Eviction, Citizenship and Inequality in Contemporary Delhi

Berlin, April 2015

Speaker           : Gautam Bhan- Indian Institute for Human Settlements

Lecture from Gautam Bhan at TU Berlin

The speaker finished his doctoral degree at the University of California, Berkeley, and continued his career as an urban activist and academic. He argued that eviction is a part of political daily life in New Delhi. He emphasizes a particular criticism on the state treason of slums as the main topics.

Part 1: Eviction Dynamics in New Delhi Basti

  • Inevitably, the urbanization processes occur in India cities due to rapid population growth. Hence, slums and squatters also tremendously spread out in New Delhi as the externalities of the capitalist power ran in the previous dictatorship era.
  • However, even the democratic regime, after dictatorship, just merely produce inequality in New Delhi. Afterwards, the speaker expresses two questions as his criticism: 1) What, despite this democratic claim, makes inequality persist? ; 2) How democratic derive in slums do so?
  • In India slums are called Basti, an Indian terms for crowded colony for everyone who lives in the low level of society. In New Delhi, 80% of the population dwell in unplanned colonies, like Basti. The Government of India on the one hand need cheap labour forces, on the other hand, they do not provide enough and adequate housing for everyone. Hence, the territorialisation occurs between government and people while they just keep Basti dwellers trapped in deterioration.
  • Eventually, the New Delhi government keep evicting Basti and replace the dwellers in 24 Sqm tiny apartments at the outskirts of the city. In fact, 60% of the land on which Bastis are located are basically owned by the Government. The speaker argued that eviction can tell us about the inability of a democracy to deal with slums.
  • According to the Indian constitution, judiciary is the highest level of democratic realm. Nevertheless, the state has power to play political manoeuvres trough judiciary processes, to claim and requisite their demand.

Slums in India (Taken by Mohd Farhan)

Part II: Hidden Agenda Outside the Courtroom

  • Eventhough the dwellers proposed a judiciary review, the judge argued that the eviction is devoted to achieve public shared objectives and totally makes sense. This dynamic evidence represents how politics produce and reproduce poverty and inequality.
  • There was a campaign from the ‘Bank of India’ to convince to use the bank. The setting of the campaign was taken in abigarh, an iconic public outdoor laundry. It showed many slum dwellers’ work and use no traditional pocket to save money, which is indirectly trying to show that currently they are bank users. It showed to the poor that they cannot steal money anymore, and they must work because even the lower labour now receive their money trough the bank.
  • The claim of food, and the claim of affordable education has been set up as a poverty impoverishment hidden agenda to protect particular castes. The lower caste people are trapped by design to receive low education level. It occurs because the upper caste society does not want to receive the same quality with the more inferior caste.

[1] The Indian government officially recognises historically discriminated communities of India such as the Untouchables under the designation of Scheduled Castes, and certain economically backward Shudra castes as Other Backward Castes (Wikipedia)

Notes by Achmad Faris Saffan Sunarya


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