four months ago and have gone through several rounds of consultations with political parties and community leaders to ensure that the demands are incorporated into party manifestoes.

Evita Das, an urban researcher for the National Coalition for Inclusive and Sustainable Urbanization told The Wire that the first achievement of this exercise is some manifestoes mentioning crucial points it mentions. “The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has stressed on women safety and the rights of the transgender community. Similarly, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has decided to raise the issue of minimum wages for those involved in the informal sector. They have also incorporated our demands for the urban youth,” Das said.