Brijesh Chandra Tripathi: Claims of the Poor for Justice and the Right to the City in Technology-driven Planning in Urban Spaces – A Case Study of Mumbai
The paper discusses how the Development Plan (DP) of the city of Mumbai prepared by its municipal corporation systematically silences the voice of the poor in the planning process. Although the draft of the DP pleads the need to find strategies for promoting a holistic and inclusive city, it has instead fuelled speculation, uncertainty, and fear in the minds of urban poor living in spaces deemed “illegal”. The planning process emphasizes visual representations of the city in the form of maps to reconfigure urban spaces and sections of society. Switching from the old paper-file system of documentation predominantly in bureaucratic custody, the state now claims to encourage transparency and public participation in city planning by releasing digital maps and other data relevant to the DP into the public domain through the internet. This is at best a selective encouragement of citizen participation, tilted strongly in favour of the middle classes and elites since the poor not only lack the digital literacy to access such information but also the financial resources to access the internet. Yet, the urban poor are trying to negotiate with the situation by sharing digital information through their social networks. The interface with technology is reinforcing the social networks of the poor in urban spaces. By examining the poor’s strategy through social struggle, this paper attempts to understand the claims of the poor living in the areas deemed “illegal” about their right to the city and justice in its planning.
Brijesh Chandra Tripathi hails from the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. He is presently a doctoral candidate at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT Bombay), Mumbai, India. He has previously worked with the Department of Rural Development, Government of Uttar Pradesh. He is interested in capturing the perception of justice among the poor in Ambujwadi, an illegal and endangered slum in the Western suburbs of Mumbai. He engages with the scholarship of critical theorists and philosophers on recognition and urban space to understand the role of power in social struggles and political mobilizations for claims of recognition and the Right to the City. Using space as a site of mediation for the dignity of the poor, he is trying to provide a social justice perspective on the right to inhabitance through ethnographic work, with focus on the poor’s gradual movement towards substantial citizenship. Brijesh received his MA in Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. During his Master’s, he interned with a collective of workers handling Solid Waste Management (SWM) across Mumbai. He had a short stint as a community worker with the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority on SWM. These experiences were instrumental in generating his interest in study of urban spaces.