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Union Budget, this year, was presented amidst a host of uncertainties. Demonetisation drive and imminent GST drive, new administration in US etc. made...
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  Inclusive Planning in Context of Urban Poor
Dr. Ambey Kumar Srivastava
August 01, 2013 | Dr. Ambey Srivastava  , Inclusive Planning, finance

There can be few ways to get success and many reasons of failure. But unfortunately, human being has the tendency to exaggerate success and read failures as ‘gaps’. The same thing has happened with the ‘planning’ of our country, which is guided through five year planning pattern. How the situation of different sectors is visualized, conceptualized and planned can be best understood through the Five Year Plans (FYPs) of India, which gives an account of the post independence development of the country. After every five years the country gets busy in drafting a plan for next five years but how much time do we devote to analyze the so called ‘gaps’ (if not failures). We try to fill those gaps through corrective measures which really do not emerge from in-depth analysis of gaps in the previous plan, which can occur either at the stage of planning or during implementation. The democratic set up of the country has given everybody the right of expression but plans are written by few people and implemented by more than few. Lack of gap analysis not only weakens our capacity to make tangible plans but also diminishes hopes to ascertain the accountability for gaps in previous plans.

Gaps in plans are now mitigated by using the metaphorical words like convergence, integration, mainstreaming and public private partnership, which are as simple to read, write and advocate, as much difficult to practice. Now a new buzz word in planning is ‘inclusive growth’. The county till now has been guided by twelve FYPs but the word ‘inclusive growth’ penetrated deeply from 11th FYP, which opens with the message of ‘inclusive growth’. ‘Inclusive growth’ reminds us that in growth and development of the country millions of people who are though citizen of India have been excluded.

Urbanization of Poverty
Urbanisation, which is perceived as an indicator of development, has recorded faster growth than ever before in India. The fact that absolute increase in urban population of India is more than rural population in Census 2011 gives a reason to be delighted. But at the same time the disclosure about reporting of slum population from 2,543 towns out of total 4,041 Statutory Towns (63% towns) is a cause of concern because in 2001 the slum population was reported in 1743 towns out of 3799 statutory towns, which was 45.88%.




Increase (%)

Statutory towns



242 (+6.4)

Towns having slum population



800 (+45.9)

% towns with slum population




Source: Housing Stock, Amenities & Assets in Slums - Census 2011 and Report of the Committee on slum Statistics/ Census, GoI, 2010

The increase in statutory towns is 6.4 percent in Census 2011, whereas the towns with slum population have increased by 45.9 percent. It is a clear failure to control the spread of poverty with urbanization because fourth FYP (1969-1974) identified the urgent need of interim planning to prevent unregulated growth of towns. And sixth FYP (1980-85) emphasized on the integrated development of small and medium size towns and investments on environment improvement activities.

Another negative aspect of urbanization becomes apparent in the statistics of population below poverty line (BPL). If a growing economy is linked with the decline of poverty then ignoring the recent slump in the economy, the country has witnessed constant economic growth in last three decades. The economy has grown from 3.2 percent in 1980 to 8.5 percent in 2009. But during that period, the overall BPL population has decreased over the increase in urban BPL. The urban BPL has increased from 60 million in 1973-74 to 76.4 million in 2009-10. Thus urban poverty has increased both in term of headcount and number of urban centers (towns and cities).

Understanding the inclusive growth of urban poor

The plans have envisaged goals like ‘Housing for All’, ‘Shelter for All’, ‘Health for All’, ‘Education for All’ and ‘Food Security to All’ but able to achieve none. Rather, rapid urban growth has masked the miseries of urban poor in urban and rural averages. The vulnerability of urban poor in terms of socio, economic, health, water and sanitation indicators become evident after re-analysis of the data of national family health survey 2005-06, in urban poor and urban non-poor on the basis of quality of life indicators. So a fresh look is needed to understand the elements of inclusive growth of urban poor.

Discussion here onwards will show how the barriers, challenges and gaps in planning have together debarred urban poor in planning even after standing on the threshold from where development begins.

  • Lack of focus on basic needs: Perhaps the exclusion of urban poor in planning is very lately realized because review of FYPs of India reveals that they have been excluded from the very beginning. In the initialt five year plans slums were recognized as a national problem and also blamed as a disgrace to the country due to which the principal remedy was perceived in slum clearance. Although the pretext that cities cannot be considered healthy if poor are crowded in almost sub-human conditions was not wrong at all, but the approach of slum clearance shows an apathetic attitude of planners toward slum dwellers. Initial FYPs emphasized only on housing issue of slum dwellers, without comprehensively linking housing needs with other needs for quality of life. The concept of Master plan of cities was also introduced in the first FYP but the health, water, sanitation, environment improvement along with housing got high priority in seventh FYP (1985-90). The total ignorance of basic needs of urban poor for such a long period was a serious gap in planning, due to which a marginalized and vulnerable population kept on increasing just as a workforce in informal sector.

