Systemic constraint and need for a collective search for alternatives
The wider systemic constraints in ensuring clean, healthy, efficient, equitable, harmonious, inclusive, productive and sustainable cities; livable, viable and progressive rural settlements; appropriate institutions; responsive governance and sustainable development calls for correctives in the way we shape a response to the challenges and strive to develop. Institutional reforms and change, attitudinal reorientation, greater transparency and accountability, new vision, fresh perspectives, different approaches, new and appropriate technologies and multiple partnerships are needed to meet the sector challenges effectively.
INHAF is perceived as an instrument, a platform, for collaborative thought and action for those who see a need for the change and corrective action and are prepared to engage in a collective search for the alternatives.
Strengthening citizen sector
Contribution of NGOs, CBOs, civic groups, communities and non-conventional professionals in the post-disaster reconstruction; people centered affordable shelter and settlements development; innovations through studies, demonstration projects and participatory practice and advocacy on the poverty, environment, alternative technology, gender, equity, good governance and sustainability issues has been significant and recognized. Yet, in view of the enormity of the tasks and complexity of the issues the base needs to be widened and the effort scaled up. For sustained effective work and greater impact, human settlements, NGOs, civic groups and concerned professionals need organizational strengthening and capacity building.
Capacity building of these actors and strengthening their role in the sector are INHAF’s priorities.
Absence of a national or even a regional platform, formal or informal, that brings these activists, non-governmental agencies and non-conventional professionals together to share, learn from each other and work in a cooperative and coordinated manner, on shared concerns and issues, reduces their strength and efficacy further – already small in number, limited in organizational capacity, typically resource starved and given to working in isolation and compartments.
Being developed as a national coalition, INHAF is perceived as a synergy platform to enhance the leveraging potential of these individuals, groups and agencies and their collective impact.
Capacity building and enhancing impact potential also require crossing sectoral boundaries and overcoming set hierarchies. It is in that context that INHAF is being shaped as a broad-based organization: not only for the non-profit NGOs and civic groups but also for the professionals, academics, researchers, students, professional training institutions, elightened business and other concerned segments of the society. INHAF is seen as an inclusive initiative meant to cover both: rural and urban, shelter and settlements, projects and policy, NGO and activist, local and national, rehabilitation and development, government and society, study/research and advocacy.
INHAF aims to cut across boundaries and emphasize mutuality and interdependence to attempt vertical and horizontal interaction and encourage/facilitate partnerships among these diverse players.
Dynamic of relations
Strengthening NGO/civil society and community role and enhancing their impact potential in the human settlements development field requires a critical look at their internal functioning as well as external relations – especially their approach to and handling of working arrangements with the governments and their agencies, multi-lateral and bilateral donors and other development support organizations. While these arrangements and partnerships offer greater scope to serve the ‘clients’ and the causes; improve access to funds, skills, technology, information and organizational capacity, and help upscale the effort, it often raises questions on the role, objective, commitment and priority: just a role player in the delivery system or a change agent on behalf of the people? Top down or bottom up? Product or process? Service delivery or capacity building/empowerment also? Job or mission? Organizational interests or to wider public good?
INHAF intends to engage in the debate on deepening commitment, redefining priorities, setting agenda and establishing basis for development of healthy partnerships.
People as a resource, problem solver
INHAF is not only about NGOs and their capacity building or professionals and their orientation or appropriate technology. It is also about the people and communities – especially as producers and managers of shelter and settlements, both in the urban informal settlements and the villages. Reiterating and facilitating their role in the production processes and settlements management, even in an urbanizing society and globalizing economy, is a way to widening the reach and coverage of the housing delivery process, ensuring affordability, improving the quality of living environment and citizenship in the informal settlements and a step towards mainstreaming of the marginal.
INHAF hopes to contribute to thought and institutional development processes aimed at enhanced community participation and empowerment in shelter production, settlements management and governance matters, both in urban and rural areas.
