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» Savings and Credit » Electricity
» Slum Surveys and Mapping » Forging Partnerships
» Peer Exchanges » From Demolition to Resettlement
» Setting Precedents » Joint Surveys
» Model Houses » Planning Together
» Water and Sanitation    
Savings and Credit « Back
The savings and credit system increases the financial assets of the poor, builds managerial capacity of women’s groups and strengthens bonds within settlements. The savings are used to make small loans for income generation, emergencies, housing improvements, weddings and other needs.
The idea and the system is designed
to truly support poor families to get loans at doorstep in an affordable rates to slowly come out of debt, build their assets and begin planning for the future.
» Compared to formal banks or micro-credit agencies, MM loans interest is low, is not considered end but a means to attain improved quality of life for members and community as a whole
» to maximize people's participation and to ensure that the poor do not have to dip into their slowly growing savings when they face a crisis.
To build managerial capacity and confidence in handling large sums of money which allows them to enter the public sphere and improve their position in the family, community and in the city.
This also helps them to take on other community issues, such as solving minor disputes; helping community members obtain pensions, rations, and other government benefits; meeting local authorities regarding water, sanitation and other settlement-level issues; and taking on housing and toilet construction projects.
At present there is hundred no. of loans paid besides community based ARC MM loans and Corpus Fund loans.
Slum Surveys and Mapping « Back
Enumerations, mapping and slum surveys are critical tools in the process of community mobilization and capacity building. The Federation introduces communities to these tools through peer exchange and encourages them to collect details related to socio-economic conditions, housing, sanitation, amenities, demographics, income and education at the individual, household and settlement levels. They also map (including Cadastral mapping of houses in the settlements. These surveys create detailed and accurate information bases about slums, which governments usually lack. It provides an informational base for communities to understand their situation, to gain legitimacy in the eyes of authorities. Each of the city-level federations in Orissa has completed settlement profiles for all slums in their city, which they update every two years. They have also completed detailed maps and household surveys for all slums in which Mahila Milan is active. This has made OSDF/Mahila Milan an authority on slum statistics in Orissa. They use surveys to resist demolitions and support claims for resettlement; as proofs to receive benefits from the Government, such as pensions and benefits for households Below the Poverty Line (BPL); and during negotiations for basic facilities or upgrading. They have also used the statistics to challenge inaccurate government figures on slums, which has led to joint city-wide slum surveys in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, and Paradeep and joint household surveys and Detailed Project Reports for upgrading and resettlement projects in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Puri (see “Building Partnerships).
Peer Exchanges « Back
Community exchanges and meetings are based on the premise that the poor learn best from the poor. Exchanges – which take place within and across cities, regions, and countries – allow federation members to visit each other's settlements, learn about their problems and achievements, and share experiences. This is an important way of breaking feelings of isolation and powerlessness, as poor communities see themselves as part of a larger collective and interdependent process. Experiences are also shared, collective objectives and challenges are discussed, and bonds are strengthened at city-, state-, regional-, and national-level federation meetings. These exchanges and meetings are key capacity-building rituals.
Setting Precedent « Back
Capacity-building activities enable the federations to take on precedent-setting projects. The experience of the Alliance reveals that, although poor communities have many innovative ideas for solving their problems, they are constrained by numerous technical, financial, legal and other obstacles. Thus, they require a lot of support before they can demonstrate the utility and sustainability of their ideas. However, once these solutions are successfully implemented and relevant stakeholders convinced, they become models for authorities to scale up at city and national levels. Precedent-setting activities in Orissa include construction of model houses, construction of community toilet blocks, electrification of settlements, and provision of water facilities. These activities demonstrate to poor communities themselves, government officials, and other stakeholders that poor people are entitled to basic shelter and facilities and are capable of developing and managing solutions.
Model Houses « Back
OSDF and Mahila Milan have provided financial, organizational and technical support for construction and repair of houses in slum settlements in each of Orissa’s four main cities. Construction and repair are funded through a combination of loans and subsidies, offered on the basis of an individual contribution towards the cost of the house. The family and community develop their own-housing designs, and construction and renovation take place with local labor using local materials. Low-cost building techniques and other technical skills for building the houses are shared through exchanges with communities that have experience in construction. Special attention is paid to make houses resistant to natural disasters, in light of Orissa’s susceptibility to cyclones and other calamities. Not only do these houses enable families to access adequate shelter and invest in an important asset, but they also demonstrate to government officials, potential financial partners, and to communities themselves that slum residents are capable of designing and managing good-quality housing for themselves at an affordable price. Compared to houses designed and constructed for the poor by other actors, the community-led process leads to houses that accommodate the specific spatial needs of the household in terms of their family structure, livelihood and traditions, and that are suited to the local context. Once houses are built, the federation invites other communities and government officials to visit them. Showcasing model houses plays a key role in helping the poor gain confidence that they can afford adequate housing and convincing authorities and formal institutions that the poor are important partners in developing and executing low-income housing options.
