Abstract cities in India have a major portion


unplanned colonies remain an unwanted part of the city for several planners,
modern understanding of cities favours their regularization. Surveys and
enumeration process become the prerequisites for the planning and alleviation
of these settlements. The practical problems during manual surveys has given
rise to the method of self-enumeration. This paper discusses why enumeration is
important for alleviation of these settlements and the process of
self-enumeration in Mumbai’s slum, Dharavi.

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A city is the most apparent symbol of class in the modern
society. A citizen of the city is automatically considered to be leading a life
that is better than that of a citizen in a village and is characterized by the luxurious
facilities and services that it provides to its citizens. In contrast to the
seemingly perfect image of the city, there exist dark spots. These are the
places that ruin the city’s system, hamper city life and mar its polished
image. These places are the residences of the illegal citizens, or squatter
settlements. It has been observed that all the large cities in India have a
major portion of their population living in slums and squatter settlements. About
forty nine percent of the population in Delhi was living in slums and
unauthorised colonies in the year 2015. Though they are considered cancerous to
the city systems, unauthorised colonies contribute to a major part of the
economy of the city because of the large volume of labour workforce that lives
there. Slums and unauthorized colonies are largely ignored by the government because
they do not have any official proof of existence. The people living in these
shelters do not have the necessary documents for the ownership of the land or
the house that they live in because of which they can be called “semi-visible” (Zimmer,
2012). The people in slums and UACs are not
invisible because they contribute to the unskilled labour force of the city and
are a part of the city system. They cannot be considered completely visible
because they lack official recognition and the government cannot legally plan
for them. The government sees the residents of informal settlements very
differently as compared to the other people in the city, that is, if they
choose to see them at all. Because these settlements are illegal, it becomes a
lawful obligation for the government to either demolish and abandon all the
citizens or to legalise them and then plan for their future in the city.
Legalisation becomes the prerequisite before anything that the government can
do to alleviate the status of slums and UACs so as to provide them with better
facilities and thus retain the city’s unmarred and polished image.

This paper first discusses the plight of squatter residents
in large cities and then traces the importance of enumeration in alleviating
the living conditions in these settlements. It then brings into light the
process of self-enumeration and the ways in which it has benefitted the
inhabitants of informal settlements. The case study of Dharavi illustrates in
detail the process of self-enumeration as undertaken by the residents

Importance of enumeration for alleviation

In order to receive services in the city, it is important
that one is given the “right to the city” (Lefebvre, 2009). “Right to the city”
crudely means to be considered a part of the city and have access to all the
facilities and the services that the city has to offer. Squatter settlements,
being illegal, are not recognised by the government and thus are not considered
a factor during the planning process. The next question now is how to make the
residents of the informal settlements legally recognized by the government.

Several attempts have been made to count the people living in
slums by government as well as private agencies, but large discrepancies exist
in government records regarding this number. The different methods of counting
include manual surveys, previous years’ migration records and documents and the
use of remote sensing technology as well. Several problems arise during manual
surveys. The houses in informal settlements have no specific address as they do
have a formal quarter number. These settlements are just a cluster of walls and
roofs within which people live because of which indexing of the houses to be
surveyed becomes a major problem. At times, the surveyors are not well
acquainted with the environment of the slum and get caught in local fights and
altercations. Migration records and other government documents issued to the
public are also not an accurate source of information as not all residents of
the settlement have these issued in their names. Remote sensing is another way
of enumerating the residents inside the office. This method makes use of the
satellite images to count crudely the number of roofs in the informal
settlement. This value is then used to compute the total population residing in
the slum or unauthorized colony. In this case, discrepancies occur because the
number of people living under one roof varies greatly and the average number of
people under one roof is often taken to be much less than the reality.

Plight of squatter residents

Enumeration is important in informal settlements for a
variety of reasons:

1.      Slum
dwellers face several problems due to social exclusion and discrimination. They
are often considered unclean and treated as untouchables in the city.
Enumerating them recognises their presence in the city and thus the immediate
need to provide  better facilities for

2.      Surveys in
informal settlements helps to mobilise the residents into understanding what
they really want as a community. Each individual in a slum may have a different
view on lifestyle, but as an aggregate, these views often tend to represent
only a few big concerns. Through surveys, the residents recognise their needs
and can approach the government with a clearer picture of their demands

3.      Several
surveys are done in order to collect legally issued documents of identity from
the residents of the settlements, which can later be used as a proof of their
presence in the cities in front of the government. This mobilises the
government to accept the inhabitants as citizens of their city and thus
improves the chances of legalisation of the settlement and provision of better
living conditions.

It can thus be clearly understood that surveys in informal
settlements are very helpful but conducting a survey in these locations is not
an easy task. This problem was solved by the residents of informal colonies at
many locations by an exercise called self-enumeration. Every slum is
characterized by the presence of federations and unions. Every person in the
slum is associated with a particular federation. This is because, living on
illegal land on illegal terms gives the inhabitants very less security of their
shelter if they act individually. Associating themselves with a union gives
them security with the hope that the government would not want to sidestep the
demands of a large bulk of the population that arises when everyone acts
together. These federations have undertaken the task of self-enumerating
themselves so as to recognise their own needs before they approach the
government demanding for alleviation projects in their settlements. An example
for the self enumeration process is the Dharavi slum in Mumbai. The processes involved
in self enumeration in Dharavi are discussed below in detail.


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