  • Prioritization: Urban planning is done on priority basis, in which population is the base. Towns are categorized from class I to VI, and small and medium towns and cities are further classified as metro and mega. Similar was the case with census of slum population in 2001, in which slum data was collected in cities/towns with population of 50,000 or above as per 1991 census reporting slums (I phase). Later on the data was also collected of towns having population below 50,000 but above 20,000 (II phase). If this had not happened than the slum population covered in second phase could be missed from enumeration, as shown in table 2.

Table 2: Comparison of data collected on Slum population in two phases




States/ Union territories covered



Towns covered



Slums reported in



People enumerated (in million)



Households enumerated (in million)



Percent population to the total population of the country



Percent population to the total population of the state and union territories reporting slum population



Source: Report of the Committee on slum Statistics/ Census, GoI, 2010

All these divisions were made to include and exclude some part of the population, because cities having population 100,000 have received priority in planning. The take home message is that the towns below 50,000 also have a huge population of urban poor but they have to wait for a long time to qualify the criteria of inclusion, i.e. they need to increase their population. Therefore prioritization has posed a serious barrier in catering all the urban poor with equity.

Moreover, a person who was so long excluded in planning while living in a small town immediately comes into right of way as soon as migrate he/she large city. But one can argue that becoming a city dweller really depreciates the vulnerability or compounds the probability of exclusion because in metro and mega cities the competition is more and the chances of exclusion are also higher. If the same plan with acumen ship has been prepared for a small town than the probability of selection of that individual will be higher and will be saved from several types of stresses and distresses of large cities.

  • Identity of urban poor: Different challenges have been identified in handling slum issues like shortage of funds, land, human resource, weak urban governance etc. But all these challenges do not directly exclude the slum dwellers like the terms and definitions, which decide whether an individual is entitled to be called as urban poor or not? The poverty has acquired several dimensions but the poverty stricken individual could not get a proper identity. The term ‘urban poor’, first introduced in sixth FYP is now defined on the basis of certain parameters related to income, housing, environment, access to health, education and employment opportunities. But there are also other terms in vogue to define similar situations like urban BPL, slum dwellers, pavement dweller, squatter, vulnerable and marginalized. The term BPL is more legitimized because it authorizes the poor to claim benefits of social schemes unlike other terms which kindle sympathy but don’t given any right.

    Like individual identity, the geographical limits of slums are also uncertain. The slum is defined on the basis of certain physical and social characteristics of housing, number of households, basic amenities and the environment. The definition of slum also varies from state to state due to which an area which looks like a slum may or may not be considered a slum by the local administration. Slum areas can overlap with non-slum areas. The poor living in a non-slum area is likely to be deprived from the benefits designed for slum dwellers. Another reason of exclusion can be the status of slum. Slums can be regularized or non-regularized, listed or unlisted, notified or non-notified, identified or recognized but the poor rural migrant who takes shelter in a slum may not be aware about the status of the slum. Consequently, he can be excluded because the system mainly focuses on regularized/ listed/ notified slum areas. Undoubtedly, defining the urban poor and urban poor areas (i.e. slum) is a challenge but numerous terminologies for them is a barrier in recognizing their identity in planning because all slum dwellers are not urban poor and all urban poor are not slum dwellers.

  • Estimations: Another reason for exclusion of urban poor was the absence of data on the actual population of urban poor. The initial planning was done on the basis of estimated population of slum dwellers living in notified slums, and excluding the rest. Eighth Plan (1992-1997) has referred the estimated BPL population of 41.8 million as per the National Sample Survey (NSS) data of 43rd round (1987-88) and the same plan has also estimated slum population of 48.8 million for 1990.

  • The estimated population of slum dwellers to total urban population was 23.62 percent in Tenth FYP plan (2002-2007), 20-40 percent in Eleventh FYP and 26 percent in 12th FYP. Now, Tenth and Eleventh plans were developed when Census 2001 data was released and 12th FYP rolled out when Census 2001 data is released. As per Census 2001 and Census 2011 about 15 percent and 17 percent population, respectively, is constituted by slum dwellers. The urban BPL share to total urban population was 25.5 percent in 2004-05 and 29.8 percent in 2009-10, as per poverty estimations by Tendulkar methodology. So arriving on one common term to visualize urban poor is pertinent and too much reliance on past calculations for future planning means that we are excluding the new additions and leaving gaps.