Water and Sanitation « Back
Community Toilets
Sanitation provisions for the urban poor are woefully inadequate. Few funds are allocated for this purpose, and where government facilities are provided, they tend to be ill-maintained and quickly become dysfunctional. Most households have neither the space nor funds to build individual toilets. This leaves slum residents with no choice but to defecate in the open, which threatens their health, dignity and safety, especially for women and children. Lack of sanitation facilities is one of the top concerns raised at community and federation meetings. In addition to providing loans for individual toilet construction, the Orissa Federations and Mahila Milan have taken up construction of community toilet blocks. Having previously constructed toilets in Mundasahi and Pataswadi in Cuttack and Pentakata in Puri, the federations are in the process of constructing toilet blocks in Satichaura in Cuttack and in Balijara in Paradeep. The toilets stay well-maintained despite the low charges because communities have a stake in their upkeep after managing the process and because contributions pay for a caretaker from the community, who is often provided with a space to live above the toilet block. Toilet blocks also serve as community spaces, with a space for meetings and functions on the upper floor. Demonstration toilet construction projects have provided communities with clean and safe sanitation facilities, improving their health, productivity, safety and quality of life.
The story of the Balijara community toilet is a story of overcoming obstacles. Mahila Milan began constructing the toilet in 2003 at the Balijara resettlement site in Paradeep, but the roof collapsed because rainy season began before construction was finished. This demoralized the federation and gave officials an excuse to condemn the Alliance. Refusing to lose confidence, several Mahila Milan women spent several years convincing officials to give them permission to rebuild the toilet by demonstrating other successes. Residents of informal settlements lack adequate access to clean water. The municipality provides some water facilities, but these provisions are not sufficient to meet the size of slum populations. Some settlements lack water facilities altogether. OSDF and Mahila Milan have provided water connections to several slums through a community process.
Residents of Subash Nagar, an unauthorized settlement in Bhubaneswar, approached the local federation to help them secure a water connection in 2005. These leaders approached local government officials, but failed to receive a positive response. They collected Rs.2000 from the community and took out a loan to set up a tube well. The community hired a local contractor to install the well and contributed plaster and bricks collected from the area. The total project cost was Rs. 15000. This success has given the federations the skills and legitimacy to provide water facilities to other slums and has demonstrated their capacities other communities and to officials. When the local Slum Improvement Officer (SIO) saw the well, he offered mechanical support and training to help the federations build tube wells throughout the city. However, he was transferred before the collaboration could materialize.

Slums are often prone to water blockage because they tend to be located in flood-prone areas and lack adequate drainage systems. OSDF and Mahila Milan have demonstrated that poor communities are willing and able to invest money, labor, time, and managerial capacities to construct proper drains in their neighborhoods. This drain is under construction in the unauthorized slum of Jalisahi in Puri. The community expressed a need for the drain to deal with the area’s serious drainage problem. It has an estimated cost of Rs.40,000, and the community provided a Rs. 1200 deposit and labor. They received permission from the Sewerage Board from the construction. The drain was built under the initiative of federation member G. Kameswari (pictured here), who lives in Jalisahi. She says that she was a housewife who did not interact with the outside world until she joined Mahila Milan. This project is a demonstration of people-managed infrastructure provisionand maintenance.
Electricity « Back
Lack of electricity is a major problem that Mahila Milan and federation members bring up at meetings. Although authorities are empowered to provide electrical connections to residents of authorized slums, they are not willing to make this investment. Although there was until recently a process in place for residents of unauthorized slums to obtain electrical connections on the basis of certain documents, individuals within communities were not able to secure the necessary funds or manage the complex process on their own. There is resistance to providing electrical connections because of the perceptions that this will make slums more “permanent.” A major precedent-setting achievement has been provision of legal electricity connections to residents of an unauthorized slum – Subash Nagar in Bhubaneswar.

