Changing power relations between state and settlements- by collective mobilization, learning and actions


Based on their demonstrated credibility and financial, informational and organizational base, communities are beginning to change the traditional relationship with local authorities thus impacting outcomes for the urban poor.

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. 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 organised communities have gotten involved, the city has had to sit up and take notice of thousands of slum dwellers all working on building a people’s agenda. Gradually, authorities began to see the federations as helpful partners and constant interaction and successful initiatives with authorities has built confidence and credibility on both sides.


5000 + families resettled without forced evictions

Before the Alliance became active in Odisha, 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 tenure security. Demolitions generally occurred on land within the city needed for a construction or infrastructure project. The work of the Alliance has helped transform this context of frequent forced evictions into one of consultation and resettlement if required. When evictions are planned, the federation approaches the government with surveys and maps to explain 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.

3 cities, 1000+ slums jointly mapped with authorities

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. In Bhubaneswar (2008), the joint survey profiled 377 settlements, whereas the municipal list had previously listed only 206. In Cuttack (2004-5), 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.

5000+ families received supported under government programs for habitat improvement

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 could be upgraded under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNRUM), a Central Government scheme. Federations also jointly surveyed around 300 families in four slums in Puri 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.