Understanding slum formation and designing an urban housing policy for the poor in Bihar

Project Active from to Cities

Bihar with just an urban population of 11 percent as against 31 percent for India, is the least urbanised among the major states, although it has the highest density of population in the country (1193 person per square km.). The state has the highest population growth rate in India, but the growing labour force is absorbed largely in the urban areas outside the state (IHD, 2013). However, in the wake of over double digit growth achieved by the state since mid 2000s led by construction and services, it is widely believed that the state would have significant acceleration in urban growth in near future. This urban growth will come through both expansion of its cities and conversion of the big villages accounting for over 40% of the rural population into small towns.  In this context, planned urbanization in the state becomes extremely important. Planning for urbanisation has several dimensions of which housing policy is a very important one. Slum development is central in housing policy for making the cities inclusive and sustainable. So far housing and slum development have been utterly neglected in urban policy-making in Bihar but in recent years it has attracted a great deal of attention at the state and as well as national level.

Because of the differences in the criteria adopted, the estimates of slum population of the state differ widely. The four biggest cities of Bihar- Patna, Gaya, Bhagalpur and Muzzafarpur with a population of around 2, 0.47, 0.41 and 0.39 million in 2011, had slum population their total population as per 2011 census only 3.8%, 8.9%, 3.9%, and 13% respectively. It is widely believed that these figures are a gross underestimation of the existing realities. For example, the City Development Plan prepared under the auspices of the State Government estimates the slum population to be around 63% in Patna. Similarly, the Support Programme for Urban Reforms (SPUR) estimates the slum population to be around 20 and 28 percent in Muzaffarpur and Bhagalpur respectively. Slum dwellers contribute significantly to the urban economy and are more productive than average urban and rural households (Roy, 2012).

Most of the previous research on slums has focused on Tier 1 cities with little or no discussion on small and medium cities.  Little is known about the process of formation of slums in Patna and other important cities of Bihar. Understanding the informal settlements in a state like Bihar could contribute to aligning political efforts of the government to implement appropriate policies for urban poor and slum development so as to have inclusive and sustainable cities.

The study aims to fill this gap by carrying out a survey of slum dwellers in Patna, Gaya, Muzzafarpur, and Bhagalpur. The project will utilise a multistage systematic random sampling to carry out the data collection. The aim is to gather household data from about 600 to 700 households and cover about 30 slums.

The questionnaire will cover various topics including but not limited to the migration status, employment status of all family members, detailed information of head of the household, income and expenditure information along with categories, general living and physical housing conditions, access to public amenities, sanitation, slum dwellers perceptions on various issues, the location preference, etc. Other research instruments are personal interviews and focus group discussions.

The main objectives of this study are:

1) To identify the spatial pattern of the urban poor living in slums.

2) To identify direct and indirect determinants of their settlement locations.

3) To understand the impact of various policies, including housing policy and market, on establishment of the informal settlement.

4) To suggest some relevant policies to the state government for an inclusive housing policy and slum development.