  • Vulnerability data: Somehow if the urban poor are identified, then addressing their vulnerability is a challenge because there is an extreme dearth of vulnerability data about them. In Tenth FYP (2002–2007) attempts have been made to categorize the urban poor on the basis of their vulnerability such as core poor, intermediate poor and transitional poor; or classifies them as declining poor, coping poor and improving poor, with different degrees of priority for the three basic needs of survival, security, and quality of life. Defining the vulnerability of urban poor has opened floodgates for data regarding urban poor but the Census 2011 has not tried to go into those aspects. Rather it finished up only with the collection of data on major assets, water and sanitation facilities, housing material and family size. How will this data build an understanding on the vulnerability of urban poor without having data on issues like urban health, education, gender discrimination, coping mechanism of urban poor, issues of affordability and accessibility, livelihood, community issues, health and old age issues of urban poor, their priorities etc? Non-availability of urban poor data is a barrier in understanding their actual situation, which needs to be tackled in planning.

  • Segmentation of society: When we talk about inclusivity the major question is who should be given priority because we cannot put everyone in the centre stage of planning and stage-wise development has only given rise to classes among classes like urban society is divided into urban rich and urban poor, which are further categorized as Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward classes, General, Widow, BPL, Physically Challenged etc. There are provisions (quota based and non-quota based) for each category, but urban poor who belong to such categories are denied getting benefits because the indicators like awareness, education and socio-economic status of a person are the key determinants in accessing those benefits and all these indicators are low among urban poor population. There are several social safety schemes. But the performance of schemes and rights cannot be judged fairly until we don’t know about the reasons due to which an eligible beneficiary is denied from those benefits. One of the reasons of poor performance of social schemes is lack of convergence among ministries, departments, institutions and institutional structures. Thus the segregated society needs a segregated data to see where the balance of the development is inclined so that need based segmented provisions can be made to bridge the gap among classes and masses.

  • Policy level: Several policies are available in the country. In a federal structure the policies guide the planning of a country and states. For meticulous planning we need strong policies and to see their impact we need will power to implement them. But if policies itself are devoid of guidance on urban poor issues then how can both these be ensured? Pro-poor policies are needed for urban poor women, children, adolescent, youth and old age people because planning can exclude them at any stage. The country needs to understand the demographic dividend in terms of urban poor youth because majority of the migration occurs among population of potential age group, i.e. 15-49 years. The changing structure and values in families are increasing the responsibility of old age people on the system, particularly in urban poor families. Increasing violence in youth and especially towards women and children is tarnishing our economic growth and urbanization. Policy level gaps and challenges in context of urban poor should be assessed to make the policies sensitive to urban poor issues.

  • Substandard infrastructure: Due to the period of long ignorance of urban poor the infrastructure which was developed for them is of substandard quality. A human being has the tendency to emulate others and urban non poor is the ideal of urban poor. If the urban poor, who is attracted by the infrastructure of cities is not using the services available for him, then it is because those services are also not being used by the urban non poor. The system has failed to create an impression that government infrastructure can be equally used by people of any class or society. As a result the created infrastructure is underutilized and whatever is being used by urban poor, does not guarantee the sustainable impact. For example, if children who have grown up with education in government schools, which is devoid of quality teaching, facilities and other factors of personal growth, then those children may fail to get a job in their adulthood, thus become victims of exclusion.

  • Conclusive remarks

    Inclusive planning cannot happen until the barriers are not eliminated, gaps are identified and challenges are sorted out because planning should be able to empower urban poor in all its forms, categories and definitions. Urban planning of the country has been switched over to mission mode with the launch of Urban Sanitation Mission, Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and National Urban Health Mission to revamp the urban environment and life of urban dwellers but the conflicts of terms and definition of urban poor have still not been resolved.

    Innovative experiments with planning are needed like small towns, which act as connecting link between village and large cities, should be focused on, to reverse the migration and to condense the pressure of urbanization on mega and metro cities. Moreover, a sustainable quality infrastructure, that can be mainstreamed with the whole society, needs to be developed without any prejudice towards urban poor. If urban non-poor access those services then accountability of perpetrators can be determined because non poor has the capacity to negotiate and argue for service gaps. Inclusiveness is not just including the poor or marginalized in planning but also in the environment and natural resources, because ignoring them is also adding to the vulnerable population.

    The relevance and performance of terms like convergence, integration, mainstreaming and public private partnership should be seen in broadening the base of growth and development. It can happen only if each and every individual without any priority is considered a valuable resource for the country. Prioritization is good but it should not exclude the one who is less important because population figures alone cannot determine anybody’s vulnerability. Our priority should be now in whole hearted efforts because honesty is the best policy that our country needs today.

    The author is with the Institute of Health Management Research, Jaipur





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