Residents of Subash Nagar approached Mahila Milan for help with obtaining an electricity connection in 2006. Community leaders formed a local Electricity Committee, collected a deposit from interested households and approached government officials, all of whom declined to provide the connection. Finally, the CEO of the Electricity Board agreed to give them permission for the connection, but not to provide it. The community would have to finance the costs of the transformer, electricity poles, wires, labor, etc. After encountering inflated prices and obstacles at all stages of the process, they finally secured the connections at a total cost of Rs. 750,000 and a 6% deposit (higher than the deposit for connections in the formal city). The contractor provided by the government twice raised his compensation fee; each time, the community pooled the money and paid him, eventually paying him around Rs.70,000. The total community contribution was Rs.200,000. Collecting such sums and organizing the process would not have been possible without the organization and community trust built through the federation process, without the federations’ developed skills in managing money and negotiating with authorities, and without their building and blending of financial resources. Having access to electricity has substantially improved the community’s productivity, health, safety, and quality of life. Children are able to study. Residents are able to operate shops or engage in other livelihood activities. Doctors can see ailing patients. Residents, especially women and children, can avoid harassment, snakes, and other dangers. Households can operate fans, television sets, refrigerators, and other basic household conveniences. Furthermore, this achievement has increased their skills and confidence to negotiate with government officials and manage the process of obtaining amenities. By obtaining permission for a basic civic amenity, communities also feel that they have increased their level of security against eviction. It has also helped them build relationships with and gain legitimacy in the eyes of the community and government officials. Many communities approached them for aid with obtaining electrical connections after the successful project. They have formed a 10-member Electricity Committee to share knowledge and manage the process. The Municipal Commissioner of Bhubaneswar was impressed that the community was able to obtain a connection and organize such sums of money, when the municipality itself was unable to provide the connection on an unauthorized plot. This became the basis of a partnership based on mutual respect. Electrification is currently under way for four authorized slums in Dumduma, Bhubaneswar, and will benefit around 300 families.
Forging Partnerships « Back
The outcome of the capacity-building and precedent setting activities of federations and Mahila Milan has been negotiation and partnership with local officials at various levels. Based on their demonstrated credibility and financial, informational and organizational base, the federations have initiated productive dialogues and embarked on joint ventures with government agencies. Shifting from the traditional adversarial relationships between slum dwellers and the government, they have begun to see one another as partners in developing win-win solutions. Members of the Orissa federation who would previously not have been allowed to enter a government office are now patted on the back by senior officials. Negotiations with officials first began when communities tried to obtain basic facilities, secure government allocations for eligible households, present their survey results or resist demolitions. Gradually, authorities began to see the federations as helpful partners and sought to collaborate with them on surveys and projects. Constant interaction and successful initiatives with authorities has built confidence and credibility on both sides. In some places, the dialogue and collaboration has begun to move towards scaled-up initiatives. Eventually, these partnerships may lead to participation of the Alliance in decision-making processes and to pro-poor policy and institutional changes, as they have in other Indian cities. Unlike reforms initiated from above, these improvements are likely to be sustainable because they arise organically. A major challenge in the partnership building process is the frequent transfer of government officials, which disrupts negotiations and relationships that have been built up. The Alliance deals with this challenge by basing its work in a grassroots process, meaning work can continue despite bureaucratic and political changes and during lulls in negotiations. They have also sought to establish relationships with lower-level officials, who work closer to the ground and are less likely to be transferred. Four years ago, negotiations were mainly headed by UDRC Personnel and the top leadership of SPARC. Gradually, however, women leaders in the Federation have come to the forefront of negotiations about stopping evictions, building housing and infrastructure projects, obtaining basic services, and planning for upgrading or resettlement.

Precedent-setting and urban governance:
How community-led projects transform relationships between the city and the poor. From construction of model houses and toilets to provision of drains, water facilities, and electricity, the precedent-setting activities of the Alliance have brought about a reconfiguration of the relationship between the city government, NGOs and communities.
Community leaders have had to regularly meet with municipal and other department officials to get various permissions, understand standards, submit settlement surveys and collect payments – an empowering process in itself.
» As more communities have seen the projects and gotten involved, this meant the city has had to sit up and take notice of thousands of slum dwellers all working on building a people’s agenda, for example for “No Open Defecation” in their city.
» The city government has recognized the capacity of community organisations to develop their own solutions, supported by NGOs.
Precedent-setting activities have initiated discussions on other issues related to urban poverty and opened space for dialogue on policy change, land tenure and bottom-up housing solutions. As a result, city authorities change their attitude and role from simply being a “permission-giver” to understanding the issues at close quarters and working as partners with poor communities, and the public at large, to find constructive solutions. This process brings about real change and learning through experience, both for the government and for the people.