Creative channeling of urban growth and balanced development of cities is a major challenge as also an opportunity for the country. Enhancing efficiency and productivity of the cities as the engines of economic growth, ensuring improved quality of life of their populations, developing them in an inclusive, participatory and environmentally sustainable manner, and ensuring social harmony and cohesion are some of the key aspects of the challenge. The task, among other things, demands creative partnership between the government and the society in search for Economically Productive, Socially Just, Culturally Vibrant, Environmentally Sustainable, Politically Participatory and technically equipped, receptive and advanced cities.
INHAF’s ambition and an objective are to play a positive catalytic role in shaping of modern, progressive, technology savvy, people centered, and inclusive, humane and environmentally and ecologically sustainable urban development in India.
Informal settlements and economy
Making the cities work for the poor and the marginalized requires ending/reducing hostility to their informal economy and residential settlements, their functional integration with the mainstream city and the formal economy, and good governance. With the State looking increasingly less tolerant and accommodative towards their settlements and enterprises under globalization and other economic, social and interest group pressures, protecting their livelihood and housing rights, and finding ways to improve their shelter, services and settlements, in an affordable, harmonious and sustainable manner, has emerged a major urban challenge. Creative faculties of many must be engaged in that pursuit.
INHAF sees a need for and a role in it, as the poor and other disadvantaged groups are its priority concern.
The rural settlements – over 6 lakh villages and 800 million people! – Under the growing weight of industrialization, urbanization, modernization and globalization remain neglected: rural housing, except for Indira Awas Yojana, in all respects and the physical and social infrastructure qualitatively. In the absence of a viable real estate market, investment capacity, purchasing power and the benefits of economy of scale, the private sector in rural housing in undeveloped. Government interventions, mostly in the form of projects for the poor and the marginalized groups suffer targeting, coverage, resource and quality snags: both in housing and infrastructure. And institutional arrangements aimed at improving access and delivery mechanism are characterized by stagnation and non-performance. Whereas wider economic and social forces are stacked against it, the case of rural housing and habitat needs stating.
INHAF hopes to contribute in making the case and join policy advocacy, study/research and demonstration action geared to improving delivery system, organizational performance and working towards policy change and institutional innovations.
Professional education and young professionals
The formal education system training young professionals – especially architects, engineers, planners and related professionals – generally speaking, is no geared to introducing them to the local traditions, informal knowledge, indigenous wisdom and peoples’ solutions; offers no or limited exposure and link to the work and innovations by the NGOs and non-conventional professionals, and seldom attempts or succeeds in motivating them to engage in ‘alternative’ professional practice focused on the needs of the disadvantaged groups, rural part of the country, use and revival of the traditional methods and wisdom and cost effective and resource conserving solutions. This is also seen as an investment in strengthening NGOs and civic groups, as reoriented and motivated professionals are a valuable resource for them.
INHAF perceives a role in orienting young professionals and students – and to the extent possible, the institutions training them – to the alternative clients (poorly sheltered villagers, urban slum dwellers etc) and socially relevant professional challenges.
Globalization, liberalization, privatization and market-driven economy are the dominant forces impacting on the thrust and direction of ‘development’. Their impact on land/property markets, public and private investment plans and priorities; institutional orientation and the governance principles and practice are decisive. The debate on environment v/s development, agriculture v/s industry, and technology v/s tradition, public v/s private, rural v/s urban and local v/s global is sharply divided and increasingly polarized. Which way the balance shifts will determine the nature of ‘development’ and thereby the economic base, physical form, social harmony and organizational performance of the cities. In dealing with the settlement development issues, a ‘balanced judgement’, based on information and analysis and guided by a vision for the future, a perspective on the ground reality and a value system based on the people-centeredness and justice are needed.
INHAF intends to play a role in shaping this ‘balanced judgement’ with its core constituencies along with other equally concerned individuals and institutions.