Ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly election, a group of urban development experts and civil society organisations released a “manifesto” drawing the attention of politicians to 100 different demands across 12 domains.
The document entitled 'Maharashtra Urban Citizen's Manifesto 2019' seeks the creation of inclusive and sustainable urban spaces, finalisation of Maharashtra Housing Policy and a guaranteed minimum wage of not less than Rs 18,000, among other things.
The document also lists out some other demands, including a detailed report on human settlements in Maharashtra to assess the number of vacant houses, effective implementation of the Maharashtra Youth Policy.
The manifesto emphasises, “We strongly believe that provision of free housing is not the solution to the housing crisis in the state, and neither is ‘affordable housing.’” It mentions that a report on human settlements in Maharashtra, as mentioned above, should include assessing the number of vacant houses, housing needs and housing projections.
In this context, a Mint report quoting the findings of real estate consultancy firm Knight Frank India and law firm Khaitan and Co is particularly relevant. According to a report by the two firms for 2019, the highest number of vacant houses, 3.7 million, was in Maharashtra.
The manifesto also demands support for the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), so that it can provide multiple housing options and can provide housing finance that is accessible to the economically weaker sections and lower income groups, who are able to access ‘pattas’. (A ‘patta’ is a legal document issued by the local administration in the name of the owner of a particular plot of land.)
Among other important demands, the urban citizen’s manifesto seeks that all sanctioned posts in every local government body are filled. It also demands that an assessment should be carried out to ascertain whether sanctioned posts need to be revised according to the needs of urban local government bodies.
With respect to workers in the informal sector, the activists have demanded that the minimum wages of Rs 18,000 per month must be guaranteed. The manifesto further states, “Written work contracts between workers and employers need to be made mandatory, irrespective of the size of the establishment. All shops and establishments must be mandated to issue work contracts, work IDs and maintain employment records such as a register of workers hired.”
An important demand from the manifesto is the setting up of Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) committees for women employees in the informal sector. The document further states, “Vending areas especially for women (should be) set up. Spaces must be created within markets for hawking by women that could serve as markets for goods produced by the SHGs (self-help groups).”
The manifesto was collectively prepared by 39 NGOs and other groups in the state, including Pani Haq Samiti, Maharashtra Beghar Abhiyan, Centre For Promoting Democracy and Right to Pee. Members of around a dozen of these NGOs on Wednesday held rallies in western suburbs of Mumbai and distributed copies to voters.
Speaking to Firstpost, Sitaram Shelar from the Centre for Promoting Democracy said, “According to the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), the urban population of Maharashtra is now about 55 percent. Despite this, the policies of the government are focussed more towards the rural areas. The objective of this exercise was to initiate a discussion among civil society organisations and academicians on what urban Maharashtra’s policy agenda should be. We hope that leaders from all political leaders will take our demands into account.”
Shelar further said, “We initiated this process in June, and after the manifesto was finalised, we met leaders from various political parties in the first week of October. People from over twenty cities — both metropolitan cities and smaller urban clusters — took part in this process.
Voting for the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly will be held on 21 October. The election results will be declared on 24 October.
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Updated Date: Oct 20, 2019 16:51:43 IST