From Demolition to Resettlement « Back
Before the Alliance became active in Orissa, the government’s policy towards unauthorized slums was to demolish them with no warning and transport them to vacant land outside of the city, with no planned resettlement, provision of infrastructure, or issuing of tenure documents. Demolitions generally occurred when the land on which slums were located was needed for a construction or infrastructure project, or when they became a nuisance. The work of the Alliance has helped transform the context into one in which forced evictions almost never occur, with a de facto policy of consultation and resettlement if demolitions are needed. When evictions are planned, the federation approaches the government with the surveys and maps and explains that households will move of their own accord if they are supported to find alternate accommodation. Government officials see this as a win-win solution, as the federations have community credibility and the government can avoid the political and financial inconvenience of demolition by force.

The Case of Balijara, Paradeep:
Paradeep was the city with the most hostile relationship between slum dwellers and the Port Authority (PA), a central government agency that controls most of the land. The PA wanted to shift slum dwellers who had settled on their land in central Paradeep. The Alliance approached the PA and presented a win-win resettlement process, in which the federations would help identify land, complete surveys and shift communities, if the Port granted them residency on the land and provide infrastructure. This was an attractive solution for the Port, which desired to displace slums without resistance in order to beautify the city to attract investment and expand its operations. Previously, some shifted families did not receive proofs of residence because of improper records. They played an active part in the resettlement process and ensured that no one was left out as a result of negotiations with the port. Resettlement began in 2003, and the process of shifting families to this land continues.
Joint Surveys « Back
Impressed that women’s collectives of slum residents were able to collect more robust statistics on slums than official counts, local authorities have embarked on joint city-wide slum profiling exercises with city Federations in Bhubaneswar (2008), Cuttack (2004-05) and Paradeep (2006-07). In Bhubaneswar, the joint survey profiled 377 settlements, whereas the municipal list had previously listed only 206. In Cuttack, the joint survey found 250 slum settlements, whereas official records had the figure at 106. During joint surveys, the government agency and federations together developed a survey format, and a municipal worker accompanied the federation team collecting data in the field. Exercises took about a year and provided the most accurate data available about slums in Orissa’s main cities. Because the data is collected by communities and certified by the government, it is seen as a reliable source to be used in benefit allocation, planning, and resettlement. These projects are evidence of going beyond traditional ideas of data collection and information management as mechanical exercises that can only be handled by professionals and of moving towards participatory planning with slum residents and women.
Planning Together « Back
On the basis of their experience of working with OSDF and Mahila Milan, municipal authorities in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Puri have invited them to partner in planning slum upgrading and resettlement projects. In Bhubaneswar, the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) invited federations to identify the thirteen slums that the city would upgrade under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNRUM), a Central Government scheme. The Federation selected the 13 most impoverished slums on authorized land through a community process and completed Detailed Project Report sand maps jointly with the BMC. From the Alliance’s point of view, this ensured that money was directed where it was needed most and on the basis of ground realities; for the BMC, they could make the schemes more effective and justify selection of slums for the project. Federations also surveyed around 300 families in four slums in Puri in collaboration with authorities in preparation for JNNURM projects. In 2005-06 in Cuttack, the Alliance became a nodal agency coordinating many stakeholders, including local communities, the Cuttack Development Authority (CDA), the Sewerage Board, and others to develop a resettlement plan for families living along Cuttack’s Ring Road. Located between a riverbed and a busy road, these slums were flooded every year, forcing people to squat on a dangerous road during the monsoon and rebuild their houses every year. Federations prepared joint surveys and measured the settlements jointly with the CDA under the Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programme (IHSDP), a national scheme. Although progress stalled because of land conflicts and transfers of government officials, this process was a major achievement in establishing partnerships with the government and negotiating win-win resettlement solutions.
The Paradeep Federation recently found an innovative way to get involved in a government program. After a struggle, they secured the contract to provide mid-day meals under a government scheme for students in a school in Udayabatta, a resettlement site in Paradeep in which Mahila Milan is active. Although the municipality was hesitant to give the contract to an un-registered body, leaders were able to convince officials on the basis of earlier collaborations and their body of work. Mahila Milan wanted to provide the meals to ensure that the nutritional and educational program benefited the community; there is often pilferage or disinterest among NGOs or government staff that typically manage such schemes.